WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL

(4) Atlant Moscow Region 8
(1) Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2

Atlant win the series 4-2
Atlant becomes the first team to reach the Gagarin Cup final, having eliminated Lokomotiv Yaroslavl after six games.

After the final siren not a single supporter made for the Arena Mytishchi exits, and none of them wanted to. Amid the celebrations of Atlant clinching a place in the final, and victory in the Western Conference, head coach Milos Riha appeared on the ice. He dropped to his knees and saluted all those who had shown faith in his team.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” gasped Oleg Petrov, and he has seen a few things in his time. Petrov, incidentally, also produced something we did not expect from the veteran, scoring three goals.

The decisive episode in the game was probably the 24th minute, in which the hosts managed to hit two goals past Alexander Vyukhin. The Lokomotiv goaltender was rattled by the punishment, and when he allowed a fourth goal before the curtain came down on the second period he was invited to sit on the bench.

“I don’t think we lost the series today; we lost it in the first two games,” said Josef Vasicek. “It would be wrong right now to start talking about the goalies; we had a duty to win on our own ice. And today we couldn’t hold out and we lost. A massacre? The massacre began when we allowed the fifth goal.”

The Railwaymen’s last attempt to save the series came at the start of the third period. They managed to reduce the deficit to just two goals, but within 19 seconds the Mytishchi men had restored their advantage, after which the Yaroslavl men unfurled the white flag.

“You know, even when the score in the series went to 3-2, we never lost our nerve at all,” said Petrov. “Just the opposite, we all pulled together. What’s more, don’t forget that in Yaroslavl we lost a very even game, so we had no panic of any kind.”

It is true the Atlant players did not lose their nerve for a single minute. The hosts relentlessly stuck to their guns while the men from the Volga wavered, lacking the strength to battle back. The foul by Yury Urychev on Alexander Nesterov in the third period looked like an act of desperation, albeit one that could prove costly for Atlant: it seems Nesterov’s season may be over due to the blow to his knee from Urychev’s knee.

“That was a really ugly thing Yury did; they don’t take kindly to stuff like that in any league,” Petrov remarked.

At the press conference there was, in essence, little to discuss. “I won’t say anything about my future,” Vladimír Vůjtek announced. “As for the game, I think we went to pieces for a little spell in the second period, and that affected the outcome. But I would like to congratulate our opponents – Atlant deserved this victory.”

Milos Riha praised his players, and agreed that his team is gaining momentum with every game.

Back in the changing rooms the celebrations continued, and the trophy for victory in the Western Conference held pride of place in the center of the room. Former USSR legend Viktor Tikhonov paid a visit, and lauded the victors: “Thank you for keeping hockey alive in Moscow Region.”

The players were happy to admit it was all the same to them who their opponents would be in the final. They could not care less.

Alexei Shevchenko, Mytishchi

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