It’s an amusing sight of the players who are enjoying themselves under the sun. They are in full gear, other than their skates and are even in their helmets. It’s getting noisy in front of the entrance to the building of HC Dynamo’s training facility. The reason is that while the base in Novogorsk is being retooled to fit the Canadian-sized rinks, the juniors are practicing at the blue and whites’ base as the two are just a few minutes away from each other.
One of the players suggests a short walk to the Olympic base where the team is rooming. In such an exotic appearance, these players make for an interesting view for the rare pedestrians who are passing by, but the suggestion turns out to be a joke as the team awaits the bus. After a practice, it’s ok to rest and socialize.
Traktor Chelyabinsk defenseman Vyacheslav Voinov admits that the week that was spent in training camp just flew by: “I feel pretty good and my form is improving. I’m mentally ready for the World Championships. This season has been successful for me as I got Superleague experience and played for two national teams (Vyacheslav Voinov played for U20 and U18 national teams).
Voinov then shared his opinion on his group’s main opponent – team Canada: “I have had a chance to play them several times. I think we have to beat their team in our age group.”
Nikita Filatov agrees with his teammate: “Canadians always have a good team. When we beat them in Slovakia at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament, we were very happy even though it was a 3rd place game. If you look at the World Junior Championships, then yes, we lost to them as well as at the U18 championship last year. But we won in Slovakia! We’ve been preparing for this World Championships for three years. This is my year and my team and I’ve been playing with these guys since my childhood and we would really like to win this tournament. I have the energy too and have just passed my physicals.”
Nikita is serious and motivated. He is the U18 team captain and has experience of playing for the U20 team where he won bronze medals at the World Championships in the Czech Republic: “Of course I have to show my best leadership skills, but I don’t think a big deal should be made about it. We just have to do our job well and that’s play hockey.”
The team head coach Alexander Biryukov is confident that guys like Voinov and Filatov are leaders: “They have experience of playing at the international stage and it’s very important. They have to instil confidence into their teammates after going through such big tournaments.”
You also brought in some players for the U17 team..
A. Biryukov: Yes, they are the goalkeeper Eduard Reyzvikh (Avangard) and defenseman Dmitri Orlov (Metallurg Novokuznetsk). I was very happy when last year our guys went to Finland for the U17 World Championships with the 1989 born team and came back with the winner mentality. It’s a good start for our young players.
When we talked in the summer, you said that this season will be a preparation for the World Championships in Kazan...
A. Biryukov: Yes and the first tournament of the season, the Ivan Hlinka Memorial, was held in Slovakia. The only game we lost was against Finland – 2:4. The team went through a lot of physical exercises prior to the tournament during training camp and the problem wasn’t that we couldn’t get the guys in top shape but that we couldn’t rest them properly. We were scoring first, but we couldn’t last in the 2nd and 3rd periods. Because of that, we lost and didn’t make it to the finals On the bright side, we played against Canada in the 3rd place match and it’s great that we played them because they are in our group at the World Championships.
At the Five Nations tournament that was held in February in Finland, we beat the Czechs, Swedes and Finns but lose to the US team. I think our mistake was that when we had aerial advantage and were creating scoring chances, we were playing the top two lines, but the guys had played too much and failed to convert their chances. We have to learn from our mistakes and take these things into consideration when preparing for the World Championships.
What can you say about your group opponents?
A. Biryukov: We played against the Slovak team and although it was a long time ago, we always beat them, but I think their team will be strengthened before coming to Kazan. This team has a lot of potential and we can’t underestimate them, so if we have an advantage, we have to capitalize on it. Whether it’s the Slovaks, Germans or the Danes, not to mention the Canadians, we have to take all the teams seriously. The key game in our group will be against Canada.