Photo: FHR press service

In St. Petersburg, the tournament of the national and youth teams of Russia, as well as the team of Belarus, began. About how Peter prepared for the competition and how the match went with the participation of two Russian teams – in the material of RBC

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Photo: FHR press service

Friendly matches instead of World Cup

In May 2023, it was planned to host the World Cup in St. Petersburg. Closer to this event, the city will open the second largest hockey stadium in the world – SKA Arena for 21.5 thousand spectators. Its capacity will be second only to the United Center in Chicago. Inside the American stadium, including standing places, 22,428 fans can sit, although without them the capacity is “only” 19,717 people.

However, at the end of April, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) decided to deprive St. Petersburg of the right to host the world championship.

The Russian Hockey Federation (FHR) will challenge the transfer. But for now, fans can only count on friendly matches, which the Russian team, suspended for two years from the Eurotour and the next World Cup in Finland, is now playing in different Russian cities.

“What is happening today does not fit in my head – politics was mixed with sports, both the youth world championship and the adult were taken away from us,” Vladislav Tretiak, president of the FHR, told reporters.

The choice of opponents for exhibition matches is small – the team of Belarus and the youth team of Russia are also suspended from the world championships. It was they, as well as the national team of Russia, who became participants in the tournament in St. Petersburg. And on May 1 and 2, the Russians played friendly matches with the Belarusians in Tula, winning 5:2 and 3:2 in overtime.

Goalkeeper goal and full house. How Russia played the first match after suspension

Photo: FHR press service

How did Peter prepare for the tournament?

Tournament «Liga Stavok St. Petersburg Cup” is played on the ice of the Yubileiny Sports Complex, which hosted the matches of the 2016 World Championship – the last world championship held in Russia.

The formula of the competition is as follows: three teams will play in one round, the first two teams will meet in the final on Sunday.

In Tula, both matches of the Russian team caused a full house. The stadium for 3.3 thousand spectators was filled to capacity, and tickets were sold out five days before the first meeting. Didn’t even need an ad.

There is nothing surprising in this. The national team played in Tula for the first time in history, and besides, the residents are not spoiled for big hockey – in the Tula region there are clubs of the Higher and Youth Hockey Leagues (VHL, MHL), but there has never been an elite division team.

In St. Petersburg the situation is different. One of the leading clubs of the Continental Hockey League (KHL) SKA plays in the city. The national team played on the banks of the Neva more than once. This can partly explain the fact that the stands of the Yubileiny, accommodating 6.4 thousand spectators, were not filled to capacity.

However, the main reason for the absence of a full house was rather that the opening match of the tournament between the national and youth teams of Russia took place on a weekday and began at 16:30, which the representative of the organizing committee explained with the interests of television.

The city was getting ready for the tournament. For example, advertising about the competition sounded in the subway and through the media partners of the FHR. Pucks and various paraphernalia were played among the fans. Tickets were, as in Tula, inexpensive – from 300 to 1 thousand rubles.

The organizers of the competition expect that the following matches of the tournament can gather a larger audience due to more convenient start times:

  • on Friday, the Russian team will play with Belarus at 19:00;
  • on Saturday, the youth team of Russia will play with Belarus at 16:00;
  • On Sunday the final will take place at 18:30.

Alexei Zhamnov refused to coach the Russian national hockey team

Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Zubov against his team

Sergey Zubov is the acting head coach of the national team during the May matches. At his main place of work, he is a mentor of the youth team, which he took to the last World Cup. “Molodezhka” in the absence of Zubov was headed by one of his assistants Vladimir Filatov.

However, the division of the current Russian national teams into national and youth teams is rather arbitrary, since the main team of the country has many young people – for example, nine champions of the MHL last season as part of SKA-1946.

It is no coincidence that during the opening ceremony of the tournament, Tretyak said: “Today, the future of our hockey is represented on this ice – future Olympic and world champions.”

“For me, both teams are dear,” said Zubov after the game. – Today it was possible to take and swap two fives, and nothing would have changed.

It was the participants in the recent finals of the MHL championship, in which SKA-1946 and the Red Army met, who became the main characters of the match. Three representatives of the St. Petersburg team distinguished themselves for the national team: Maxim Krovyakov, Marat Khusnutdinov and Nikita Chibrikov. For the youth – two hockey players of the capital’s “Red Army” Matvey Averochkin and Vladimir Grudinin.

Until the middle of the third period, the youth team led 2:1. However, in the last 10 minutes the national team seized the initiative and scored three unanswered goals. A turning point second goal scored by one of the few players with KHL experience, 23-year-old Nikita Tertyshny. Last season, with 25 goals (including the playoffs), he became the best sniper of Traktor – 4: 2 – the victory of the first team.

– A good, tense game, – said Zubov. “We felt the pressure from a daring and fast youth team. It was difficult for us to turn the tide of the meeting in the third period. I liked everything: movement, heat, rigidity. Only good impressions from the game.

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