Western Conference semi-finals, Day 6
The line-up for the Western Conference final is confirmed - and it pits SKA St. Petersburg against Dynamo Moscow in the latest chapter of the long sporting rivalry between Russia’s “Northern Capital” and its biggest city. SKA booked its place in the final with a convincing 4-0 win at Atlant as head coach Milos Riha overcame the club he took to last year’s Gagarin Cup final. Dynamo, meanwhile, trailed twice before overcoming Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 3-2 in front of a five-figure crowd in the capital.
(3) Dynamo Moscow 3
(2) Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2
Dynamo wins the series 4-2
Hockey is a team game, but sometimes it takes a moment or two of individual brilliance to give any team the edge. And that’s exactly how it proved for Dynamo Moscow in a pulsating clash at a near-capacity Megasport Arena as the Blue-and-Whites came from behind to sink Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod and book its place in the Western Conference final.
Two fantastic individual goals in the second period turned the game on its head. First Dmitry Pestunov performed wonders to wriggle free of the defenseman behind the pipes and arc his way across Vitaly Koval’s goal to swing the puck through a crowded crease and past the unsighted goalie. Then Mikhail Anisin took center stage with a solo strike that underlined his claim to be the play-offs’ most impressive forward to date: jinking in from the left, he had Torpedo defensemen trailing in his wake as he slipped a wrist shot past Koval to give Dynamo the lead for the first time in the game. Despite some tense moments in the final session, it was a lead which Torpedo could not retrieve.
In the first period it was Torpedo which opened the scoring through Robert Nilsson when the Swede was given far too much time and lifted a close-range effort over Alexander Yeryomenko’s glove. Dynamo leveled when Marek Kvapil’s pull-back from beyond the goal line was deflected past Koval. Ricochets, however, can hurt as much as they help, and Torpedo showed the hosts the other side of the coin when Martin Thornberg made the most of a kind bounce to re-instate the visitors’ lead.
SKA marches on
(4) Atlant Moscow Region 0
(1) SKA St. Petersburg SKA St. Petersburg 4
SKA wins the series 4-2
SKA brushed aside the war of words which kicked off after head coach Milos Riha left the team bench before the end of Wednesday’s home defeat and eased to a 4-0 victory at Atlant.
The win wrapped up a 4-2 series success for the conference’s regular season top dog, and confirms its place in the final alongside Dynamo Moscow. After a goalless first period, SKA went in front in the second thanks to Dmitry Vorobyov and Maxim Rybin. Hopes of a home fightback were effectively ended on 46:11 when Maxim Afinogenov made it 3-0, and Ivan Nepryayev’s empty-netter concluded the scoring.
The conference final will start in St. Petersburg next Wednesday and Friday, before coming to Moscow on Sunday and Tuesday.