Jakub Klepis earned himself a place in Russian hockey folklore after his goal settled the destiny of the 2012 Gagarin Cup final. The Czech forward kept his composure on the slot to score the only goal of the decisive seventh game of the final series, returning the championship to Moscow for the first time since 2005 and condemning hosts Avangard Omsk to an agonizing defeat by the narrowest of margins.
The goal means Oleg Znarok can add a winner’s medal to the runners-up award he picked up with MVD two years ago, as can six of the players who featured in the 0-2 defeat to Ak Bars Kazan in the decisive game of the 2010 season.
Klepis struck on 52:03 as the tension around a packed Arena Omsk was reaching fever pitch. The Dynamo man’s compatriot Marek Kvapil got free behind Karri Ramo’s goal and picked out Klepis unattended on the slot. His first effort was blocked, but the rebound was kind and before Nikita Pivtsakin could reach him, Klepis was able to lift the puck over the sprawling goaltender to send Dynamo’s traveling fans into raptures.
That was far from the action of the action, however: Avangard threw everything forward in a desperate bid for an equalizer, and with less than 20 seconds to go Alexander Yeryomenko was called upon for his final save of the night, staying big on the crease to block a close-range effort from Alexander Frolov and end Avangard’s last hope of retrieving the game and the series.
In a series dominated by goaltenders - Yeryomenko was voted MVP after conceding just ten goals in seven games - it was fitting that the final encounter was another low-scoring affair. But Dynamo might have grabbed the lead slightly earlier when presented with a 5v3 powerplay on 44:32. Despite holding a two-man advantage for 70 seconds, though, there was no way through the Avangard defense, even as the home crowd simmered with rage at the penalty call against Sergei Gusev after a big open-ice hit on Mikhail Anisin.
Earlier, despite the shortage of goals, there was plenty to keep the fans entertained. The first period brought plenty of goalmouth action. Dynamo’s best chance came on 7:30 when Filip Novak’s shot got away from Karri Ramo, but Denis Mosalyov couldn’t reach the loose puck before Pivtsakin sliced it out of the danger zone. At the other end Alexander Popov almost ended the session on a high for Avangard, but Yeryomenko pulled off a stunning reaction save to pluck the puck from the top corner.
In the second period, after a slow start, Avangard began to take command of the game. The home side steadily tightened the screw around Yeryomenko’s goal but was unable to find a way through. But that pressure counted for little in the end after Klepis got the vital strike.