Note: The Russian national teams were known as the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" in Pyeongchang in 2018 and have since been known as the Russian Olympic Committee team or Team ROC. Russia was banned for 4 years from "officially" sending athletes to the Olympics and other major sporting competitions by the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2019, but the ban allows Russia to have athletes compete under a "neutral" flag and designation instead. After an appeal by the Russian Olympic Committee to CAS (the Court of Arbitration for Sport), the ban was reduced to 2 years and will extend through December 16, 2022. As a result, Russian athletes will compete as a delegation from the Russian Olympic Committee throughout these Olympics.
2018 Olympic finish
The Olympic Athletes from Russia finished in fourth place in South Korea. They lost all three games in the preliminary round, but defeated the Swiss 6-2 in the quarterfinals to earn a spot in the semis. Canada easily handled them with a 5-0 win, and they went on to lose 3-2 to Finland in the bronze medal game.
2021 IIHF Women's World Championship finish
After winning just one of four preliminary round games, ROC fell to Switzerland in overtime in the quarterfinals. They finished the tournament fifth after beating Japan 2-0.
IIHF World Ranking
Russia is currently ranked 4th overall, behind the United States, Canada and Finland.
Lyudmila Belyakova, Polina Bolgareva, Oxana Bratisheva, Yelena Dergachyova, Yekaterina Dobrodeyeva, Fanuza Kadirova, Veronika Korzhakova, Viktoria Kulishova, Ilona Markova, Valeria Pavlova, Anna Shokhina, Olga Sosina, Alexandra Vafina
Maria Pechnikova, Anna Shibanova, Yekaterina Nikolayeva, Angelina Goncharenko, Yelena Provorova, Nina Pirogova, Anna Savonina
Maria Sorokina, Diana Farkhutdinova, Daria Gredzen
Valeria Merkusheva (G), Liana Ganeyeva (D), Polina Luchnikova (F)
Evgeny Bobariko will head to his first Olympics behind the bench. He was promoted to head coach of the women's national team in 2019, after three years with the U16 and U18 teams. Bobariko regularly serves as head coach of Dynamo-Neva St. Petersburg, who has gone 12-4-1-3 this season and is fifth in the 10-team Zhenskaya Hockey League.
Keep an eye on
ROC's goaltending will be an interesting factor in Beijing. Sorokina is playing well this season for Agidel Ufa, with 11 wins, five shutouts and an impressive 1.03 GAA, but she hasn't played for the national since since Worlds in 2017. This will be Farkhutdinova's first Olympics and first time representing her country in international play since 2018, and Gredzen is just 17 years old. She last represented Russia at both U16 and U18 tournaments in 2019.
An interesting omission from the main roster is 22-year-old Valeria Merkusheva, who is joining the team in Beijing as part of the reserve roster. She's previously represented Russia at the U18s and at Worlds and is playing with SKIF Nizhny Novgorod this season, where she has a .939 save percentage and 1.25 GAA.
Tornado Dmitrov captain Anna Shokhina returns to her national team after not being part of the roster at Worlds. She's the top scorer in the ZhHL by a wide margin with 18 goals and 34 assists this season. In close games, Shokhina is a potential game-breaking piece that could push them over the edge.
With a mix of experienced players and newbies, this is an intriguing ROC team looking for its first-ever Olympic medal. Ten returnees from the 2018 team will never forget how close they were to the bronze, and they'll be looking to feed off that momentum in Beijing. With that said, the make-up of this team is largely the same as the one that finished fifth at Worlds.
Although the goaltenders have changed, will it be enough to propel them higher in the tournament? To be frank, I'm not sure it will be. I think we could see ROC make it to the bronze medal game if their goaltending is strong and they're able to crack other teams' defense, but as for whether or not this team can actually capture its first medal remains to be seen.
(Photo: Russia Hockey/Twitter)