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Author: Alexei Shevchenko (Gazeta.ru)
Translated By: Eugene Belashchenko
Date: 11/14/2005
Sergei Mikhalev: We are depending on Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins)

2006 U20 Four Nations Tournament

Evgeny Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins) (right) and Grigori Shafigullin (Nashville Predators) (left) at the U20 WJC (Photo: RussianProspects.com Exclusive)
Sergei Mikhalev, the U20 junior national team head coach shared with us his impressions regarding the U20 Four Nations tournament that took place in Stupino. He also told us which players he is counting on for the U20 World Junior Championships in Canada.

When Sergei Mikhalev was named the head coach of Russia’s U20 national team, there were a number of arguments. He is, of course an experienced and capable expert, but in the latter years he primarily worked with accomplished veterans and to coach young players is a totally different matter.

Besides, an opinion started to form that Mikhalev was named to the post by accident because of the people he knew. At that time, after leaving Severstal, Mikhalev spent a long time looking for work in other clubs in the Super League, declining an enticing offer from Chelyabinsk, where he could have become the head coach of Mechel. In the national team a decision was made that such a person should not be unemployed, and he was given the coaching job with the national team.

In any case, Mikhalev regarded his new assignment very seriously, even though later he became the general manager of Lada, and shortly after moved to the same role with Salavat Yulayev.

The Russian team, which beat the Finns, Swedes and Czechs in Stupino, made a good impression of stability and capability to execute, even though it wasn’t in it’s optimal composition yet.

The squad should be accurate in the execution? Please – take a look at the game against the Finns, when the team won due to it’s ability to realize a lot of the scoring chances. Aggressive? There is the game against the Czechs, which by a miracle did not turn into a fight, but the score was 3:0 for Russia.

Mikhalev also did a lot for the top national team, for example helping Vladimir Krikunov to train, giving his players to the main national team for scrimmages.

Of course it is too early to predict the squad’s success at the U20 WJC in Canada. First, there is still a month and a half to go, and it’s not clear who would be healthy at that time. Second, we still don’t have much of an idea regarding the competitiveness of the primary opponent – the Canadians. Another issue is that starting Monday Mikhalev will start to fulfill the duties of a head coach in Ufa and will now be completely consumed with club related problems.

What issues did you aim to resolve at the previous tournament? What impression did the Russian national team leave you? S. Mikhalev: This was the last tournament prior to the World Championships, so we tried to resolve a number of issues. We refined the roster, tried out new players. I needed to understand better how players would perform against traditionally difficult opponents. I was very glad that the U20 squad won all three games. Still, we still have a lot of problems to deal with. In any case, I am glad that we are playing well and won the way that left no doubt in anyone’s mind.

Will this lineup travel to Canada? S. Mikhalev: If there will be changes, they won’t be major. I believe that two thirds of the players from this team will make it.

Who specifically pleased you at the tournament in Stupino? S. Mikhalev: I was pleased with the performances of defensemen Denis Bodrov and Andrei Emelin. Our goalies also played very well, even though they had little experience in playing at such competitions. Churilov’s line played two great games, but it was Enver Lisin, Evgeny Ketov and Mikhail Yunkov who proved themselves in the game against the Czechs. There were also players who could have played better, but I hope they will get in shape by the time of the U20 WJC.

But you are still counting on additional reinforcements? S. Mikhalev: Of course. First and foremost, I am depending on Evgeny Malkin. I also think that we will be joined by Denis Khudobin and Roman Voloshenko, who currently compete in North America. There are also players in the Super League who we are keeping an eye on.

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