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(LEAD) S. Korea suffers 2nd straight loss to Russia in men's hockey friendly

2017/03/19 17:04

(ATTN: ADDS photos, comments)

By Yoo Jee-ho

GANGNEUNG, South Korea, March 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea fell to Russia 5-2 for its second straight loss in the men's hockey friendly game in Gangneung on Sunday.

South Korea blew a one-goal lead as Russia scored four unanswered goals in the countries' second showdown at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, some 230 kilometers east of Seoul. The new rink will also host the hockey tournament at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

South Korea lost 4-3 on Saturday, as its furious three-goal rally in the third period came up short.

South Korea, 23rd in the world, scheduled these two games against No. 2-ranked Russia in preparation for the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A in Ukraine next month.

The hosts didn't let the Russians dominate the game as they did for the first two periods Saturday and established a strong forecheck early on while playing with far more energy.

South Korea's Kim Hyun-soo (L) battles Russia's Kirill Semyonov (C) and Viacheslav Leshchenko for the puck during their men's hockey friendly game at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on March 19, 2017. (Yonhap) South Korea's Kim Hyun-soo (L) battles Russia's Kirill Semyonov (C) and Viacheslav Leshchenko for the puck during their men's hockey friendly game at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on March 19, 2017. (Yonhap)

Russia still got the first goal 3:50 into the game, opening the scoring on a South Korean defensive miscue for the second straight game.

When defenseman Eric Regan failed to clear the puck out of his zone, Konstantin Okulov secured the puck and fed Sergey Shumakov, who danced his way in on the left wing and fired a wrist shot to the top shelf.

Unlike Saturday, South Korea didn't seem fazed and responded immediately. Only 34 seconds after Shumakov's goal, Ahn Jin-hui tied the score at 1-1 with a one-timer from the high slot.

His linemate Kim Ki-sung did the hard work behind the Russia net, as he threaded a perfect pass to Ahn for the equalizer.

South Korea then scored the go-ahead goal thanks to a lucky break at 4:33 in the second.

When Lee Young-jun threw the puck toward the middle from the right wing, Okulov, a backchecking forward, knocked down the puck right to Sung Woo-je, who poked it past Igor Ustinskii to put South Korea up 2-1.

South Korea lost that lead in a two-minute span midway through the period, as Russia snatched back the momentum.

South Korean players celebrate a goal against Russia during their men's hockey friendly game at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on March 19, 2017. (Yonhap) South Korean players celebrate a goal against Russia during their men's hockey friendly game at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on March 19, 2017. (Yonhap)

Okulov atoned for his earlier mistake by getting the tying goal at 11:15, set up by a nifty backhand pass from Shumakov on a two-on-none chance.

Russia reclaimed the lead only 2:18 later, as Dmitry Ogurtsov buried the rebound after Mikhail Vorobiev's hard point shot.

South Korea pulled goalie Matt Dalton for Hwang Hyun-ho to start the third, but Russia solved him at the 6:23 mark in the period.

South Korea again looked shaky deep in its own zone, as Alex Plante couldn't clear the puck from behind his own net, allowing Anatoly Golyshev to feed Fyodor Belykov for the fourth Russian goal.

Russia made it 5-2 at 14:16, with Viacheslav Leshchenko converting a pass from Kirill Semyonov following a neutral zone turnover by South Korea.

South Korea had a late power play but couldn't cut the deficit.

South Korea was the heavy underdog on paper, even though Russia didn't have its top guns from the National Hockey League (NHL) and instead brought mostly under-25 players from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). And South Korean head coach Jim Paek said, win or loss, playing against strong opponents always helps his team.

"We need to play at their level and the only way to do that is to have these types of games," he said. "I think when we have these games, so many things have to improve. Collectively, by having more games, we'll improve every part of our game. It's not one thing. It's a lot of things."

   jeeho@yna.co.kr

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