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Russian hockey squad vies for world champs title without head coach

May 25, 2014, 22:06 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The IIHF ordered the one game suspension for Znarok on the eve of the Red Machine’s final clash
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A fan of Russia cheers during the Ice Hockey World Championship

A fan of Russia cheers during the Ice Hockey World Championship

© EPA/TATYANA ZENKOVICH

MOSCOW, May 25. /ITAR-TASS/. It will be only a one game suspension for the Russian national ice hockey team’s head coach, Oleg Znarok, and no further penalties are being considered, Rene Fasel, the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), said on Sunday.

Znarok’s suspension was handed down by the IIHF Disciplinary Committee following an inappropriate gesture at Saturday’s semifinal match, which saw Russia cruising past Sweden to the spot in the title match.

"He will not receive any further disciplinary actions," the IIHF official website quoted Fasel as saying about the penalty imposed against Znarok.

Team Russia was winning 3-1 in Saturday’s semifinal encounter against reigning World Champions Sweden, when in the closing minutes of the third and final period Swedish player Mikael Backlund charged Russia’s forward Sergei Plotnikov hitting him with the hockey stick.

The incident on the ice immediately followed by overheated discussions on the teams’ benches between Znarok and Swedish Assistant Coach Rikard Gronborg with the Russian team’s head coach ending the unpleasant conversation displaying a cut-throat gesture. The IIHF ordered Znarok a one-game suspension for the gesture.

The IIHF ordered the one game suspension for Znarok on the eve of the Red Machine’s final clash for the much-anticipated title of the 2014 Hockey World Championship.

The match against Finland kicks off on Sunday night 9:00 p.m. local time (18:00 GMT).

“It’s really sad that at the end of this fantastic tournament we had an unacceptable exchange between two coaches that should not happen in a top level international hockey tournament,” Fasel said. “We as a federation have to make sure by using our existing rules and regulations that these actions aren’t repeated in the future.”

Znarok, who took over the Russian team earlier in the year and led the national squad to the current nine-game winning spree, said he was surprised with the IIHF decision.

“I was surprised with the decision of the IIHF Disciplinary Committee. But I do admit that the incident is unprecedented,” Znarok said adding that he would manage to be present at the Minsk Arena during his team’s battle with Finland for the world championship’s title on Sunday.

The IIHF chief earlier confirmed that Znarok, whose team currently boasts the astounding 37-8 record of scored and missed shots at the championship, that the Russian head coach would be able to see the final clash in Belarus as a spectator at the 15,000-seat Minsk Arena.

“Yes [Znarok may visit], but he will not be able to be on the [team’s] bench, nor can he be involved with the team prior to the game or during the game,” Fasel said.

The IIHF one-game suspension was also enforced in regard to Sweden’s Gronborg He had to skip his team’s game for the championship’s third place earlier on Sunday, when the ‘Tre Kronor’ squad defeated the Czech Republic 3-0 to take the bronze.

The Russian and Finnish teams tested each other at the preliminary round in their Group B match on May 11, when the heated game in Minsk ended 4-2 in favor of the Russian squad.

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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