Russia in pole position heading into last day at sledge hockey Euros

Should the Paralympic silver medallists win their final game on Sunday (10 April) against Norway they will be crowned European champions. 09 Apr 2016
Group of ice sledge hockey players

Dmitrii Lisov during the Russia v Italy match at the Harborcenter in Buffalo, NY. April 27, 2015 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool.

ⒸBill Wippert
By Kim McGreal | For the IPC

Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games silver medallists Russia are on course to secure their first European title in Ostersund, Sweden, after a 4-1 win over reigning champions Italy, on Saturday (9 April).

Russia and Italy have both been playing some fantastic sledge hockey so far, and this game was no exception. Both teams have won their last three fixtures and were equal in the standings heading into their clash.

Italy started the first period strong, with a goal coming in the power play at 04.13 courtesy of Sandro Kalegaris.

It was not until 19.07 that Russia equalised, with the first of Nikolai Terentev's goals, this one assisted by Konstatin Shikhov.

The game was tied until late in the second period, when Terentev scored his second and gave Russia a 2-1 lead. He followed this up in the third period with the completion of his hat trick.

A few seconds later, Italy were dealt a blow when their leading goalscorer, Florian Planker, was called for a charging penalty and was given a game misconduct.

With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Konstantin Shikhov scored, with Terentev returning the favour on the assist. The game ended with a score of 4-1, and Russia secured their position at the top of the standings.

World Championships A-Pool bronze medallists Russia so far have a 100 per cent record in Ostersund and will secure gold on Sunday (10 April) if they beat Norway in their final round-robin game.

Norway themselves could still win gold should they win Sunday's game by a huge margin and overturn Russia's superior goal difference advantage.

The Norwegians put themselves into title contention with a 4-1 win over Czech Republic.

Despite four power play opportunities in the first period for the Czech Republic, neither team were able to score. It was not until midway through period two that Audun Bakke found the back of the net with assists from Rolf Pedersen and Emil Sorheim.

Tensions between the two teams continued to rise throughout the period, culminating in two game misconducts and another 12 minutes’ worth of penalties. When a further penalty was called against Czech Republic in the last second of the period, it meant that the final period started in a power play for Norway. It took just 27 seconds for veteran player Pedersen to get a goal of his own – which he followed a few minutes later with another one, giving Norway a 3-0 lead.

Czech Republic finally got on the scoreboard at 41.58, thanks to Captain Pavel Kubes, who was assisted by Martin Novak and Miroslav Hrbek. But despite this late goal, their fate was sealed in the final minute of the game when Bakke scored again, this time short-handed, to make it 4-1.

In Saturday's other game Sweden took their first victory at their home Championships with a 2-1 win over Germany.

It was not until 27.01 that the first goal was scored courtesy of an unassisted shot from Sweden's Robin Meng. It looked as though the game might end with that as the only goal, but with just over three minutes remaining on the clock, German captain Bas Disveld equalised, forcing the game into overtime.

But when the extra time was not enough to decide the winner, the game went to a shootout.

In an intense conclusion to the match, Rasmus Lundgren handed his team their first points of the tournament with the winning goal.

Disveld explained how three missing players, Felix Schrader, Frank Rennhack and Christian Pilz, are impacting their performance: “Three experienced players are at home. But we decided to come to the European Championships anyway because we have enough new, young players who need these high-levels tournaments.”

The team is looking to strengthen themselves before the World Championships next year. Disveld is hoping that the youngsters can make the most of these games, even if they do not win.

“They are playing well. They have to learn to do the things on the ice that the coaches teach them, and they have to find their own way of playing sledge hockey.”

Approaching Sunday's final games the three podium finishers have already been decided. All that needs to be determined is in what order Russia, Italy and Norway will finish. Italy finish their campaign against Sweden.

Full statistics and standings can be found at the unofficial event website where games are also being streamed live each day.

Pictures are available at the IPC's Flickr page.