International Ice Hockey Federation

Russia’s girl does good

Russia’s girl does good

Iya Gavrilova heroic with mom and dad watching

Published 10.02.2014 09:54 GMT+4 | Author Slava Malamud
Russia’s girl does good
After mostly playing international games abroad, Iya Gavrilova’s parents had the chance to see their daughter represent Russia for the first time in Sochi. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Things were going nowhere fast for favoured Russia in its opening game against Germany. Until the team’s offensive star took matters into her own hands.

Iya Gavrilova, the blond 26-year-old winger from Tornado Moscow Region, has learned the powerful side of hockey where it is taught well – in the University of Minnesota Duluth. A little bit of raw force and decisiveness was definitely needed by the Russians when they suddenly found themselves down, 1-0, to the underdog Germans. Unfortunately, in the second period Gavrilova was just as nervous as her teammates and, upon finding herself near the German net, made some baffling decisions while looking to pass the puck.

The power and confidence made their return in the third, when Gavrilova won a battle behind the goal and took it upon herself to create an ugly, workmanlike goal. Just like they taught in Duluth, no doubt. A goal that shook Russia out of its funk and opened up the flood gates for the eventual 4-1 victory.

Becoming a hero to her nation in the first game of the home Olympics was especially sweet for Gavrilova, because among the 5,048 screaming fans at the Shayba Arena (this must easily be the largest crowd to see a women’s hockey game in Russian history) were her parents who have never attended Iya’s international games before.

This may be hard to believe for people in Western countries, where parents religiously follow their offspring’s sporting career, but Mr and Mrs Gavrilov had few chances to cheer for their daughter in person. Hailing from Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, Iya has spent her entire adult hockey career far away from home.

“They live so far away,” says Gavrilova. “The national team usually plays abroad or in Moscow or elsewhere far from Siberia, and they simply can’t afford to come watch me play. I was so thankful that they finally could get here. It wasn’t easy to get off work for them, even for something like this.”

Heated emotions and pressure where actually the theme of the game, as the Russians looked extremely nervous and disjointed after Germany scored a soft goal on goalie Yulia Leskina. With the head coach Mikhail Chekanov juggling the lines in an effort to shake things up, Russian forwards looked in turns timid and withdrawn. It took an intermission speech by the team captain Yekaterina Smolentseva to get them back in synch.

“We were so nervous,” said Gavrilova after the game. “For all the girls it was such a new experience, to be cheered on by so many fans. I myself have never seen such a big support when playing in Russia... And after the goal we couldn’t help it but get even more nervous. Everyone wanted to go and save the Motherland, so we had lost the thread of the game for a moment.”

The fans quit being a problem and became an advantage once Gavrilova finally scored. Jamming the puck in between the German goalie’s skate and the goalpost, she leaped at the boards in a wild celebration, just like the other famous Russian No. 8, Alexander Ovechkin. From this moment on, Russia finally looked like a medal contender that it is.

Gavrilova, of course, wouldn’t agree with this assessment.

“It’s not true. It wasn’t me (who turned the tide). I just got lucky to be there to get the puck,” she said. “My teammates made sure I was left alone. It’s all thanks to them. And to our coaches and captain who cooled the team down in between periods. My head was definitely a bit hot and needed some cooling.”

Which is quite understandable, what with the Games at home and the parents watching for the first time. Gavrilova should have no problems keeping her cool in the upcoming games, which may prove to be a big problem for Russia’s opponents and bad news for Shayba Arena’s back boards.

Mom and dad can be proud.


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