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Red Machine rolls undefeated into 2014 IIHF World Championship playoffs

May 21, 2014, 20:45 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Russia’s most recent titles of world champions were conquered in 2008, 2009 and 2012
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© ITAR-TASC/Artem Korotaev

MOSCOW, May 21. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian team finished the preliminary round of the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in the top of its Group B crashing all of its opponents on the way to the quarterfinals.

The so-called Red Machine, led by its new Head Coach Oleg Znarok and captained by NHL Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin, is currently rolling on the 7-game winning spree with the rating of scored and missed shots at the championship standing at hefty 31:7.

The Russians jump-started the global tournament with the sounding 5-0 victory over reigning vice champions Switzerland on May 9. The team was unstoppable in the following games for the berth in the playoff stage and collected victories over Finland (4-2), the United States (6-1), Kazakhstan (7-2), Germany (3-0) and hosts Belarus (2-1).

Russia’s impressive performance occasionally suffered from players’ injuries with the most recent sustained by Ovechkin during the match against Germany. The 28-year-old winger missed the game with Belarus due to the injury and his participation in the upcoming quarterfinal remains doubtful.

However, starting with the match against the hosts on Tuesday the Russian squad was beefed up by NHL Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin, who joined the national team in Belarus after his club was knocked out of NHL playoffs by New York Rangers last week.

This is the sixth world championship for 27-year-old Malkin. He won one world champion’s title with Russia in 2012, when he was also named the most valuable player of that tournament (11 goals, 8 assists). At the world championships he also won silver in 2010 and bronze in 2005 and 2007 playing for the national team.

The Russian team is also boasting the tournament’s current scoring leader, who is Viktor Tikhonov. The 26-year-old forward, whose grandfather coached the legendary Soviet team in late 1970s and early 1980s, scored a total of seven goals and made seven assists in seven matches he played so far at the championship.

The quarterfinal match on Thursday will see Russia facing-off the French team, which defeated the Red Machine 2-1 at the last year’s world championship, jointly held by Switzerland and Sweden. The other three pairs in Thursday’s quarterfinals are the United States vs the Czech Republic, Canada vs Finland and reigning champions Sweden vs Belarus.

To the delight of Russian hockey fans, the national squad changed beyond recognition at this championship following disappointing performance at last year’s World Championship, when it was knocked out from the quarterfinals after being creamed 3-8 by the United States.

Another disappointing performance followed at this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, where the Russian squad failed once more to clear the quarterfinals stage losing on its home ice 1-3 to Finland.

Russia’s most recent titles of world champions were conquered in 2008, 2009 and 2012. The 2008 title was a real treat for Russian hockey fans as it came to the team after a 15-year drought. That title Russia snatched from Canada, which was hosting the World Championship for the first time in its history, with 5-4 victory in overtime.

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