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Russians begin defense of Olympic hockey crown with shaky win

4. Russians begin defence of Olympic hockey crown with shaky win
Switzerland's goaltender Reto Berra (top) defends his goal during the men's preliminary round group B match of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games ice hockey competition against players of Russia's Olympic Committee, at the National Indoor Stadium in Beijing on February 9, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
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BEIJING — Defending champions Russia struggled past Switzerland 1–0 on Wednesday to begin a Beijing Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament short on star power after National Hockey League (NHL) players stayed home over COVID-19.اضافة اعلان

The Russian gold-medal defense got a boost from the NHL no-show, which forced powerhouses Canada and the US to name untested young squads against the experienced Russians and Europeans.

The big, physical Russians feature top talent from the country’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), widely considered the world’s second-best league after the NHL.

But they were never able to fully impose their dominance on the scrappy Swiss, who are ranked eighth in the world.

The only goal came when a wild first-period pass into the crease by forward Anton Slepyshev took a fluky ricochet into the net.

With several players returning from the line-up that beat Germany for gold four years ago, the Russians are considered potential favorites along with an experienced Finland side in a competition thrown wide open by the NHL’s absence.

Wednesday’s other Group B opener pits the Czech Republic against Denmark.

The other two groups begin play on Thursday, highlighted by Group A action, with Canada taking on Germany and the US facing off with Olympic debutants China.

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