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Russia: "We'll have to adjust to an enemy's crowd"

It’ll be hard to tell tonight. Yet again, the HSBC Arena crowd will be a red mob. But Russia has quite a following itself. Back home, Russian players say word of their World Juniors run is spreading. They've quickly become this tourney’s cardiac kids. And tonight, again, they'll be underdogs. Still, you get the sense they’re playing with nothing-to-lose mojo.

Comeback wins over Finland and Sweden earned Russia a shot at the gold medal tonight. Here’s some thoughts from coach Valeri Bragin and his players (through a translator) with the big one approaching fast:

Valeri Bragin, coach

On his team staying loose: “It’s a good atmosphere and very easy to explain. We haven’t played in the finals in several years so after two tough games, the players are just enjoying practice.”

On if the Americans were not ready for physical game against Canada: “I think Canada just scored three goals and the game practically ended at point.”

On whether there’s pressure to win: “I don’t think there’s any pressure because before every tournament, the goal is to get to the finals. But then in the finals, the chances are equal for both teams, 50/50. I don’t see any pressure right now.”

Yevgeni Kuznetsov, forward

On expectations back home: “Obviously Canada is ready for the game because this is like their home. There will be a full crowd supporting them but in Russia, people are expecting a gold from us.”

On what stood out in the US/Canada game: “I didn’t like the game because it was one-sided. Maybe the United States wasn’t ready but in general, I did not like the game. I expected a much closer fight. America didn’t look like they should look.”

Nikita Pivtsakin, defenseman

On beating Canada: “Anything is possible. It’s a team goal.”

On the Canada/Russia rivalry: “It’s always interesting because we play them at different levels—on junior, on senior, there are always different teams and different tournaments. I think the whole hockey world will follow this game. I understand what the rivalry means.”

On playing in front of such a pro-Canadian crowd: “We’ll have to adjust to an enemy’s crowd. We’ll have to score a goal just to make the crowd silent.”

---Tyler Dunne

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