By Martin Merk – IIHF.com
With Canada ambitious to test its European-based players, the event was extended to six teams like the Karjala Tournament in Helsinki once month earlier with the addition of Canada and Olympic host Korea.
However, it was the four traditional “Euro Hockey Tour” nations that occupied the top-four spots in Moscow with the hosts leading the way thanks to a clean record of three regulation-time wins.
It didn’t start that well though at the VTB Ice Palace that was built for the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Fredrik Pettersson gave Sweden the lead in the countries’ first game but Russia fought back and Sergei Kalinin tied the game in the first period before Vyacheslav Voinov in the second and Nikita Gusev with a penalty shot in the third period made it a 3-1 victory.
In a much-anticipated game by the sell-out crowd of 12,680 fans Russia blanked Canada 2-0 on Saturday. The Canadians, many of them from clubs in the Russian-based KHL, dominated the game for two periods and had a 38-20 shot-on-goal advantage during 60 minutes. However, Vasili Koshechkin had a strong night in the net and in the third period Nikita Nesterov broke the deadlock with his power-play goal before Sergei Plotnikov scored the second goal for Russia.
The Czechs also started with two wins, 3-2 in overtime against Finland in a game that was played in front of 16,227 fans in Prague before settling over to Moscow, and 4-1 against Canada. On Sunday a 4-1 win against Sweden meant the Czechs were leading with eight points and Russia would need a regulation-time win in the last game of the tournament against Finland to claim the tournament win. A strong start with goal from Sergei Andronov and Maxim Shalunov gave Russia the sought-after cushion in a 3-0 win. Valeri Nichushkin scored the last goal with 17 seconds left into the empty net.
The lost point in the overtime win on the opening day cost the Czechs the tournament win who had to settle for second place and had the top-four point scorers of the tournament with Martin Erat (2+3=5), Vojtech Mozik (2+2=4), Martin Ruzicka (3+0=3) and Michal Repik (3+0=3).
Finland, Sweden and Canada followed in the standings with each having earned one victory in three games. Newcomer Korea, which for the first time played a tournament at this level, finished in last place. Their tightest game was a 4-2 loss against Canada on the first day after a first-period 2-1 lead thanks to two goals from Sangwook Kim before the Canadians turned the game with second-period markers from Marc-Andre Gragnani and Wojtek Wolski.
Russia’s Koshechkin was named Best Goaltender of the tournament after a 98.36 save percentage from his two starts against Sweden and Canada. Ilya Sorokin played Russia’s last game earning a shutout. His teammate Voinov was named Best Defenceman and the Best Forward award went to Korean player Kisung Kim.
For Russia it was a “double win” during the weekend as their B squad played at the MECA Hockey Games where they beat host Norway 4-3 in overtime, Slovakia 3-2 in overtime and France 3-1. Defenceman Mikhail Naumenkov was the top scorer for his team with three points (2+1). Slovakia’s Tomas Surovy (1+3) and Andrej Kudrna (3+0) led the tournament in scoring. Norway’s Olimb brothers Mathis (2+1) and Ken Andre (1+2) also notched three points.
Slovakia finished the events in second place thanks to wins against France (4-2) and host Norway with Kudrna notching the shootout winner after a scoreless game. Host Norway was third while France didn’t earn any points.
Two back-to-back games were played in Belarus where the hosts blanked Kazakhstan 3-0 before winning the second match 2-1 after a Viktor Turkin overtime goal.