(8) Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 1
(1) Avangard Omsk 3
Series tied 2-2
The Omsk men pulled level in the series and did it in style, hitting two of their three goals while short-handed. “You understand that in the play-offs the players get very tense; probably, they’re often trying to do something superhuman, but it doesn’t always come off, so teams can be poor in power play,” Avangard defenseman Dmitry Ryabykin explained. “Neftekhimik made a fair amount of mistakes in this game, and I think they tired themselves out, because you just can’t move as much as they did – the human body has its limits. And on top of that it was the fourth game in five days, and today we just kept it tight at the back. We had one mission today – we had to win. The guys pulled together and we just played well overall. I think we won with our strength of character and our will to win. Although Neftekhimik often had the man advantage and had a real chance to equalize.”
(7) Barys Astana 2
(2) Ak Bars Kazan 4
Ak Bars win the series 4-0
And so Barys failed to lift “the Curse of Kazan” and for the third year running were knocked out by Ak Bars without winning a single game in the series. In this final game Andrei Khomutov’s players tried everything to make life difficult as possible for the visitors’ goaltender, and for the first time in the series hit over 40 shots at the opposition goal, but only two of these found the target.
The champions replied with four goals of their own, including two from Danis Zaripov (pictured). We must mention that the first of Zaripov’s double was his 200th goal in Ak Bars colors. In the history of all Russian hockey championships, only one other player has managed to score 200 goals for the same team, and that is none other than Danis’s own linemate, Alexei Morozov.
(6) Sibir Novosibirsk 0
(3) Salavat Yulaev Ufa 5
Salavat Yulaev win the series 4-0
Salavat Yulaev also needed just the minimum number of games to march on to the next stage of the Gagarin Cup. The home games in the series caused the Novosibirsk men even more suffering than the games in Ufa, and the aggregate score (5-19) graphically illustrates the gulf in class between the teams, as Sibir head coach Andrei Tarasenko confirmed this at the press conference after the game: “We lost to a team which is one of the main contenders for the Cup. And Salavat Yulaev’s players are more skillful than mine.”
(5) Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk 1
(4) Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2
Series tied 2-2
Metallurg Magnitogorsk and Yugra went head to head for the eighth time this season, and in six of these encounters only a single goal has separated the two sides.
“There is very little difference in class between our two teams, and with each new game the advantage could swing one way or the other. I can’t say we played better than we did yesterday; today we just scored one more goal than they did, but tomorrow they could do the same to us,” was how Magnitogorsk head coach Kari Heikkila summed up the game.