After a week’s camp in Novogorsk, during which U18 Team Russia played exhibition games against Atlanty Moscow Region and JHC Dynamo Moscow, Alexander Zybin’s men flew to Chelyabinsk where they continue their preparations for U18 IIHF World Championship. Team Russia players spoke about the camp, winning exhibition games, Andrei Svechnikov’s chances of playing at the tournament and their mindset coming into home World Championship, which kicks off on April 19th.
Krasnaya Armiya Moscow
- Krasnaya Armiya got eliminated from the playoffs in the very first round. How did you manage to stay sharp after such a long pause?
- We were given three days off after we got eliminated from the playoffs. And then Krasnaya Armiya went back to practices, while some of the guys were sent down to junior hockey school team. This season wasn’t very successful for our team and for me personally. Only a good performance at the World Championship can right it. Ideally, it would be great to win a medal and get a lot of points. Sometimes people say that if a forward scores a lot of goals, his whole team makes it happen, which chips away at the end result. People say that these forwards are not team players but puck hogs. I believe, that when one player produces a lot of points – his whole team benefits from it. These players become a great example for their teammates and it helps to build great atmosphere in the dressing-room.
- 28 players were invited to the camp, which is five full 5-man units.
- It’s an unusual situation. Usually when we come to Novogorsk we already know who’s going to play at the tournament but our team is currently having another camp in Chelyabinsk and nobody knows yet who’s going to make the world championship cut. Our coaches still wait for several guys to come from North America.
- You have played two exhibition games at the camp.
- The game against Dynamo, which we won 8-3, stood out the most. We rolled all five lines. Our top line was benched in the 2nd period and they were replaced by the 5th line. Our team scored a lot of goals and the coaches tried different line combinations.
- At the World Championship it won’t be just the fans in the stands, but scouts as well.
- Scouts come to every tournament where we play. We saw the most of them in Plymouth at Five Nation Tournament. World Championship is going to be our last chance to prove ourselves as the clubs will send scouts to follow specific players. After the tournament final draft rankings will be drastically changed. So everyone is going to do their best. It might be the last chance to prove yourself at an international level.
- Despite all news circling about Team Russia these days, the players look happy in the team picture.
- We actually look all happy in those pictures, everybody is smiling. That’s the moment when you should just relax and have a little fun. Although, we went back to being serious after the shooting and went back to work.
Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk
- Stalnye Lisy were knocked out in the opening round of the playoffs. What did you do after that?
- I rested for a few days – mentally most of all as the loss came as a huge shock. We expected more from ourselves and thought we would go deep in the playoffs. Then we went back to practices. Stalnye Lisy were getting ready for a few exhibition games and a tournament. That’s when I was called up to Novogorsk.
- Do you have enough energy to play at the World Championship after arduous regular season and playoffs?
- We did use up a lot of energy but you can’t just miss home World Championship because of fatigue or because something aches. Besides, the first week of camp was about easing it in. We had light practices and the coaches gave us time to recover.
- Team Russia played two exhibition games against Atlanty and Dynamo.
- Several players compete for every spot on the roster so you have to prove your worth everyday. The best way to do it is exhibition games. So there weren’t any problems getting into the right mindset for the games against Atlanty and Dynamo. The games went well for us. We tested a few things we had worked on at practices. Since we have a lot of players on the team right now, we played just four lines in the first game. Some guys got a little sick so they were given extra time to recover but we still won 4-1. There are a lot of forwards on our team, so the coaches are going to rotate them.
- Have you followed U18 World Championships in the past?
- Last year we were at a tournament in Togliatti and we watched the games in the intermissions. In the past several years Team Russia won bronze medals, so this home tournament is a great chance to win gold. Obviously, there’s going to be a bigger responsibility on our shoulders as we’re going to play in front of our fans but, on the other hand, every one of us will have their families in the stands, which is going to give us extra motivation.
- First week of the camp was about recovering. We were going to swimming pool, take recovering procedures in sauna, massages and that sort of thing. So we forgot about the pressure that had built up in the season. We played bandy, which was a new experience for us. Vladimir Yurzinov visited us early in the camp. He underlined how important it is to play well in front of our fans.
- You left for the camp right in the thick of Kharlamov Cup Playoffs, just as Loko made the semifinals.
- Loko are doing great without me. It’s almost like they didn’t notice Reaktor. It’s a little frustrating that I won’t play in Kharlamov Cup Finals, but U18 World Championship comes once in a lifetime. It’s a very important event for every player, so I’m going to be happy to make Team Russia’s final cut.
- Team Russia held several camps this season before tournaments. Was this camp any different from the others?
- It’s all very different now. Everybody understands what an important tournament we have ahead of us.
- You began the camp with a game of bandy. How did you like it?
- Almost everybody played that game for the first time. We got new positive emotions and forgot about the hockey we’re accustomed to for a bit. There’s a lot of skating in bandy since the ice surface is almost as big as a soccer pitch.
- Do you have a chance to follow Kharlamov Cup Playoffs?
- We mostly just keep track of scores because there are a lot of afternoon games in the JHL. We watched Gagarin Cup Semifinals. As an Irbis player, I cheered for Ak Bars. In the SKA St. Petersburg and CSKA Moscow series I cheered for great hockey and every game was intense. I was a little surprised to see SKA eliminated but CSKA also have a great team.
- Do you discuss your playoff run with other players?
- We joke about it a little bit, talk about funny episodes or somebody’s great play. We played only against Mamonty Yugry so we talk with the guys from Khanty-Mansiysk about the series.
- What do you know about Chelyabinsk where Team Russia is going to play the majority of its games?
- Last season Irbis played against Belye Medvedi in the playoffs. Besides, we face them in the regular season as well. As for the city, I know they have a modern arena. As it often happens with hockey players, I haven’t seen anything in the city but the hotel and arena.
- Ruslan Iskhakov has experience playing in Europe, several other players will join the team from North America. Do you think these international experiences are going to help your team in the tournament?
- Not everyone can come from North America. So far only Nikita Okhotyuk and Dmitry Zavgorodny came over. Actually, Okhotyuk was born in Chelyabinsk. I’m sure it’s going to be a great experience for him playing in his hometown. Everybody plays for a different team where every coach has his own tactics and style, so it won’t be possible to use this experience on Team Russia. Although, we played against different national teams at several tournaments throughout the season, so we have an understanding about how our opponents are going to play.