Let it be so

The most inconvenient of all possible rivals, wonderful music, stunningly beautiful goals and the all-time genius of the most witty person ever Pavel Datsyuk – that is what the semi-finals of the hockey tournament between our and Czech teams was like.

An hour before the match began we were in the empty hockey Palace, where we suddenly heard the sounds of a legendary song Let it Be. But it sounded strangely. I looked around and saw three local ladies who played the Beatles hit on some giant harp. We were surprised and puzzled, searched the Internet and received an answer. This musical instrument is called a kayagum. Mostly women play on it. And it turns out that in Korea the kayagum concerts are a success.

There was no balalaikas and accordions in the stands, but we could see women in the head-bands. There was enough of our fans, and Czech as well. Fortunately, both behaved peacefully in the lobby. Peter Forsberg, an outstanding Swedish hockey player, winner of the Stanley Cup, two-time Olympic champion, also was in a good temper. His worries ended in the quarterfinals, where the Swedes sensationally lost to the Germans, and he was not supposed to root for anybody. He worked in the Eurosport studio. For a no less titled hockey player Igor Larionov it was quite natural to root since he kept up a running commentary on the match on the First channel. Alexei Yashin worked in the NBC team. There were other stars on the press stand. Despite the lack of NHL players, the world hockey elite came to the game. Our guys against Czechs, such matches has always attracted fans, from enthusiastic fans to experienced connoisseurs.

The beginning of the first period was dynamic, but there was not any dangerous moments, not yet. Soon the Czechs started the pressure, but they could not make any sharp attempts. As expected, the fight proved to be very tight and not dramatic. In the second half of the period our guys began to escape. Kaprizov broke through to the gate, but he missed. He’s the one who made mostly dangerous throws, but the Czech goalkeeper was good. After all, Franzos won two penalty shootouts.

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Telegin and Kalinin also ran out for good throws. Gusev tried to score in a fall. Russian players delivered numerous shots on the rival’s goal, which was firmly guarded by the Czeck goalkeeper. The opening period was scoreless, but still in our favor. We had twice as many successful draws, a few scoring chances, a very clean game in defense. The Czechs had no chance to score.

The first period was quite tense. How did you manage to break the game?

– We were a little nervous, I guess. We were afraid to make a mistake, Kovalchuk spoke quietly as after training. Then after the first goal we relaxed. Pasha gave a great assist, the Goose scored, and this goal gave us emotions. Another one was scored immediately after and the game started. Vasya played very well, especially in the shorthand. While the power-play could be better, so there is something to work on.

In the second period the game did not start immediately. There were mutual penalties, and the first dangerous chance by the Czech team, but Koshechkin did not let us down. And then there was a goal.

The game went wrong. Perhaps, your assist became a breaking point?

– Well, no. You saw it, the whole game was a stress. In such games, one goal decides little, Datsyuk never liked to savor his own masterpieces.

Was it important to score first?

– It was a very tense game, all were afraid to make mistakes. Of course, it was important.

Can you remember the episode when you gave a scoring pass?

– Honestly, I forgot everything already. We are getting ready for the next game.

According to statistics, you ran more than others, the speed was 36 kilometers per hour... well, Pavel replies brilliantly…

– It suggests that in hockey you have to play, but not to run.

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‘Datsyuk is a genius’, everybody said during the break. Oh, yes. A genius and we’ve known that for a long time. Pavel gave a fantastic pass to Gusev, and at that very moment the Czech defender and Kaprizov ran into each other in front of the gate, Franzos rushed into a corner at venture, and Gusev let the goalkeeper stretch on ice, threw in the top corner. It was a fairy tale, not just a goal.

While the judges did not believe this story at once and for a long time they were watching the record of the episode.

– Kaprizov’s rush against the net was great, we talked about it in the locker room, Kovalchuk had no doubt that the goal would be given. The rival’s goalkeeper caught the spirit, and played great on this tournament, thus Kapriz closed him,  Pasha gave super pass, and Goose did not miss. So well done guys.

– I was sure that Kapriz did not push the goalkeeper, Gavrikov knew that the referees would not cancel the goal. Because I saw that the defender pushed him on the goalkeeper, and I was sure that the goal would be given.

And it was. And what no one really was sure about is that the defender Gavrikov will score himself in this match. And how! He always plays with Telegin, but after the defeat to Slovakia, the two of them met rarely on the rink. And here Telegin, caught the puck, rushed forward, Gavrikov rushed behind, between them there was only one defender. Telegin gave pass with an awkward hand, and Garikov in touch has got the jumping puck. A stunning counter-attack with a smashing performance. 2:0.

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Did not you violate the coach’s instructions, connecting so “high”?

– If we score, it means that it works. Well, yes, so he told us about the coach’s instructions and complacency defenders.

Everybody loves a winner?

– You could say that.

How it all happened, can you remember?

– I don’t know, my legs were sort of running on their own.

Did you expect such a flip shot from Telegin?

– Yes, of course. You must always expect.

These goals sort of stirred up the bright image of Franzos, who has already been  compared with his great compatriot. However, Gavrikov stood up for him.

– Well, of course, it is clear that he differs from other goalkeepers, but we scored such goals that he could not help it.

These praise made Kovalchuk smile.

– Czech media compares Franzos to Hasek. Are they overestimating?

– I don not care, he responds quickly. – We do not read the Czech press, we read you. So don not you overestimate anyone.

Well, not him for sure. Almost immediately after the second goal Kovalchuk grabbed two minutes. Thank God, that not five, which the Czech Republic demanded. Ilya crashed into the opponent’s knee, and he was taken to the bench under his hands.

– I wanted to play into him, he removed his body at the last moment. I hit him on the leg, thank God that these was no injury, and that we were given two minutes, Kovalchuk knew that could set up the whole team.

Was there fear at that moment?

– Certainly. Maybe I should have held back, but it was a game. It’s hockey. However,  then he went out on ice and played. Once again, I didn’t want to hurt anyone.

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And the Czech team got angry. In their opinion, the first goal was counted wrongly, Kovalchuk was punished mildly, and the score was 0:2. Everyone would have been angry. And the ending of the second period was tough. There was Kovalchuk’s second penalty and in General, it was hard for us. There were even a few fights, but they were stopped by judges. And after the siren for a second break at the press-tribune they said that the general fight is inevitable.

Everybody could feel that, our fans as well. The were singing in the lobby with great enthusiasm.

However, there was no fight. There was slashing, but without hand-to-hand. By the middle of the third period, finally the Czechs got furious at themselves, at he rivals and at the fate and they just pinned our guys to the gate. But Koshechkin was on a roll. Vasily beat off one of the dangerous throws with his foot blindly. And how did he feel that the puck would go there? Other  players were also fighting back, they had no time to carry out dangerous attacks. Four times in a row Kovalchuk did the same thing: picked up the puck, carefully threw it into the zone of the Czech Republic and went to the bench. There was a moment when someone’s stick and helmet Nesterov’s helmet were lying in our zone. Zub took the puck right off Cervinka’s stick, and he was ready to throw in the empty corner. And when the Czechs took off the goalkeeper, the very same Kovalchuk calmly aimed and hit twenty seconds before the end of the match. 3:0. This is it.

–  Do you realize that the Olympic finals awaits, and you will play in it? Is it a fairy tale or is it real?

– In fact, the main step is the last step, Gavrikov was very tired and wanted to end the interview. And it is the most difficult.

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Datsyuk also wasn’t really eager to communicate with the press. But the NHL lessons were not in vain. And he never loses his sense of humor.

Do you have enough freshness for the main match?

– Now we will have time to recover. If you don’t ask a lot of questions, I’ll have more time to recover.

The Czechs were spinning Franzos, what can you say about him?

– They were? Advertising is the engine of trade.

Judging by the score, the defense game was absolutely successful, right? – here Pavel became serious.

– In fact, probably not. There were a lot of chances, but Vasily Koshechkin played great. We have one more game to play. The most important game is ahead.

Five Olympic Games, and finally it’s the final. Do you have a special feeling?

– We have one more game to play.

Yes, one more. The final. It is ok that the NHL players are not with us. It is the finals of the Olympic Games, and our guys really want to win. And let it be so!