KRS Vanke Rays 6 Russia U18 1 (3-0, 0-0, 3-1)
Within a week of the conclusion of the 2020/21 season, the KRS Vanke Rays returned to action in
Sochi in preparation for the 2021/22 campaign. This time, it’s the Sochi Open Cup, the major pre-
season tournament for the Women’s Hockey League. In addition to the Rays, the organizers invited
Agidel and SKIF, plus Russia’s U18s and Team China.
With both the Vanke Rays and Team China involved, of course there is some overlap in the rosters.
Apart from anything else, Brian Idalski is head coach of both teams. In terms of playing staff, the
Vanke Rays are playing with their overseas and Chinese heritage players, while Team China is relying
primarily on home-grown talent – including several names familiar to KRS followers, such as Fang
Xin, who scored a consolation goal in the national team’s opening game of the tournament on
The action takes place in Sochi’s Iceberg Arena, a venue familiar to some of our players: our Finnish
foursome of Minttu Tuominen, Michelle Karvinen, Susanna Tapani and Emma Kilponen played here
in the 2014 Olympics, as did Sweden’s Emma Nordin. Given the boost the 2014 Games gave to
women’s hockey in Russia, it’s perhaps not fanciful to suggest that several of the young Russian
players lining up against our girls today might have been inspired to pursue a career in the sport
after watching that tournament seven years ago. After all, that’s precisely the kind of boost we’re
hoping to see for winter sports in China next February – and especially for hockey, the blue riband
team sport at any Winter Olympics.
However, a youthful line-up knew it would have tough time in today’s game. The U18s suffered a 0-3
loss against SKIF in its tournament opener and was looking at another step up in class against a Rays
roster stacked with international experience. Many of the opposition players took their first steps in
the WHL last season as part of 7.62, others were drawn from the systems of Agidel, SKIF, Biryusa and
Tornado. The Rays, meanwhile, deployed a line-up similar to the one that contested the playoff final
last week, although goaltender Marlene Boissonnault replaced Kimberly Newell between the pipes
for her first appearance in our colors.
The game went more or less to form. The Lady Dragons took the initiative in the first period and built
a 2-0 lead midway through the session. Leah Lum opened the scoring before Karvinen’s pass sent
Michela Cava racing away to double the advantage. On the final play of the opening stanza, Cava
returned the favor for Karvinen to make it 3-0. Russia U18 had its chances, most notably when it
gained a 5-on-3 power play but was unable to get its first goal of the tournament in the first 20
After that, the outcome of the game was more than clear. While the Russian juniors played with
great heart and produced some flashes of ability, this was an occasion when they were seriously
overmatched. The Vanke Rays were able to manage the game comfortably and added further goals
in the third period thanks to Emily Costales and Cava.
Late in the game, Russia got a consolation goal – its first of the tournament. Evgenia Lapshina beat
Boissonnault, who was heavily screened. That sparked an immediate response, with the Lady
Dragons determined to have the final word. Straight from the restart, the Rays went to the other
end and Karvinen exchanged passes with Nordin, cutting the defense wide open before scoring the
sixth of the game.