By Andrew Weiss – National Women’s Hockey League
With the Russian National Team finishing up their trip stateside, Liudmila Belyakova decided to throw a going away party. Unfortunately for the Connecticut Whale, Team Russia brought the fireworks.
Belyakova scored the opening goal and Nadezhda Morozova added 24 saves as Russia defeated Connecticut 3-2 in the final preseason game for both teams.
Angelina Goncharenko scored the game winning goal on the power play in the second period for Russia. Yekaterina Smolentseva scored the second goal and picked up an assist while Olga Sosina added two assists.
“I think in the third period we (started to) come together,” said coach Heather Linstad. “Their goalie played very well.”
New night, same strong start for Russia as they flew onto the ice. Olga Sosina dumped the puck around the boards to Smolentseva behind the net. She found Belyakova in the slot unattended and Belyakova put it past a sliding Stock to give Russia the early 1-0 lead.
That same defensive breakdown for the Whale continued into the first. Team Russia managed four shots uncontested right in the slot, with Stock coming up big to stop the last three.
She couldn’t stop Smolentseva later in the first, as a Russian turnover at the Russian blue line turned into a breakaway. Fanuza Kadirova gathered the puck and sent it up to Smolentseva, who beat Stock five-hole to give Russia the 2-0 lead in the first.
Stock held down the fort as best she could as the period ended with the shots in favor of Team Russia 12-8.
The second period, however, was marked by special teams. Nicole Kosta drew a crosschecking penalty on Anna Shibanova with eight seconds left in the first, putting Connecticut on the power play to start the second.
The Whale quickly capitalized as Skarupa looped a pass between two defenders to Stack, who finished on the partial breakaway to make it 2-1.
The Whale continued to attack the Russian neutral zone defense, dominating possession for almost the whole period. They outshot Team Russia 11-7 and created multiple chances.
Their effort would go for naught, as Morozova locked down her crease with multiple pad saves. She was key as Russia killed off two more power plays before heading to their own advantage.
Anya Battaglino took a penalty after being pressured on the forecheck, and Russia setup by bombing the Connecticut net. Eventually, a point shot by Goncharenko knuckled its way over the blocker of Shenae Lundberg to give Russia the 3-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
The Whale resumed their possession game early in the third period. After a series of extracurriculars in front of Morozova, Russia sent two players to the box for roughing to Connecticut’s one, giving the Whale a power play. It was further advantageous for the Whale when Elena Dergacheva took a tripping penalty only 19 seconds into the original Whale power play.
Babstock scored the 5-on-3 goal to cut the deficit to one with 3:09 left to play in the third. Connery took a point shot from Molly Engstrom into her gear but managed to swirl it in front through the crease. The puck bounced around before finding its way to Babstock, who found a wide open net and a power play goal.
The Whale continued to spare (spar?) the Russian net, but Morozova continued to shine on her way to being named the second star of the game. She stayed firm as Team Russia withheld an onslaught of shots in the final 1:30 with the Whale net empty.