Russia on top of the world

The Vancouver Sun. 3 1993 . 

MUNICH - Goalie Andrei Trefilov reached for the top and got it.

"I have finally achieved what I wanted for three years," the Russian goalie said Sunday after he and his teammates beat Sweden 3-1 for the world hockey championship gold medal. "I'm very happy."

Trefilov, who played one NHL game for Calgary and spent the remainder of the season with the Flames' International Hockey League farm team, made all the difference, stopping 35 shots.

Boris Mikhailov, the Russian coach and a star on the powerful Soviet line with Vladimir Petrov and the late Valery Kharlamov in the 1970s, praised Trefilov afterward.

"Our goalie played so well," Mikhailov said. "We played real good defence. We're unbelievably happy. We're going to drink a lot of champagne tonight.

"The victory means a lot to me, even more than all the (world and Olympic) titles I collected as a player."

It was the first world title for Russia, which made its debut in last year's tournament but lost to Sweden 2-0 in the quarter-finals.

The former Soviet Union won a record 22 titles since 1954, the last in 1990.

The Russian team, its roster dominated by a bunch of hungry rookies, scored twice in the first period to take command.

German Titov, Andrei Nikolishin and Andrei Khomutov scored the Russian goals before a near-sellout crowd of 10,500 in the Olympic Hall that included Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, and German chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Khomutov finished with five goals and seven assists for second place behind Eric Lindros in scoring during the tournament.

Lindros, playing his first worlds, had 11 goals and 17 points but he had a disappointing playoffs and scored only one goal in Canada's 7-4 loss Friday to Russia in the semi-finals.

Lindros made the tournament's all-star team, voted by journalists, with Ulf Dahlen of Sweden and Renberg as wings; Ilya Byakin of Russia and Dave Manson of Canada as defencemen and Petr Briza of the Czech Republic as goalie.

Canada, the only team with a perfect 5-0 record in the preliminary round, then lost Saturday's bronze-medal game 5-1 to the Czech Republic. The Canadians beat Finland, last year's runner-up, by a 5-1 score in the quarter-finals.

Russia finished round-robin play with a dismal 2-2-1 record and only placed third behind Sweden and Canada in pool A.

Canada squandered a golden opportunity to win its first title in 32 years, slipping to fourth place from first in the span of 24 hours.

The team, crafted by coaches Mike Keenan and Roger Neilson, was a solid collection of NHL talent plus several U.S. college players who made strong contributions.

It was all the more galling because European scouts called this the weakest field in years. Russia and the Czechs are in political turmoil and all the front-runners had some of their biggest stars locked up in the NHL playoffs.

Canada's vanishing act was so pronounced that one European reporter ventured that the players were doing "some heavy forechecking at the bar," before the semi-final. Keenan, caught off guard by the question and fighting illness, didn't effectively douse the fire and the rumor spread.

"It happens every year," Hockey Canada president Ron Robison said of the controversy.

"There's always that generalized look at NHL players over here."

The drinking story was unfounded, but the questions remain.

In the final analysis, it appears NHL players simply aren't geared to a single-game elimination format. The European teams know enough to throw everything into the fray with a disciplined fury.

"It's like the seventh game of an NHL playoffs series," said Neilson. "You've got to play three seventh games."

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