With three months to go until the formal end of the 2020-21 Euro Hockey Tour and the start of the 2021 World Championship in Rīga, Russia today clinched the Euro Hockey Tour championship in record fashion, dumping Czechia to improve to a perfect 9-0 in tournament play thus far.
Despite fielding a team of largely under-20 players for the Karjala Tournament in November, in order to give their World Junior team some pre-tournament play before the championship began in December, the Russians started the 2020-21 hockey season a with 2 regulation and 1 overtime wins in Finland. Russia easily dispatched hosts Finland 6-2 and rivals Czechia 3-0, only being taken to extra time by Sweden, who they edged 2-1 in a shootout. It was the final match against Czechia that captured Russia their first IHLC title since February 2020.
Hosting the Channel One Cup in Moscow now with a more senior team made up of KHL players, Russia again needed a shootout to defeat Sweden, this time a 4-3 victory. But they would roll in their next two games, defeating Czechia 4-1 and rivals Finland 5-1 to improve to 6-0 and close out the calendar year with the IHLC in tow.
And it was the most recent tournament, Sweden’s Beijer Hockey Games in Malmö, where Russia again went a perfect 3-0, and again needed a shootout only once, to defeat Sweden. They edged Finland 3-2 to open the tournament, and their 7-4 victory over Czechia earlier today put Russia over the top with 24 points in the tournament table, with second-place Czechia sitting at just eleven points, with three games to go at May’s Carlson Hockey Games.
This marks Russia’s ninth Tour championship, and second consecutive, which now ties them with Finland for the most wins in the 25-year history of the Euro Hockey Tour. At their current pace, Russia could be on track to win the Tour by the largest margin in history, outpacing Finland’s 14-point distance to win the Tour in 2013-14. The Russians will now await news on whether they will participate in the 2021 Euro Hockey Challenge, or if travel restrictions will force them (and the IHLC) to await their next competition until the Carlson Hockey Games to round out the 2020-21 Tour and send them with momentum into the World Championships.