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Olympics Ice Hockey: Stubborn Slovakia edges ‘Neutral’ Russia 3-2 in PyeongChang

The ice hockey team from Russia is playing next match on Friday against the Slovenian team

PYEONGCHANG, February 14. /TASS/. The team of Russian ice hockey players, who are participating in the 2018 Winter Games under the neutral status, began their Olympic journey in PyeongChang on Wednesday with a 2-3 defeat to Slovakia.

"We voluntarily gave away the game and I take the responsibility for all mistakes we made today since it is my team," Oleg Znarok, Russia’s ice hockey head coach, said after the game. "Looks like we decided that if everything happened so quickly everything would be okay. The majority (of players) did not work, while everything was good at training sessions."

The match started too well for the team from Russia as its defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov scored the first goal less than three minutes into the game. About two minutes after the score was unsealed the Russians increased their advantage to 2-0 with a precise shot into the Slovakian net from 20-year-old forward Kirill Kaprizov.

In the middle of the period Slovakia’s Peter Ceresnak received a two-minute penalty for tripping, but the Russian players did not seize the opportunity to score on the power play.

The Slovakian team eventually regained control over their play and with four minutes remaining in the first period team’s forward Peter Olvecky cannoned a puck into the net behind Russia’s goalie Vasily Koshechkin to bring the score to 2-1.

Only two minutes later, Slovakian forward Martin Bakos delivered another goal for his team to tie the score at 2-2, which stayed unaltered until both teams retreated for the break before next period.

The Russian squad began the middle period on the power play, but once again they failed to penetrate the solid Slovakian defense. Both teams tested each other with strong attacks throughout the period, but it turned out to be scoreless until the siren signaled the end of another 20-minute stretch.

Seven minutes into the closing period the team from Russia was handed a two-minute penalty for delaying the game and it was Slovakia’s Ceresnak again to score on the power play and put his team in the lead with 3-2 flashing on the scoreboard.

The Russians had several more opportunities to respond on the power plays as the game turned a bit rough in the closing minutes, but Slovakia’s stubborn defense kept the score at 3-2 until the final siren.

"All games here will be just like this one, because all teams are good since it is the Olympics," Russia’s Head Coach Znarok said after today’s defeat. "We need to tune in like it is the last battle for us. It is early to speak about the reshuffles as we need to sleep on it."

The ice hockey team from Russia is playing next match on Friday against the Slovenian team, which on Wednesday defeated Team USA 3-2 in overtime. Slovakia is taking on the US team on Friday.

Late last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended the membership of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) over doping abuse allegations but allowed clean Russian athletes to participate in the 2018 Winter Games under the Olympic flag and in the neutral status of an Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR).

The 23rd Winter Olympic Games kicked off in PyeongChang with an official opening ceremony on February 9 and will conclude on February 25.