Any doubt that Russia was still a contender at this year's World Junior Championship was shattered just as quickly as the stick of Czech Republic forward Martin Planek.
After yet another goal midway through Russia's numbing 8-3 win over the Czechs, Planek cranked his stick on the crossbar of the Czech's net. The remnants skidded across the Dwyer Arena ice as a pack of Russians celebrated nearby.
With an offensive onslaught, Russia advanced to the quarterfinals Friday night. No team has won more medals in this event and only one (Canada) has won more golds. By upper-cutting the Czech Republic, the Russians gave themselves a chance to chase a 13th gold medal and No. 29 overall.
They take their next step Sunday against Finland in HSBC Arena at 7:30 p.m.
"We're making progress game to game," Vladimir Tarasenko said through a translator. "We'll try to show our best hockey in the quarterfinal."
Russia ended the drama early. Dmitri Orlov, Yevgeni Kuznetsov, Denis Golubev and Tarasenko lit the lamp in an eight-minute span of the first period -- with Tarasenko the team's catalyst.
Tarasenko, drafted 15th overall by the St. Louis Blues in 2010, sifted through the entire Czech defense and dropped an assist to Golubev waiting near the left post to put his team up, 3-1.
Moments later, he stormed unmarked down the ice again, disregarding the fact his team was short-handed. A teammate's shot careened off the post, dropped right to Tarasenko's stick at the doorstep and the Russian captain buried it.
Finally, the Russia team most expected -- fast, decisive, a threat to win gold -- showed up.
After losing to Group B powerhouses Canada (6-3) and Sweden (2-0), Russia faced even more trouble when it was tied, 2-2, with Norway after one period Thursday. Since that point, the Russians have outscored their opponents, 16-3.
Eight players scored against the Czechs as Russia manufactured an embarrassing amount of odd-man rushes. In the second period, Georgi Berdyukov, Danil Sobchenko, Artemi Panarin and Maxim Kitsyn padded the Russian lead.
A frustrated, enraged Czech Republic team quickly deflated into a dazed-and-confused bunch.
Still, Czech Republic defenseman Petr Senkerik was defiant. He doesn't believe Russia can win gold. Standing some 15 feet from Russian players being interviewed, Senkerik didn't mince words.
"They don't play like a team, like Sweden, Canada and the U.S.," Senkerik said. "They play individually, for statistics. They played good today, but I don't think they'll play in the final."
The truth will come to light soon.
Dead to rights a few days ago, Russia has an opportunity to reassert itself as a world power. As the Russians skated off the ice, they raised their sticks into the air to the pro-Russia crowd.
"We're happy to go onto the next stage," Tarasenko said. "We are expecting a very serious game."