MOSCOW, December 22 (R-Sport) – A two-minute blitz in the third period gained the Czech Republic a 2-1 win over Russia Saturday on the Euro Hockey Tour in Sochi, the last warm-up tournament ahead of next year’s Olympic Games.
With wins in all of their three games, the Czechs lifted the Channel One Cup, the trophy for the Russian leg of the Tour and moved to third place in the overall table of the four-stage competition.
Russia remains second overall, after managing a 3-2 victory over Sweden on Thursday in Sochi and then losing to Finland 3-2 on Saturday.
"The team hasn't played badly, but inidividual mistakes didn't let us reach a positive result," Russia coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said. "The number of candidates for the Olympic team has decreased. There are players who didn't live up to our expectations."
Russia had a noticeable advantage in the first two periods, but all the attacks were stopped by on-form Czech goaltender Alexander Salak.
The hosts finally scored 18 seconds into the third period, when CSKA Moscow forward Alexander Radulov converted a penalty shot, hitting the top corner with a backhander.
However, it took Czechs only four minutes to take the lead. First Tomas Nosek netted a rebound goal after Russian goaltender Alexander Yeryomenko stopped a shot in a one-on-one duel against Robert Kousal and then the second Czech goal came when former Columbus Blue Jackets center Jiri Novotny tipped in a great pass by Jiri Simanek, who stole the puck from defenseman Ilya Nikulin.
Star forward Ilya Kovalchuk could have given the Russians victory, but he hit the frame of the goal twice.
The MVP of the last two KHL playoffs, Russia goaltender Yeryomenko wasn't satisfied with his performance, stating he should play better to get a place in the Olympic roster.
"In order to get to the Olympics, I should play much better and help the team," Yeryomenko said. "Today, I failed to do it. But I'm happy that I played at the tournament, in the first game the guys played great and in the second I didn't save the team."
Later Sunday, the Channel One Cup wraps up with Finland facing Sweden. Both of the day's games will be held at Sochi's Bolshoy Ice Dome, the host venue for February’s Olympic tournament.
The Euro Hockey Tour is a rolling four-stage event without NHL participation that is usually used to introduce younger Europe-based players to the national team.