BURLINGTON, Vt. — The new format at the women’s world hockey championship can’t hide the chasm between women’s hockey in Canada and Russia.
Canada steamrolled the Russians 14-1 to conclude the preliminary round Tuesday with a 2-1 record in Pool A.
The world championship was altered to reduce lopsided scores by having countries closer to each other in ability meet in the preliminary round.
But fourth-seeded Russia remains light years behind No. 2 Canada.
“I think their biggest downfall is coaching and leadership,” Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser said bluntly.
“I just feel for those players because I feel the Russian federation doesn’t care enough about women’s hockey to do what needs to be done. They deserve better.”
Ten different players scored for Canada. Natalie Spooner led with a hat trick while Wickenheiser had a six-point game with two goals and four assists. Meghan Agosta and Jayne Hefford each scored twice.
Marie-Philip Poulin, Lauriane Rougeau, Gillian Apps, Rebecca Johnston, and Jennifer Wakefield also had goals.
Charline Labonte faced just seven shots, giving up a power-play goal to Angelina Goncharenko in the third period.
Russia kept their best goaltender, Anna Prugova, on the bench to prepare for the Wednesday’s quarter-finals.
When Agosta scored Canada’s fifth goal on a penalty shot in the first period, Valentina Ostrovlyanchik was replaced in Russia’s net by 17-year-old Margarita Monakhova, who allowed nine goals on 28 shots.
The top four seeds of U.S., Canada, Finland and Russia were in Pool A, while fourth through eighth — Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany — were in Pool B. The top two teams in Pool A secure byes to the semifinal while the bottom two meet the top two from Pool B in Wednesday’s quarter-finals.
Switzerland topped Pool B at 2-0-0-1, ahead of the Swedes at 1-1-0-1. Germany and Slovakia will meet in a three-game relegation round.
The Russian women won bronze at the 2001 world championship in Minnesota, but their federation did nothing to build on that result.
Russia neglected the women’s team until the country won the bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Now attention is being paid, but too late for the Russian women to get on the level of Canada and defending world champion U.S. by 2014. The Americans beat Russia 9-0 in the round robin.
Russia’s goal is a bronze in Sochi, which is within reach of a country with a hockey culture and the facilities.
Russia has a six-team professional women’s league, in which the players are paid. But the country has just 530 female players in total compared to 85,000 in Canada.
Areas where Russia could make great strides in the time they have left before Sochi is in physical fitness.
Forward Ilya Gavrilova is a teammate of Wickenheiser’s on the University of Calgary Dinos and one of two players on the roster playing in North America.
She told The Canadian Press national-team players aren’t required to follow an off-ice training program. Head coach Valentin Gureyev insists they are.
Whatever the case, Russia couldn’t match Canada’s pace from the outset. They were beaten to the puck or easily muscled off it and thus rarely had the puck on their sticks.