Both semi-final series in the East have finished Sunday with a 4:2 scoreline. In Nizhnekamsk, Salavat Yulaev overcame Neftekhimik by the most popular score of the series, 2-1, thanks to a double from Alexander Perezhogin.
There was also a double in Kazan, with Alexei Badyukov’s two goals helping Ak Bars defeat Metallurg Magnitogorsk, bucking the trend of a series in which the home team had invariably lost until now.
Salavat Yulaev Ufa – Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 4:2 (6-2, 1-2 OT, 0-1, 1-0, 2-1 OT, 2-1)
Ak Bars Kazan - Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4:2 (4-0, 3-2, 0-1 OT, 1-2, 3-1, 3-1)
The contest between the men from Magnitogorsk and Kazan had followed a strange storyline: all five meetings had resulted in away wins. Game 6 broke the sequence while proving to be a game of freak goals.
“We intended to break this tradition,” said Ak Bars trainer Valery Belov of his team’s plans.
The Steelworkers, no doubt, also dreamed of breaking the home curse, albeit in the seventh match instead of the sixth. The visitors began the game in Kazan with a little too much emotion. Forward Nikolai Pronin, back near his own goal, had words with Alexei Tereshchenko, and the heated exchange soon included Magnitka’s Fedor Fedorov and Kazan’s Dmitry Obukhov. The Magnitogorsk men excelled in boxing, aggression, and in the punishments incurred, with Pronin sent off for the rest of the match, while Obukhov escaped with a couple of minor penalties.
Having secured numerical advantage Ak Bars came close to conceding, when Alexei Kaygorodov skated up for a one on one with Petri Vehanen, but the Finn saved the team. At the start of the second period, however, the goaltender seemed to have rescued his opponents. Petri Kontiola hopefully launched the puck from the corner into the goal crease, and Vehanen somehow redirected it into his own net.
Lady Luck then decided to smile on the home side. Ak Bars defenseman Evgeny Medvedev’s strike from the right flank was maybe a pass, cross, shot - anything but an accurate strike at the target, but the puck arrived awkwardly for Metallurg’s Rinat Ibragimov and then darted into Vasily Koshechkin’s net. Three minutes more and we had a similar goal, this time the pass-cross-shot came from behind the goal, by Alexei Badyukov, and was likewise directed into the goal by a Magnitogorsk player, and seemingly Ibragimov was again the culprit.
“The goal was a fluke,” admitted Badyukov, “but in the play-offs things like that can go your way.”
The next goal was also more a matter of luck than judgement, but it gave Badyukov a double to add to his account.
“We really wanted to wrap up the series at home,” said Ak Bars head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, “and we have done it.”