Matchup: Germany vs. Russia, 12:00 p.m., CT, MTS Centre
It took them a bit of time, but the Germans finally found their groove Saturday night against Kazakhstan. After being blanked by Switzerland and Canada, they netted three goals against the Kazakhs and thus head into today’s game with a win under their belt. Germany will have a tough decision about whom to put in net. The team’s goalies, Jennifer Harss and Viona Harrer, have both been solid, even during their loses. Harss got the go-ahead to play the Kazakhs, but Harrer was spectacular under fire against the Canadians and got a standing ovation from the crowd in the end, even though Canada won 8-0. The team’s three goals versus Kazakhstan were from unlikely sources, as Andrea Lanzl and Franziska Busch had never scored in IIHF competition before, and Bettina Evers hadn’t lit the red light since the 1999 World Women’s Championship. Maritta Becker, who posted five points at both the 2002 and 2006 Olympics, has to start hitting the net, as she only has one point this tournament, an assist on Lanzl’s goal. The Germans need to keep their noses clean and stay out of the penalty box. In their three games, they’ve taken 46 minutes in penalties. If their top talent can pick up their level and keep the penalties to a minimum, the Germans should be able to beat Russia out for seventh place.
It’s been a tough tournament for the Russians, but they’re happy the pressure’s finally off. Their win over Kazakhstan on Sunday ensured they’d remain in the elite division, at least for another year. Now they have to get down to business and try to end the tournament off with a win. Irena Gachennikova’s a pretty sure bet to start in goal for Russia, unless Head Coach Vladimir Kucherenko feels Maria Onolbaeva finally deserves a start. Gachennikova has seen a ton of ice time this tournament, playing every minute of every game except for the last 20 minutes in Russia’s 7-0 romp over the Kazakhs. Forwards Iya Gavrilova and Ekaterina Smolentseva have been a driving force. Gavrilova netted two goals and an assist Sunday, plus one goal in the opener, while Smolentseva pulled off a hat trick Sunday and also picked up an assist. The defence hasn’t been as strong, allowing 72 shots on goal over three games. Olga Permyakova leads the defence with shots on goal and is a force to be reckoned with on the blueline. But Russia will have to pick up its game against the Germans or head home with eighth place.