BEIJING (Reuters) -The Russian men’s ice hockey team has scored just three goals in two games, but with Ivan Fedotov doing his impersonation of the “Great Wall” in net the reigning champions have made a perfect start to their title defence at the Beijing Olympics.
After a tight 1-0 win over Switzerland in their opener, Fedotov on Friday again came to the rescue for his team, competing as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), with another shutout performance in a 2-0 victory over Games debutantes Denmark.
While the Russian attack has had difficulty getting into gear, Fedotov has risen to the occasion, stopping all 16 shots in the win over Denmark after turning aside 33 shots to shut down Switzerland.
“I am not happy with how we play offensively,” said ROC coach Alexei Zhamnov. “We are not controlling the puck and we do not have traffic in front of the net.
“There is too much playing around and that is maybe why we do not score many goals,” he said.
The game’s first goal came midway through the second period with Pavel Karnaukhov knocking in his own rebound off the post past Frederik Dichow’s outstretched glove.
That would be all the scoring until Kirill Semyonov put the puck into an empty net near the end of the third period after Denmark pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker.
Goaltending was also the decisive factor in the Czech Republic’s 2-1 shootout win over Switzerland.
The two teams traded goals in the opening period with Jiri Smejkal putting the Czechs up 1-0 before the Swiss answered with a powerplay tally from Gaetan Haas.
Then for two scoreless periods and an overtime, the contest turned into a goaltending duel between Switzerland’s Leonardo Genoni the Czech’s Simon Hrubec.
In the shootout, Czech David Krejci was the first to go and was the only skater to beat Genoni. That proved to be enough as Hrubec turned aside all five Swiss attempts.
“Before the season I did not like them,” Hrubec said of shootouts after the Czechs collected their first win in Beijing. “I told my goalie coach in Omsk I don’t have the self-confidence for shootouts.”
“I told him we have to figure out how to solve this problem and before and after the practice I had more than 100 and maybe 1,000 shootouts, so I drilled them every single day and we found a way to do it.”
In other action, rivals Sweden and Finland both improved to 2-0.
The Swedes beat Slovakia 4-1 and got all the offence they would need in the opening period with Joakim Nordstrom, Lucas Wallmark and Max Friberg all finding the back of the net.
Carl Klingberg and Slovakian 17-year-old sensation Juraj Slafkovsky traded goals in the third to complete the scoring.
Finland struggled early against Latvia before turning it on late for a 3-1 victory.
Valtteri Kemilainen broke open a scoreless contest midway through the second to put the Finns ahead before Rodrigo Abols answered for Latvia three minutes into the third.
The contest appeared headed for overtime until two late goals by Leo Komarov and Marko Anttila, who returned to the Finnish lineup after spending several days in isolation for a positive COVID test that had his team accusing China of disrespecting his human rights.
(Reporting by Steve Keating; editing by Richard Pullin, Ken Ferris and Bill Berkrot)