By Dan Burns
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – Six different players scored to power the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) past Norway 6-1 and set up a semi-final matchup with the Czech Republic in the men’s ice hockey tournament of the Pyeongchang Games on Wednesday.
The Russians scored three times in the first period and never looked back against a Norwegian squad playing in their first-ever Olympic quarter-final.
Former NHL All Star Ilya Kovalchuk still felt they were lax at times and cannot afford that against the Czechs, who beat the Americans 3-2 in a shootout earlier in the day.
“I think we can play much better than we played today. We kind of stopped playing after 30 minutes. We can’t do that in the tournament,” Kovalchuk said.
Norway’s loss came a day after they had notched their first Olympic hockey victory since 1994, when they hosted the games in Lillehammer.
The Russians broke through about midway through the first period. Coming through center ice, Ilya Kablukov bounced it forward off the left boards to Mikhail Grigorenko who was entering the Norwegian zone and he fired a quick wrist shot into the far side upper corner, beating Lars Haugen on his glove side.
Nikita Gusev made it 2-0 later in the period when he jammed in a bouncing rebound after Haugen had stopped a couple of hard Russian shots. Vyacheslav Voinov rounded out the first-period scoring with under a minute remaining, beating Haugen with a snap shot to the stick side.
Norway got onto the score sheet in the second period. From behind the Russian goal, Mathis Olimb fed Alexander Bonsaksen out near the blue line. Bonsaksen, the hero from Tuesday’s overtime win for Norway over Slovenia, stopped the puck with his right skate, got it to his stick and snapped a shot past goaltender Vasili Koschechkin.
Sergie Kalinin answered right back for the Russians. With Bonsaksen sent off for high sticking, Kalinin took a feed in the crease from Ilya Kovalchuk and forced it into the Norwegian net.
Bonsaksen’s rough luck then continued when Nikita Nesterov snapped a puck across the front of the Norwegian goal and would have gone wide, but it struck Bonsaksen’s skate and ricocheted into the net behind his own goalkeeper.
In the third, Ivan Telegin made it 6-1.
The Russians and Czechs play on Friday to determine who advances to Sunday’s gold medal game, the final event of the Pyeongchang Games.
(Reporting By Dan Burns; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)