WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
(1) Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2
(4) Atlant Moscow Region 3 ОТ
Atlant lead the series 2-0
As expected, Lokomotiv announced a significant change to the roster. As a result of the hapless display from Dimitrij Kotschnew, his place in the starting lineup would be taken by Alexander Vyukhin. “Was I surprised to be included in the roster?” smiled the goalie. “What’s up with you guys? I’m already 38; it’s hard to surprise me with anything.”
Vyukhin admitted that he found his feet in the game quickly, thanks to his opponents. “I knew they’d threaten from the very first minute, counting on me not being ready,” Alexander noted, “and they had me stretching straight away. That quickly got me back in form.”
There was one moment when a slip from Vyukhin had the entire arena holding its breath. He seemed to comfortably gather a shot in his gloves, but the puck flew out of his grasp and headed for the goal. Fortunately for him, the Yaroslavl defensemen managed to save his blushes. “My glove just got stuck, and I didn’t free it in time. I thank my comrade who came to my rescue,” said the goaltender.
The goal which clinched matters was unusual for the circumstances. Alexander Guskov’s penalty handed a power play to the visitors, who with sudden death looming seemed intent on keeping possession without taking any risks, but Igor Musatov seized the initiative, and sealed victory for Atlant. “I don’t know why I set off for goal, I just had this feeling it might work,” said the forward, explaining his solo charge, “and it did. As for the game, Lokomotiv played clearly better than last time. Having said that, I wouldn’t start saying we have a huge advantage.”
The sentiment that nothing momentous had happened in the series was echoed by Vyukhin: “Forget about the score being 2-0; the series is best-of-seven, everything can still change.”
They are correct, of course. Indeed today it could just as easily have been Lokomotiv’s victory. Ninety seconds before the end of regulation time the officials needed an extended viewing of the video replay, unsure of whether the puck had crossed the goal line. And Pavol Demitra spurned another good chance when he just failed to score into an unguarded corner of the net.
After the game the coaches differed in mood. Strangely enough, it was a triumphant Milos Riha who showed a short fuse when asked about the referee not awarding a penalty shot against Atlant. “That was never a penalty,” he shouted.
“Yes it was,” argued Vladimír Vůjtek, “I’ve seen it on video.” The Yaroslavl head coach needed just one word to describe what his team was lacking: “Fortune.” No doubt he had in mind the replays of both the bad miss and the near miss by Demitra.
“We played better, but still without success,” Vůjtek summed up, “but I have no complaints about the guys. They all battled to the end. Of course, the penalty we gave away in overtime had a big effect. Now we’ll have a rest and then we’ll be battling in Mytishchi.”
Riha did not have much to say. He mentioned goaltender Konstantin Barulin, and chuckled softly while his opposite number gave his views on Alexander Guskov’s dismissal, the penalty shot, and other Yaroslavl problems.
And why shouldn’t he laugh? Atlant are just two steps from clinching the Conference title.
Alexei Shevchenko, Yaroslavl