“Canada, I can’t hear you.” (Photo credit: Elena Rusko)
One year ago in the WJC gold medal game, Canada held what seemed to be an insurmountable 3-0 lead over Team Russia heading into the third period. During the second intermission, Head Coach Valery Bragin pleaded with his team to respond, and respond they did. Russia stormed back– riding three assists by Evgeny Kuznetsov to win the gold medal game 5-3 and shock the hockey world.
But antipathy between the Russian team and North American fans and media was high, and the situation degraded even further after the Russians were kicked off their flight home for being rowdy. Kuznetsov says the incident was “absolute nonsense,” but the tension has only gotten worse since.
Entering the 2012 WJC, Russia intended to prove that last year’s win over Canada was no fluke. Despite being the defending champions, the team still held underdog status. Kuznetsov, Russia’s captain and the only returning player from 2011, netted his second WJC hat trick in three games, pushing Russia to a 6-5 win.
After the game, Allhockey.ru’s Andrey Osadchenko spoke to Kuznetsov and filmed his entire Q/A with reporters. Below the jump, I offer a translation.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: We needed to kill the game off calmly, but, after all, [the Canadians] aren’t the Russians, they can’t be heroes.
Question: Zhenya, are you incapable of scoring less than three goals?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: It just happened to turn out this way. My linemates did everything for me and I scored three.
Question: What happened with the score 6-1 in the third?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: You know, it’s Team Canada and we’re playing them in Canada. When they scored first, that second goal was really hard to take, but thank God we held on. We need to forget this game and move on. The Swedes are waiting for us and we need to prepare.
Question: In the third, did you feel tired?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: You know, in a game like this, it’s difficult to be tired because of your emotions.
Question: Did you see Canadian fans leaving the arena when it was 6-1?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: No, I was focused completely on the game and it’s a pity that we’ve allowed so many goals. Honestly, we wanted to win 6-1. But it’s okay, we’ll move on.
Question: What can you say about Makarov?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Makarov’s done a great job. Valery Nikolaevich [Bragin] made a goalie change at the right time. Vasya [Vasilevsky] was nervous a bit, and I hope he’ll be OK. We’ll support him. He’ll make all the saves on Thursday.
Question: Do you think you gave Russia more holiday time?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I don’t know, but I hope people will have a good time and will celebrate our win as it’s supposed to be celebrated.
Question: Do you understand that for many people in Russia, the World Junior Championships are over? Canada is beaten, your goal is achieved.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: We still have the main goal that we came here for. It will be a difficult game against the Swedes, but we need to go out there and win. We have a day off tomorrow. We’ll get some rest, we’ll prepare for the game hard and we will have a renewed force.
Question: Zhenya, Thursday will be your last game for the junior team. What are your feelings?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I haven’t thought about it yet. If we win I’ll have positive feelings. Otherwise… it’s impossible.
Question: Do you think your critics will shut up now? They said you can only score against Latvia.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I have no right telling them to do so. They’re mature people. I have no business in saying anything. Last year, I could say something, but now I have no business. They’re mature people, they may have their own opinion, live their own lives. I play for the team, it doesn’t matter to me if I or my partners score. The main thing is that we’ve made it to the finals. I don’t care who’s scored.
Question: Do you understand you’re public enemy number one in Canada right now? You offended them with your comments and now you’ve offended them with your play.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I never offended anyone…
Question: But they are offended…
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I just said what is true here. I admit, I wanted to win very badly. I came here wanting to play against Canada.
Question: Is it important to you that you beat Canada in this stage and not in the finals?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Yeah.
Question: Do you think you’ll avenge your earlier loss against Sweden? Last year, [Russia] beat everyone who beat them on the group stage.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Yeah, I know that in this tournament the same team has never won the same match-up twice. We’ll try to continue this tradition on Thursday.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland.