About the League
Junior Hockey League players open up about the 2021 World Juniors where Team Russia came in fourth. Omskie Yastreby forward spoke about getting injured and his jersey on the bench in bronze-medal game, while Loko Yaroslavl defenseman commented on his debut at the tournament and a hat-trick of assists.
Arseny Gritsyuk, Omskie Yastreby forward
- How did your life change after the World Juniors?
- It didn’t. Had we won gold, perhaps, something might have changed. I’m still recovering from our result. One way or another, it was a huge experience for me. These emotions will stay with me for good.
- Team Czech Republic and Team Germany opted for defensive-minded hockey. It seemed that you were unable to adjust to their style.
- I don’t really understand that brand of hockey. The teams just put everything on defense and wait for a chance to counter-attack. I play in JHL and KHL – we play offensive-minded hockey. It’s quick and exciting. And in those games you kind of have the puck the whole time but only in the areas where the opponent lets you. We should have played a little different against the Czechs. We had the momentum on our side but we didn’t get enough net presence so we could score some garbage goals, which we really needed. Anyway, it’s an interesting experience to play against such teams.
- Would you say that losing 5-0 to Team Canada was the toughest loss at the tournament?
- When the score was 3-0, I began feeling that it would be tough to get back into the game. But we knew that anything can happen in the playoffs. 2011 gold-medal game kept popping up in the head. And Team Russia was down 3-0 in the third period there! As the matter of fact, that game in which Russia won our last gold medal at the World Juniors is the pride of our hockey. I was re-watching highlights of the game before the tournament – it gave me goosebumps! I was getting pumped for the tournament by watching those videos. It was tough after losing to Team Canada. We gave all of our emotions and did our best to get back into the game and tie it up. That’s why everyone was just spent in the dressing-room afterwards.
- You got injured in that game and sat out the rest of the tournament.
- The hit wasn’t that hard, I just landed a bit awkwardly and stretched a muscle. When I got banged up, we were on a power play and I had to get on the ice as a member of our special unit. I was still on the bench when Abramov scored. I saw the puck going in and I was happy that we finally scored on Canada. I thought that we had a chance to turn things around. And then I come to the dressing-room and I see on TV that they waved it off.
- Because of the injury you couldn’t compete for the bronze.
- My leg was hurting really bad. When I was helped off the bench I already knew that I was out for the next game. I was really frustrated but I knew that I shouldn’t play injured risking to make things worse and sit out the rest of the season.
- Your jersey was on the bench in the game against Team Finland.
- I can’t recall now who came up with the idea. We were all sitting in the cafeteria and someone offered to put my jersey on the bench. I said I would be pleased by that and the boys did exactly that! Coming out from the dressing-room for each period the boys would fist-bump on it and it was nice to see. I felt like I was there with the team.
- As a result, Team Russia came in fourth at the World Juniors, while Team USA went on to win the tournament. Interestingly, you beat Americans in the opening game of round robin 5-3.
- We all saw the gold-medal game. Of course, in the back of my head there was a thought that we beat future champions. However, it was a different Team USA at the start of the tournament. They were ready to swallow pucks just to stop them from going in.
Roman Bychkov, Loko Yaroslavl defenseman
- You were dressed as the seventh defenseman for the games against Team USA and Team Czech Republic but never played a shift. How tough was it to wait for the debut?
- I was ready for the turn of events so I patiently waited for my chance. I was ready to get on the ice at any moment. I didn’t feel pressure because of that. I was certain that I would get my chance. I expected to play against Austria – and that’s exactly what happened. Coaching staff let other defensemen get some rest on the eve of the deciding game for placement in round robin.
- The game against Austria was your debut at the World Juniors.
- I was a little worries but that game turned out to be quite positive for me. We enjoyed a blowout win, I was given a lot of ice-time and I scored three points.
- You had a hat-trick of assists in your debut game. How did that happen?
- I played with really skilled teammates. They converted on their scoring chances and I was credited with assists. They improvised a lot but late in regulation we converted on a set play we worked at practices on.
- The only thing that you couldn’t get in the game was a shutout. Team Austria scored their only goal at the tournament against Team Russia.
- As far as I remember, Russia has never had a shutout win against Austria at World Juniors. It’s a shame we didn’t let Artur Akhtyamov get a shutout. Unfortunately, I am partly to blame for that – I was a little slow in marking their center and he was the one who deflected the puck into the net.
- Team Russia finished just fourth at the tournament. How did the team take the final two losses?
- Everyone was frustrated because we all dreamt of much better result. Following the bronze-medal game our head-coach said a few words. He told us he was happy with the way we played and wished us luck in our future careers. Because of the outcome, there was a lot of negativity towards our team – in the media and social media. I do my best not to be fazed by it. We had agreed even before the tournament to read and watch the news as little as possible as well as comments, so that we would get buried by all that.
- Zakhar Bardakov’s teammates on Russkie Vityazi were jokingly tough on him for not bringing them any souvenirs from Canada. Ilya Kovalchuk scolded Avangard players for the same thing. Did you bring anything from the tournament for your teammates?
- Buran [Voronezh] coaches asked me even prior to the tournament to bring them caps – and that’s what I did. I didn’t bring anything else but no one was upset about it.