International Ice Hockey Federation

Crushin' the Russians

Johnston, Mikkelson, Krzyzaniak shine in romp

Published 29.03.2016 22:51 GMT-7 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Crushin' the Russians
KAMLOOPS, BC - MARCH 29: Canada's Meaghan Mikkelson #12 celebrates with Tara Watchorn #27, Brianne Jenner #19, Rebecca Johnston #6 and Jennifer Wakefield #9 after a second period goal against Russia during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Host Canada exploded for six unanswered second-period goals and went on to thump Russia 8-1 for its first win of the 2016 tournament on Tuesday.

Coach Laura Schuler's squad trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes, marking the first time Russia has ever held a lead over Canada at the Women's Worlds. But that'll be a historical footnote.

Rebecca Johnston set the tone with a goal and three assists. Defenders Meaghan Mikkelson and Halli Krzyzaniak both scored twice. Jennifer Wakefield had a goal and a helper, and captain Marie-Philip Poulin and Emily Clark each added goals. Brianne Jenner chipped in four assists.

"We just needed to get that first goal," said Johnston. "We had a lot of good chances in the first period. Going into the second period, we weren’t down on ourselves. We knew we just had to keep getting shots on net."

Iya Gavrilova, a longtime star for the University of Calgary Dinos, tallied for Russia, which remains pointless.

"The second period was the turning point," Gavrilova said. "I think when they scored on us, we tried to score again. And you can’t do that against teams like Canada and the U.S. You have to be patient. You have to play the same way we did in the first period. I think we just weren’t patient enough."

Although Canada clearly outplayed Russia in the early going, Gavrilova silenced the home crowd when she stickhandled into the slot and whipped a shot past goalie Charline Labonte to make it 1-0 Russia at 13:29. It was her third goal so far in Kamloops.

Just 40 seconds into the second period, Johnston notched the shorthanded equalizer. The Canadians raced into the Russian zone and Jenner found Johnston in the right faceoff circle, where she fired it past Russian starter Anna Prugova.

At 3:07, Canada went up 2-1 thanks to Krzyzaniak. The Russians failed to clear it out of their zone, and the blueliner’s drive from the right point floated in.

Only 35 seconds later, Wakefield powered to the net on a partial breakaway and pushed the puck through the goalie’s legs while crashing to the ice.

"I think they just started to pour in after the first goal," Johnston said.

Trailing 3-1, the Russians tried to switch up the momentum by switching goalies. Prugova -- who also played for the 2013 bronze medal team -- came out in favour of Maria Sorokina. But it wasn’t the magic bullet they desired.

Mikkelson scored the next two Canadian goals, one at even-strength at 4:42 and the next on a 5-on-3 power play 38 seconds later. The roof had fallen in on Russia, and there was no way to disguise it. Five goals in under five minutes is a statement.

"In the first period, we saw they were playing a bit of a trap," said Mikkelson. "So we just talked in the dressing room as a D-corps and said we needed to skate the puck a little bit more. Obviously, putting a couple in the net is always a plus."

Mikkelson, returning to Canada's lineup after taking time off to become a mother, nearly completed the natural hat trick on a penalty shot after the Russians were whistled for illegally covering up the puck in the goal crease. However, Sorokina denied her deke.

With 2:05 left in the second period, Krzyzaniak made it 6-1 on the power play, pinching into the faceoff circle and zinging it over Sorokina's left shoulder.

"I think I just have a little bit more confidence shooting," said Krzynaziak. "We’ve had a lot of great screens in front and a lot of people creating chances for me."

Russia failed to capitalize with an extended 5-on-3 advantage that overlapped the end of the second period and the start of the third. At this point, it was largely academic -- although Canada might be concerned about its lack of discipline. In fact, the red-and-white team totalled seven consecutive minors during this stretch.

"I think that’s something we need to be better at moving forward: discipline," Mikkelson said. "We know kind of what the refs are going to call now, the little hooks and interference and sticks and all that. It’s good that this is happening early on in the tournament so that we know that it’s something we can’t do moving forward."

At 13:19 of the third, Poulin made it 7-1 shorthanded on a beautiful give-and-go with Jenner. Clark rounded out the scoring on a nice flip shot with 2:08 left.

Mikkelson raved about the Sandman Centre crowd and Canadian fans in general: "Whenever we play in Canada, we have such an incredible crowd that comes out and so much support. Our fans have been amazing so far. You hear from them on social media and everything. I think it’s important for them to know that we really feel their support."

Canada improved its all-time Women's Worlds record versus Russia to eight wins and zero losses, dating back to 1997. It was the third time in tournament history Canada has beaten Russia 8-1.

The host nation can clinch a semi-final berth on Thursday by defeating Finland.

Also on Thursday, the Russians will hope for a better fate against the United States compared to last year's tournament. In Malmo, the U.S. hammered Russia 9-2 in round-robin play and 13-1 in the semi-finals.

"We just gotta play all 60 minutes against them," Gavrilova said. "Teams like that, you have to stay patient, follow the system, and stay out of the box."