WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
(4) Atlant Moscow Region 2
(1) Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4
Atlant lead the series 3-1
It is notoriously hard for a team enjoying such a comprehensive lead to keep the killer instinct right to the end. Atlant failed to keep the necessary concentration in Game 4, allowing the Lokomotiv players to claim their first victory in this series.
After the game, the hosts’ head coach Milos Riha did not appear too downhearted. “From the very start it was clear our guys had the wrong attitude,” he sighed. “They were too confident that we had already won it. We were especially lacking in aggression. Of course, I’m glad we played so well toward the end; it instills a bit of optimism.”
The Atlant players were indeed nothing like their usual selves. If in the previous three games the Mytishchi men never gave their opponents room to breathe, were shrewd in their offensive play, and hardly ever made mistakes, then today it was the opposite story. Riha was particularly distraught at the ease with which Ivan Tkachenko got past Maxim Semenov to score the opening goal – Atlant’s defending was never so sloppy in the earlier games.
In spite of this Konstantin Barulin refused to fall apart and even while his defense failed him he gave a decent performance “I offered to rest him after the third goal, but he refused,” noted Riha.
While the goaltending situation is not giving Riha any headaches, the same cannot be said for overall fitness levels in the roster. At the club they remain tight-lipped, but there is talk of an injury crisis affecting several players. Vadim Khomitsky is unwell, and Zbynek Irgl has picked up a knock, and the latter did not even last the distance in the previous game.
After their last defeat, the Yaroslavl men tried not to pay any attention to the fact that no-one to date has bounced back from 0-3 to win a series, instead focusing only on winning the next game. Mission accomplished.
“We were already backed into a corner before today,” said Lokomotiv head coach Vladimír Vůjtek after the victory. “Our guys had no intention of heading off early on vacation and so today we played really well. At last we managed to score the first goal in the game.”
The opening goal was something Vůjtek also spoke of two days ago. He complained that his team was always chasing the game, which is an added psychological burden. “I expect us to continue in the same spirit two days from now in Yaroslavl,” the Railwaymen’s coach promised.
The Lokomotiv players were making no promises. “I think we just had a good game, but our mission in this series hasn’t changed. Now we need to win our next game,” said Marat Kalimulin, scorer of one of the goals.
“At last we found a way past Barulin,” said Alexander Kalyanin, sighing with relief. “We’ll try to keep it going. Our big plus is that none of the guys surrendered, no-one would accept defeat. Now our chance of getting through increased threefold. The guys got together without the coach, and we had a talk.”
The series continues, and there is every possibility it will be a different series from now on.
Alexei Shevchenko, Mytishchi