Russia’s women undefeated en route to Winter Universiade gold

After Canada captured the first three gold medals (2009, 2011, 2013) in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Universiade, the women of Russia have now duplicated their dynastic run. With the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk, located in central Siberia, serving as host for the 2019 edition of the Universiade, the host team did not disappoint.

Boasting an undefeated mark on home ice, their dominance was definitely on display as they shut out their opponents in the medal round. Outscoring opponents in round robin play by a cumulative score of 45-3, their semi-final match certainly against the USA affirmed their sterling performance, pummeling a beleaguered American squad by a 10-0 margin. As a side note, Japan would best the USA in the bronze medal game, as Chisato Miyazaki and Yoshino Enomoto gained the goals to overcome a 1-0 disadvantage in a hotly contested 2-1 final.

Fittingly, the six-team round robin, one that saw Switzerland (host country in 2021) ice a team for the first time in tournament history, culminated with powers Russia and Canada colliding in the gold medal game, each looking to make a bold statement. During round robin play, Canada was the only team that provided Russia with a significant challenge, despite a 4-2 Russian victory.

For a Canadian team eager to redeem themselves after silver medal outcomes in 2015 and 2017, they were frustrated throughout, unable to score once against a strong Russian opponent that featured 14 skaters from the national team roster that competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games. Employing a strong defensive approach, the first 50 minutes of the game were actually scoreless, providing tension for the fans in attendance.

With a frustrated Canadian team serving a penalty, Gorny Ukhta would resolve the defensive stalemate, capitalizing on the power play to score the game’s first goal. Fanuza Kadirova, an alum of the Russian Under-18 national team, planted herself in a position to screen the Canadian net, a highly strategic move. As the Russians fans roared in euphoric approval, there was a sense that said goal would deflate Canada’s hopes, emerging as the definitive moment.

Jessica Vance, a goaltender for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, earning Canada West Goalie of the Year honors in 2018, stopped 20 Russian shots in the first period, abandoned the net for an extra attacker, but such ambitions did not produce the desired results. Alevtina Shtaryova, one of Russia’s competitors in PyeongChang, inserted the puck into the empty net, sealing the victory in a 2-0 final, with Nadya Morozova logged the shutout.

Valeriya Pavlova captured the tournament scoring title with 14 points, on the strength of a superlative 10 goals scored, in seven games played. Placing second was Canadian Katryne Villeneuve, recording six goals and five assists for a solid 11 points.

Ascending to heroic status in their native Russia, such dominance in women’s ice hockey at the Universiade rekindles the on-ice glories of the late 20th Century, when the nation was both feared and respected as an international men’s hockey power. Simultaneously, such dominance builds on the proud achievement of Russia’s women winning the bronze medal at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, a feat they hope to duplicate in Finland, host country for the 2019 Worlds.

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