“When people get to know that I am a goalie, they often ask me: “Why? It is so painful.” Timofei Korolyov – about his progress in KHL, goalie quirks and online hate

15.12.2022 в 13:00

“When people get to know that I am a goalie, they often ask me: “Why? It is so painful.” Timofei Korolyov – about his progress in KHL, goalie quirks and online hate

Severstal goalie Timofei Korolyov moved from Moscow Rus to Cherepovets and started making good progress: after his first season with Vologda Region Metallurg (NJHL) Korolev moved up the tiers to Almaz to become their starting goalie. His solid performance entitled him to be called up to the main team in December 2021.

18-year-old Timofei carried confidence into his KHL debut, made 15 saves and gave his team the win against Vityaz. After the game, he picked up a ridiculous eye injury and was sidelined. In the 2022/2023 season, he returned to the KHL to help hist team beat Vityaz in his first game. In an interview with the JHL website, Korolyov talked about his injury, the 2022/2023 regular season and his attitude to criticism.

“I was receiving messages saying that I was the most rotten-hearted goalie in the league”


– The final week of November was a special one for you – two games played for the main team for the first time in the season, what are your impressions?
– It is a good experience that will do a power of good in the future. It helped me to improve my skills and mentality. There are certain moments that I have taken into account: what needs to be done better, when it is better to play in a different way.

– What do you feel after returning to the KHL?
– Everything is fine, I already knew almost all the guys, so I didn’t really have to adjust, I blended into the team right away. Of course, I am still being modest because of my age, but all the guys treat me well, help me, it’s cool.

– How did you motivate yourself before the first game?
– I didn’t actually have to motivate myself. I made my KHL debut in the 2021/2022 season, so I knew that it was no disaster. The coaching staff and my teammates helped me to cope with anxiety, I am thankful to them for that. I did feel a little jittery, but they helped me to calm down and play my game.

– Some young goalies find it easier to play when they feel jittery, others prefer feeling perfectly calm, what about you?
– It depends, but I do find it easier to play when I feel a little jittery – it makes me cover all the bases and play more solid. Either approach is good, but jitters prove useful for me personally.

– In what way is playing in the KHL different from playing for a junior team?
– Speeds are higher, each players’ move is thought-through and performed better than in the JHL, where guys sometimes tend to simply take shots. KHL players look to shoot under the arms, shoot for the pads to generate a rebound. They shoot for all areas they want and the shots are high-percentage ones. They don’t take any chances in the KHL, everything is faster, more accurate and tactical, there are more combinations and set plays. Teams are more result-oriented here, they have more experience in protecting leads compared to the JHL.

– You were named the KHL’s rookie of the week, were you happy about it?
– It was nice, of course. But credit goes not only to me. My teammates were helping me a lot in all games: they blocked shots, spotted for me. I didn’t get the news at first hand, my friend from Almaz forwarded it to me in jest (smiles).

– Do you feel that KHL games are more physically demanding compared to JHL ones?
– In this respect, I have noticed that legs work more during KHL games and leg muscles get overworked quicker. It is mainly due to teams’ good power play, because they do well at keeping opponents in the D-zone. I wouldn’t say that KHL games leave you more tired, maybe quite the contrary, it becomes easier at some point, because there are not so many scoring chances when a goalie is called into action. JHL games are richer in scoring chances, sometimes you get even more tired there.

– It is very important for a goalie to be mentally resilient, how did you build resistance?
– I think, it comes with experience. When you make mistakes, allow goals, you gain confidence little by little. You understand that even if you do allow a goal, it’s okay, you should get ready for the next moment. Sergei Vladimirovich Shchukin (Almaz goalie coach - note) helped me to stay calm even after allowing four goals. You just need to keep playing and trying to contribute to the success of your team.
If you allow a goal, you can’t turn the clock back, it’s important to still try to help your team. Emotional resilience is important, because if you come unglued, get confused, you will start to think that you will not be able to play the way you practice. If you start having thoughts like: “I’ll get stuffed with goals now,” “I haven’t warmed up properly,” or something of that kind, you won’t be able to show your worth because of being too worried.

– How do you feel when criticized?
– I have become more loyal to criticism. When I started playing in the JHL, I was receiving messages saying that I was the most rotten-hearted goalie in the league, someone sent me a text saying they wished I died, texted things about my family. No matter how many goals I allow, no matter what the result is - whether we win or lose, some nasty things will be written, so I just don’t pay attention to them.
I have never thought of quitting. There might have been some situations when I was a child, at that age you are more emotional, after all, but it wasn’t serious. Some fleeting thought could just come to my mind at some moment of sadness.

– How true is this statement, “A goalie is a half of the team”?
– It seems fair to me. Skaters create chances, score goals, play defense – these are their responsibilities. But if there was no goalie, each mistake would lead to a goal scored. A goalie is there to help his team, to make a number of saves per game, so that even one goal scored by skaters is enough to win. In theory, a goalie himself can win a game.

“I try to play with confidence, so that there are no “last hope” moves and unusual saves.”

– The KHL now trends to trusting young goalies, do you follow any of your young colleagues?
– I do watch and read things I come across. It's great when young guys are given a chance to try playing, when they gain trust, get to feel a men’s league, it’s a valuable experience. It often happens so that players make their VHL or KHL debut while they are stile eligible for the JHL.

– Severstal is one of the youngest teams in the KHL. Does lack of experience affects team performance?
– Maybe, but, on the plus side, when a team is young there is a desire to play and win, more energy. On the negative side, sometimes players do not have much experience, guys, like me, find themselves in certain situations for the first time. KHL games are played one way, JHL - another, it might cause some difficulties as well.

– Three out of four goals you allowed in two KHL games were scored in the second period. Statistics indicate that the team does not do great in the middle frame, what is it due to?
– Second periods are the toughest ones for me personally. I believe, it is when I allow goals more often, even in JHL games. Playing for Severstal in the 2021/2022 season, I also allowed a goal in the second period.
You play in a different net and something becomes different, a little unusual, plus players get more fatigued due to long change, it also has its impact.

– Ilya Ivantsov said that he liked the Severstal’s style, because a player’s mistake does not lead to some severe consequences compared to other clubs. Is it the same for a goalie?
– I think that any mistake made by a goalie of any team carries quite a lot of weight in the game, because it leads to allowing a goal. Mistakes do matter. I can’t say that someone is being carelessness, like “I made a mistake - and whatever.” Andrei Vladimirovich Razin himself said that mistakes are the part of the game. Even those goals that I allowed were scored, among other things, due to some of my mistakes. After games, they explained me what I could have done better. In Severstal players are explained what mistakes they have made, and it helps them to progress.

– Do you find it easier to play when there are more shots on goal or not?
– It is easier when I am kept busy, because I am alert, ready for a next shot. And when an opposing team has few chances, you can go screensaver if you stand without the puck for a long time. It often happens so that when there are few shots, each of them is a high-percentage one, they get three odd-man rushes per period, shoot from the hash marks. Forechecking teams usually shoot from any position, from any distance, so you are always alert and alive and ready to stop shots.

– Both of your games for Severstal were played on home ice, did you feel fans’ support?
– Yes, of course! It always helps when fans cheer for you - it adds emotions, even when 2 000 people attend a game. It helps and motivates. We are thankful to everyone who comes to watch games and support us, because it’s great when the whole barn is rooting for you. People are emotional, they are a driving force for us, they want us to win – it’s a pleasure to play in such an atmosphere.

– Severstal practices sometimes include shootout series for players to compete with coaches. Did you happen to take part in them?
– I surely did. Andrei Vladimirovich and Yury Viktorovich often take shots during practices, it’s an interesting competition with the coaching staff. They are a much-fancied team. They win most of the time.

– Alexander Samonov recently joined the team as a result of a trade with SKA, what are the chances for you to become a full-time player of the main team?
– Healthy competition is always great, it develops all the competitors, helps everyone to progress. I cannot evaluate myself, it is for the coaching staff to do, to see whether I am ready or not. As for me, I am always ready for new challenges.

– Do you give some pointers to skaters during the game?
– Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. The most important pointer is when a goalie plays behind the net, that’s when it’s really needed. I can let a teammate know that there is an opponent behind his back, as for the rest, they see it themselves.

– After your KHL debut, you picked up a very unpleasant injury, can you tell us more about it?
– It was frustrating, a ridiculous situation, I often explain and show this to everyone. After the game, I went to put my pants in the drying room, bent down, and there was an iron hook I hit against. It snatched my eyelid, I removed it and my eye got closed. The worst thing is that it was just a stupid accident. I asked myself: “How could this even happen?”. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would make sure to watch carefully and maybe notice a black hook in the black drying room (smiles).

– Does the KHL imply increased responsibility?
– I always play in a responsible way, it is a professional sport, after all, we all are result-oriented, so commitment should always be there. Of course, a mistake is worth more in the KHL, because the JHL is still aimed at development of players, and we develop through mistakes as well – that is how we gain experience. There is a room for mistake at the senior level, but incredibly little. I always feel responsible before my teammates and the coaching staff who trust me, so I do my best to meet their expectations, to eliminate mistakes and help my team win games.

– Skaters always work on skating, shot power and accuracy, and what do you focus on?
– I try to focus on everything, starting from skills and ending with physical exercises, it also means a lot of skating, technical elements, working out in a gym. Lately I’ve been working on stick handling and dashing from goal.

– This season is noticeably worse than the previous one both for Severstal and Almaz, what is it due to?
– I spent a half of the first month with the main team, then I returned to Almaz and was again called up to Severstal a little while ago. There are many new faces in Almaz, the team became younger. Many of the guys are now in their first JHL season, maybe they haven’t found their game yet. I do everything as usual, nothing has changed for me, it’s just that sometimes certain things are not working out, tough luck. The guys haven’t developed good chemistry yet, they don’t always manage to convert chances and play solid defense – that’s what I can say about the junior team having spent more time there.
As for Severstal, the latest games show that the team plays much better than opponents, creates more chances, but sometimes fails to convert them and is out of luck. Many games were lost by one goal, we still make stupid mistakes that lead to opponents scoring game-winning goals. It is sort of tough luck, things should straighten out soon.

– Do you remember well your save in the game against Dynamo SPb, which was recognized as one of the best saves in the JHL in September?
– I try to play with confidence, so that there are no “last hope” moves and unusual saves. I do remember that save, there was a number of rebounds, so I had to skip from side to side. I can’t say that I keep each save in mind, but some of them do stick. In any case, I don’t rewatch my saves many times. I might watch something if it enters the top or if my friends forward it to me.

“I tried playing goalie, but was persuaded out of it and I became a defenseman”

– How did you start playing hockey?
– My parents signed me up for hockey when I was three years old, and that’s how it all began. First, I learned to skate, then became a field player. When they started choosing a goalie, I tried the position, but was persuaded out of it and I became a defenseman. After a while, I gave it another try and I really liked everything, including the uniform. It was not that I wanted to skate less, I just liked this position. My father was against it, but I still decided to become a netminder and have no regrets.

– Do you plan to get your helmet painted?
– Of course, I would love to get it painted, to have something cool on it, order colorful gear. But it is a high-cost service and being a young player, I am not ready to pay 60 000 for it, to be honest. So far, everything is quite ordinary, all my gear is white, and I’m satisfied with what I have.

– Do you already have any ideas of what design you would like to get painted on your helmet?
– I thought about it. Almaz goalie coach Sergei Vladimirovich asked me the same question. It will definitely be some kind of design associated with the club. I have too many ideas of what can be added to the background, especially since I will need to make sure that it can be painted at all. I would also get something meaningful for myself from my life, related to my family painted on the helmet. Most likely, there would be something from Star Wars. I would offer many ideas for a designer to make a sketch and add what he believes would look nice there.

– You played for Moscow Snezhnye Barsy, moved to Rus and then to Cherepovets. Tell us more about your hockey path.
– Everything was plain and simple. I started with Snezhnye Barsy and played there until the age of 14-15, when I was about 14 years old, I tried out for Krylya. They told me I would be a backup goalie and won’t play much, that was why I stayed with Barsy, spent one more season there. Then I tried out for Spartak, I didn’t make the team after two months of preseason training camp, and when I came to Rus, I made the team right away. I stayed there, started playing in the first group, spent two or three seasons there. After graduating, when I was to go to the JHL, I had two options. It was during quarantine, a few days before I was supposed to go to a different team, when I received a call from Cherepovets and was invited to a tryout. I agreed, spent preseason there and stayed with the team. I started with Metallurg, and one season later I was already with Almaz.

– Rus is one of the most famous schools that produces many talents every year. Do you remember any of your agemates from the school?
– Yes, there are many guys I know from Rus: Ilya Ivantsov is now here with us, Alexander Volkov is with Lokomotiv, Arseny Koromyslov and Vladimir Sychyov are with SKA, Pavel Kanayev is with Spartak. There are many guys who play in the KHL and JHL, even if we only speak of my year of birth. So, we often face one another on the ice.

– Is there a story behind your jersey number?
– 35 was the only number available (smiles). When I was with Metallurg, I got a jersey with number 1 on it, I didn’t get to pick it. When I joined Almaz the following season, number 1 was already taken by Konstantin Shostak, 20 – by Artyom Nazarkin, 30 – by Dmitry Shugayev. 35 was the only goalie number available, so I took it.

– Many people say that goalies are weird and quirky, have you ever been treated like that?
– I don’t know, I’m an ordinary guy, I can’t say that I am terribly quirky. Well, I do have some oddities, sometimes people tell me I’m sort of sick. But they do it for a joke, because I’m just like all the others, there is nothing that differs me from skaters. Well, I am different, but those are basic features that go with playing this position.

– Dmitry Shikin said that goalies are “quite a different breed, masochists who love to have bruises, love pain,” do you agree with this opinion?
– It is truly said (smiles). When people get to know that I am a goalie, they often ask me: “Why? It is so painful.” You kind of enjoy what you are doing, but it is painful, so this statement does describe a goalie.

– How do you spend your free time?
– I don’t do anything special, I can work out in my free time. As a rule, I just relax: stay in bed, watch something, take mind off things, or get together with guys and have a few laughs. I can say that driving is my current hobby, because it’s time to get driver license. I attend driving school, this is what I can dedicate my free time to. I also like going out with friends, going to the cinema. But I don’t get to go out too often, because we have few days off. When I come back home after practice on a weekday, I don’t even have a desire to go anywhere, so I just lie down for a while, relax and try to switch my mind off hockey.

– Are you interested in cars?
– I wouldn’t say that I am a connoisseur of cars, but I’m interested in them, how they work, basic things that a person should know when driving. I don’t take cars apart, I just like to watch some good car reviews, to consider options for the future.
I can’t say that I am in desperate need of a car, I am not saving up for one. It makes more sense to invest money into real estate, it is more important for me now. If there is a chance to get a nice car at a reasonable price – why not?

– Do you like any other sports besides hockey?
– I like to watch soccer and basketball from time to time. When we were in Cherepovets, we often watched the World Cup with guys. We also watch soccer game recaps while we have meals together.

– What are your expectations of the second half of the season?
– There are no certain expectations, I just want to play as much as possible, improve my skills and grow as a player. It would do a power of good and help me in the next season.