March 30, 2016 - 7:15 AM
KAMLOOPS - Canada overcame a slow start with the help of its defencemen in an 8-1 win over Russia at the women's world hockey championship Tuesday.
Defenders Meaghan Mikkelson and Halli Krzyzaniak each scored a pair of goals for the host country. Trailing 1-0 after the first period, Canada exploded for five goals in a span of four minutes 40 seconds early in the second.
Mikkelson scored the fastest two goals of her career 38 seconds apart for her country's fourth and fifth goals of the game. She was denied a natural hat trick when Maria Sorokina stopped her on a penalty shot attempt.
"We saw they were playing a bit of a trap," Mikkelson said. "We talked in the dressing room and as a defensive corps that we need to skate the puck a little bit more. Get it deep and be in a better position to support the puck. The goals were going to come.
"Obviously putting a couple in the net is always a plus. We always try to do our job in the d-zone. That's first and the offence is a bonus."
Rebecca Johnston's short-handed goal 40 seconds into the period sparked Canada's spree. Krzyzaniak gave the hosts a 2-1 lead with the first of two in the game.
Captain Marie-Philip Poulin also scored shorthanded with Jennifer Wakefield and Emily Clark contributing even-strength goals.
Brianne Jenner collected four assists and Johnston also had a four-point night with three assists. Charline Labonte picked up the win with 13 saves.
Iya Gavrilova, who plays for the University of Calgary, countered for Russia. Anna Prugova was replaced by Sorokina after giving up three goals on 16 shots. Sorokina stopped 12 shots.
Canada concludes the preliminary round against Finland on Thursday in a matchup of 1-1 teams in Pool A. The U.S. improved to 2-0 with a 2-1 win over the Finns, whose goaltender Meeri Raisanen had 49 saves against the defending champions.
Sweden was 2-0 in Pool B after a 2-0 win over Japan, which is winless in two games. The Czech Republic upset Olympic bronze medallist Switzerland 3-1 to put both teams at 1-1.
The top two teams in Pool A earn byes to Sunday's semifinals. The bottom two take on the top two from 'B' in Friday's quarter-finals.
Despite a sellout at a Western Hockey League playoff game between the Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets at Memorial Arena in Kamloops, the Canadian women still drew a near-capacity crowd of 4,453 at the Sandman Centre.
"It's always amazing to play in Canada. I've had a chance to do it a couple of times at worlds and you don't get used to it because it's so amazing," Labonte said.
"The crowd was there to support us and the same crowd as last night against the U.S., so that's pretty incredible."
The Russians won the bronze medal at the 2013 world championships in Ottawa. Tuesday's game was televised in their home country. Russia wasn't able to capitalize on a trio of two-man advantages after falling behind 6-1.
Gavrilova, who was named Canadian Interuniversity Sport's female hockey player of the year in 2015, says her team lost their composure in the face of Canada's second-period onslaught.
"Too many times we're mishandling the puck and rushing the play," she said. "We need to stay more patient and make sure we get a good shot on net.
"You have to be patient and play the same way you were playing in the first period."
Vicky Sunohara holds Canada's record for the fastest two goals scored in a world championship game. Hers were 23 seconds apart versus Japan in the inaugural tournament in Ottawa in 1990.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016