Both Western Conference semi-final series are tied.

(1) Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3
(7) Dinamo Riga 5

Series tied 1-1
Both sides made just the one change to those on duty in Game 1: Mikael Tellqvist went between the pipes for the Riga men, while Daniel Tjarnqvist returned to the Yaroslavl defense having recovered from concussion. “He was solid today,” Vladimír Vůjtek praised Tjarnqvist. “We didn’t expect a classy game from him, but he played a lot better than the rest of our defenders.”

As for the visitors, they changed not only the goaltender but also switched to more cautious tactics, sitting back and allowing the Railwaymen to attack them. In the first period Dinamo were indeed very tidy in defense while Lokomotiv in their turn prevented their opponents from launching any dangerous counter-attacks.

Less than two minutes into the second period Tomas Surovy capitalized on a mistake by the hosts at a face-off in the neutral zone, deceived all five Yaroslavl skaters, found himself one on one with Dimitrij Kotschnew, and duly opened the scoring.

Lokomotiv swiftly hit back and not only leveled but took the lead soon after. When the visitors equalized, the hosts restored their advantage before the break, but in the third period the men from the Volga suffered a total collapse, allowing three goals, the last of them into an empty net.

“Today we were outplayed in every way in that third period,” said an infuriated Vůjtek. “We didn’t keep pace with Dinamo. The Riga guys could finish and we couldn’t. Maybe tiredness took its toll. Alexander Guskov especially was struggling in defense.

“We had nothing to lose,” was how Alexanders Nizivijs explained the startling turnaround in the third period. “We tried to attack more. The game was more open than in the first period and chances appeared at both ends. It’s good that our finishing was so lethal.”

“We played as we planned today,” Julius Supler summarized. “We kept our heads in defense and played magnificently in the third period. We battled from the first to the last second of the game, and I’m happy we managed to win it.”

Lokomotiv forward Ivan Tkachenko was distraught at the defeat: “We lost what was, in essence, ‘our’ game. We went out for the third period unprepared, and I don’t even know the reason why. We allowed two goals and couldn’t recover. A good team can’t allow itself to play like that; it’s very stupid handing your opponents such a gift.”

Andrei Vinogradov, Yaroslavl

(3) SKA St. Petersburg 1
(4) Atlant 3
Series tied 1-1
“Sadly, my players weren’t able to take onto the ice all the things we’d discussed in the changing room before the game. They couldn’t produce the kind of hockey we wanted to see from them,” was how SKA head coach Vaclav Sykora began the post-game press conference.

It is indeed hard to disagree with the SKA boss. The hosts started Game 2 in tame fashion, meekly surrendering the initiative to Atlant. For a while the Petersburg men were able to hold the visitors, but as the break approached the marauders from Mytishchi started to trouble Jakub Stepanek more and more often. The inevitable result was Alexander Nesterov catching Stepanek unawares when the hapless keeper’s view was blocked by nearly all his teammates.

“We’d already lost the game in the first period,” admitted Maxim Afinogenov. “We didn’t set out to play in such a timid mood, something weakened us. Not much went right for us, whereas the visitors just played their own hockey.”

It was Afinogenov himself who managed to equalize early in the second period. One would have expected the goal to give the hosts confidence, but instead it merely stung the visitors into action: like in the previous meeting, they were soon leading 3-1, only this time they were in no mood to let the Army Men find a way back.

“Our opponents possibly had fewer scoring chances than they did two days ago, but enough to win the game. They took all the chances they created. They punished us for our mistakes, and nothing much went right for us,” lamented Jakub Stepanek.

Sergei Rychikhin, Saint Petersburg

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