International Ice Hockey Federation

Seeking inspiration

Seeking inspiration

Close ties with the men boost OAR women

Published 13.02.2018 14:04 GMT+10 | Author Andy Potts
Seeking inspiration
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 11: Nadezhda Morozova #92 of the Olympic Athletes of Russia attempts to make the save during preliminary round action against Canada at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The female Olympic Athletes from Russia are hoping that the support of Oleg Znarok's team can be more than merely symbolic after a tough start to the Games.

When the Olympic Athletes from Russia began their campaign in the Women’s tournament at Kwandong Hockey Centre, the men’s team came along to give them some support. It wasn’t quite enough to inspire an upset – Canada, the defending champion, eased to a 5-0 victory after being held for the first period – but it spoke of the close relationship between the two teams.

And the connection clearly means a lot to the women, as they look to their male colleagues for inspiration as they seek a first ever Olympic medal.

Team captain Olga Sosina was especially interested in her counterpart, Pavel Datsyuk, captain of the men’s team. “He’s such a technically skilled player, so talented,” she said. “Of course I’d love to hear any advice he could give. But it’s not just Datsyuk – for me it’s always good to get advice and opinions. Every suggestion is interesting to hear. It’s inspiring.”

For one member of the team, though, the connection with her country’s men’s hockey team is a little deeper. Goalie Nadezhda Morozova is the cousin of Olympic silver medallist Alexei Morozov, twice a World Champion and a dangerous winger for Ak Bars in Russia and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NHL.

He’s unable to get over to Korea to support the team in person, but has been in touch with Morozova to wish her luck in the tournament. However, despite their successful hockey careers, the goalie admitted she’s never had a chance to test herself against Alexei’s formidable shooting skills.

“When Lyosha played in Pittsburgh, I was still in Moscow,” Morozova recalled. “By the time he came back home, I was already playing in Krasnoyarsk. Somehow we’ve never managed to get together for a practice.”

Morozov was famously part of the Russian team that stunned Canada on home ice in the 2008 World Championship, ending the country’s long wait for gold. For the women, though, competing with the Canadians remains a huge challenge. Last month’s victory for the U18 roster was the first time any women’s team from Russia had won an international against a North American nation, and the evidence of Sunday’s game suggests that there is still some way to go before that great Trans-Atlantic rivalry will match the men’s version.

But Sosina believes there is still more to come from her team. “I think we can do more than match Canada for one period,” she insisted. “I think if we could take the chances we created, maybe things would have been different. After all, scoring a goal gives everyone a lift, and that can change a game. If we’d taken our chances the game might have turned out very different.”

And, despite a disappointing start, nobody in the OAR camp is abandoning the dream of collecting a first Olympic medal here in Korea. For Maria Batalova, it’s a minimum requirement. “I’m here for a medal at least,” she said. “As for the colour, we’ll have to wait and see.” Team-mate Valeria Pavlova agreed: “I want a medal, and the higher the better.”

Maybe the support of the men’s team is the final hint of inspiration that the women need to finally achieve that ambition - but first there's another stern test against the USA on Tuesday.

 

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