Russia claimed the coveted gold medal at the 2014 IIHF World Championship Sunday May 25 at Minsk Arena, Belarus, defeating Team Finland 5-2. The Russians remained undefeated throughout the tournament, surely motivated by a disappointing early exit in Sochi which saw the team – initially a favourite to challenge Team Canada for the top spot – exit the Winter Olympics without a medal.
“I’m glad for the guys who won (for the) first time,” said Evgeni Malkin following the win. “Great team, great coach, and we deserve it.” Questioned on if the win takes away the sting from Sochi, Malkin responded honestly. “Not yet. It was this year, we can’t forget. It’s a small step, we have four more years and we just (have to) keep going.”
Malkin secured two goals and one assist in four games at Worlds. The win provides a rare highlight in a frustrating season for the 27-year-old Russian centre, punctuated not only by the disappointment in Sochi but also the Pittsburgh Penguins well-publicized early exit from the playoffs this season. The Pens, tipped as front-runners during the 2013-14 regular season, made it to the Eastern Conference Second Round but fell to the New York Rangers in Game 7 after the Pens blew a 3-1 series lead. This resulted in a major restructuring of the Penguins management team. The Rangers are now battling the LA Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, with the Kings currently leading the series 2-0. NHL players competing in Worlds came mostly from teams who experienced an early exit from the 2013-14 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“It’s the first time I’m captain of this team and we have such a good team, coaching staff. We played with injury, it’s not a secret, but we just played and we win the game,” said Alex Ovechkin after the win. Also asked about Sochi, he replied, “I don’t think you can compare this one. It’s kind of the situation when you have two different tournaments, two different levels.”
The Russians dominated offensively in the 5-2 win, with 39 shots on goal to Finland’s 26. Team Russia capitalized on the Fin’s penalties, scoring 4 of their 5 goals on the power play. Both Malkin and Ovechkin secured a goal in the second period of the gold medal game, securing the team’s second and third goal, respectively.
The team returned home to a heroes welcome, enjoying an open-top bus ride through the centre of Moscow and proudly displaying the trophy to thousands of fans who greeted the team by waving flags and chanting ‘Ros-si-ya!’ After the parade, Team Russia were invited to a reception at the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin.
A passionate hockey nation, Russia will once again cheer their heroes when the 2016 IIHF World Championship comes to Russia. The tournament is set to be held in Moscow and St. Petersburg, April 29 to May 15, 2016.