President Putin lauds Big Red Machine's triumphant ice hockey world title
Monday, 21 May 2012
May 21 - Russia's victorious ice hockey team – feted by proud President Vladimir Putin – have returned home after winning the IIHF world title with a 6-2 victory over Slovakia in Helsinki.
There were 1,000 joyous fans in force at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow to welcome home the team following the triumph yesterday.
Russia dominated throughout with 10 wins out of 10 during the tournament, and centre Evgeni Malkin (pictured top, with trophy) was in particularly impressive form, scoring 11 goals.
Although they had gone behind in the final after just a minute to a goal from Slovakia captain Zdeno Chara, the Russians fought back strongly to secure a title they last won in 2009.
Two goals from Alexander Syomin (pictured below), added to strikes from fellow winger Alexander Perezhogin, centres Alexei Tereshenko and Pavel Datsyuk, and Malkin, helped Russia secure victory.
Rearguard Chara added a late consolation goal for Slovakia, his second strike of the match.
Putin called coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov to congratulate him on the success.
"Vladimir Putin supported our national team and watched the final on television from beginning to end, like the majority of games of the Russian national team at the World Championships," the Kremlin press service said.
Bilyaletdinov paid tribute to his team's achievement: "I had to remind the team that Slovakia is really good, and that they beat the Czechs and Canada.
"I'm grateful to my team as they played well, not only in this final but in the whole tournament.".
Winger Nikolai Kulemin, commented: "We are the Big Red Machine just now.
"But without [winger] Alex Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk it would have been very hard to score all those goals.
"And Evgeni Malkin, what can you say? He's the best player in the world, for sure.''
Russia's return to the top of the world game is timely, with the country hosting the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in just under two years' time.
Although there is still plenty of time before those Games for Russia's rivals to hit peak form, right now the Russians look well set to strike gold.
In Vancouver two years ago Russia were beaten by the hosts, Canada, in the quarter-finals of the Winter Olympics.