(1) Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 OT
(8) Dinamo Minsk 1
Lokomotiv lead the series 3-2
Both coaches, Vladimír Vůjtek and Marek Sykora, were singing from the same song sheet after the match, describing this encounter as “a real play-off game” and emphasizing that they had sent their teams out to play with the accent on tight defense. As a result, we were served up the lowest-scoring total of the series so far, although Lokomotiv, in fairness, could have scored several more goals were it not for an assured display from Minsk goaltender Andrei Mezin.
“We could have put the result beyond any doubt in the second period, but Mezin had other ideas,” said Vůjtek, and he added, “Maybe our supporters didn’t expect the series to be so tough, but we’ve always known that the Minsk guys are serious opponents.”
Even the Minsk men themselves have trouble explaining their recent progress. Peter Podhradsky, for example, was unsure: “It’s hard to say why in the play-offs we’ve started playing better, including in power play. Everyone is trying with all their might. Today we managed to score while we were playing 5-on-3,” he said, at the same time instilling hope in the hearts of the fans in Belarus: “We still believe we’ll be coming back to Yaroslavl.”
(2) Dynamo Moscow 3
(7) Dinamo Riga 1
Dinamo Riga lead the series 3-2
Dynamo Moscow managed to keep the series alive, by another game at least. Summing up the game, head coach Oleg Znarok had this to say: “It was tough for us psychologically: today it was an all-or-nothing situation. In the first period we had over a dozen shots to their two, and didn’t take advantage in power play. And for a minute and a half we were playing against three, but still we didn’t score. This put a big psychological burden on my guys, and I’m happy they were equal to it and got us this win. I think we’re ready to battle further.”
The home team’s roster was boosted by the appearance of Miroslav Satan, who joined the team in January but was soon sidelined for a whole month through injury. The famous Slovak forward apparently knows the secret of success for his team in this series: “The recipe for victory against Dinamo Riga is simple: you have to keep their defense permanently under pressure. If they come under sustained pressure, they start making mistakes.”
Dynamo Moscow, who have been cursed throughout the season with huge injury problems, are now slowly beginning to assemble a full roster. To a question asking whether Denis Tolpeko will also play in Riga, Znarok replied: “It’s still hard to say, as Denis still has some pain in his leg. But there will be some changes to the roster. In principle, all our injured players are ready to go out onto the ice and battle.”
In contrast, Riga head coach Julius Supler lamented the absence of key players: “We have three players injured, all of them the kind of player you never want to be without. We’ll see if there’s a chance that Alexanders Nizivijs, Mark Hartigan and Arvids Rekis will make the game in Riga.”
(4) Atlant Mytishchi 2
(5) Severstal Cherepovets 1
Atlant lead the series 3-2
The theme of injury also surfaced right at the end of this game: in the dying minutes Atlant goaltender Vitaly Koval took a knock, after doing so well to guard his team’s two-goal advantage which seemed to have them coasting to a series lead. After Koval’s exit, Severstal managed to halve the deficit, but the home team managed to hang on to victory.
The main incidents of the game came in the second period. “We picked up eight minutes of penalties in 11 minutes, were overpowered physically, allowed two goals, and it was all over,” was the view of Severstal head coach Dmitry Kvartalnov.
To which Atlant head coach Milos Riha replied by mentioning the impressive leap in quality in his team’s play at the game’s midway point: “The first period made us tense. Not much was going right, the players weren’t heading for the goal, and there were few shots. We started the second period in entirely different mood: we were lively, we scored, and we practically decided the fate of the game. We weren’t as good in the third but still managed to held on to win.”