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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tikhonov Toppling Denied

LILLEHAMMER, Norway -- Seeing Mikhail Gorbachev deposed and an entire government overthrown was one thing. But a coup against Viktor Tikhonov? That is unthinkable to anyone who has followed Moscow-based hockey for the past 15 years.


Yet that is just what the German press reported Wednesday, that Tikhonov essentially was relieved of his authority in the third period of a 5-0 loss to Finland on Monday night, the worst Olympic defeat in the history of Soviet/Unified Team/Russian hockey. The reports said a third coach slipped behind the bench with Tikhonov and longtime assistant Igor Dmitriyev, and that the third coach was calling the shots.


The Russians denied the report. Tikhonov does not address reporters after games, but Dmitriyev said the extra coach, Vladimir Yurzinov, is a scout. He added that Yurzinov was invited to stand behind the bench because he coaches a club in Finland and might know something about the opposition.


Yurzinov was behind the bench again Wednesday, but, as Dmitriyev said: "If you were watching attentively, and you were right opposite us, you could see coach Tikhonov in the forward position and we were on the flanks."


That was meant to mean Tikhonov remained in his customary position. So did the Russian team. It beat Austria 9-1 to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. Finland (3-0) advanced later with its second straight shutout, 4-0 over Norway.


"Austria was not lucky that we played them after that loss" to Finland, Russian assistant coach Dmitriyev said. "After that loss, we were more concentrated and we tried more.


"The next games will be even easier for us because now we made the top four (in Pool A) and we're sure we'll play in the next round."


The Czech Republic's 1-0 win over Germany on Wednesday left those teams tied with Russia at 2-1 in the five-game preliminary round. Austria, which cannot advance, and Norway is 0-3.


Russia's worst possible record and Norway's best is 2-3. Russia would win a tiebreaker because it beat Norway. Austria was eliminated.


On Wednesday, two days after Finland scored as many goals as the Soviets allowed in the entire 1984 Olympics, the Russians were overpowering.


They bombarded Austria's net with 48 shots. They scored seven goals in the second period. Then they protected the lead: Austria did not take a single shot on goal in the final 20 minutes.


Finland also shut down a weak opponent, outshooting Norway 32-11. The Finns have allowed just 38 shots in three games and outscored their victims 12-1.


"We've only given up one goal in three games," Finland coach Curt Lindstrom said. "It surprises me."


Finland has just one Olympic hockey medal, a silver in 1988. It finished seventh in the last Olympics and in the last two world championships.


(Newsday, AP)