Railwaymen steam into the Western Conference final.

(1) Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 5 OT
(7) Dinamo Riga 4

Lokomotiv win the series 4-1
Just as in their previous series against Dinamo Minsk, the Yaroslavl team clinched victory in Game 5 with a goal in overtime from Alexander Kalyanin, scoring from a similar position and with a similar time on the stadium clock. “I don’t know what to say,” Kalyanin reacted modestly. “I just tried to shoot accurately. With the kind of passes I got from my team mates, it would’ve been a crime not to score.”

The big difference between tonight’s events and the win over Minsk a fortnight ago is that Kalyanin’s golden goal propelled Lokomotiv into the next round of the play-offs.

But it was a different story at the start of the game, with the hosts slow to get into it. And even though the Yaroslavl men opening the scoring with none other than Kalyanin finding the net, it was followed by a spell lasting a little over 10 minutes during which the Riga men not only pulled level, but built a healthy two-goal lead, provoking Vladimír Vůjtek into replacing Dimitrij Kotschnew in goal. “I’m not blaming Dimitrij,” said the coach later, “but I had to change something just to shake the team up, and that was my first step. In the third period, when we were losing 2-4, I sent Andrei Kiryuhin into the first line and gave Daniil Sobchenko a chance to show what he can do.”

“During the final break we had a very serious discussion in the changing room,” Kalyanin admitted, “and so we were really fired up going out for the third period.”

The hosts did indeed give a powerful display in those twenty minutes, and thanks to Alexander Galimov’s double they managed to take the game to overtime.

In spite of the defeat, Julius Supler was satisfied with his player’s efforts: “It’s a shame we lost, having led 4-2 but not managing to hold onto our lead. I’d like to thank the guys for their performances this season, I’m proud of them. It may turn out that we were beaten by the future Gagarin Cup winners. In any case, from now on I’ll be supporting Yaroslavl.”

Vladimír Vůjtek was also eager to praise his opponents: “I have a lot of respect for Riga’s team, and their style of play is the kind I like. As for the game, I got the impression that after our two convincing victories in Riga the team started the game in complacent mood. We were totally owned in the neutral zone, allowed those quick goals, but I’m happy the guys battled to the end and were able to level the score. It’s satisfying to have got through in just five games, and now the team has some time to conserve their strength, have a rest, and then get ready for the Conference final.”

The Lokomotiv captain, Karel Rachunek, revealed the team’s plans for the days ahead: “We’ll have two days off, and then get back to training. If we can, we’ll be watching the Atlant versus SKA games. Our coaches will check those teams out and tell us how best to play against them. Personally, I don’t have any preference regarding our next opponents.”

Andrei Vinogradov, Yaroslavl

(3) SKA St. Petersburg 1
(4) Atlant Moscow Region 3
SKA lead the series 3-2
The hosts looked to be heading straight for the final early on in this game when Evgeny Artyukhin managed to get his stick under Daniil Markov’s shot to direct the puck into the net, but the visitors put all celebrations on hold. The teams were soon level thanks to a strike from Sergei Mozyakin, after which instead of falling back to shore up the defense, as many might have expected, the forward continued to hunt for success around the opposition’s goal.

As for the Army Men, things started to go from bad to worse as their attack resorted to launching the puck into enemy territory, where most of the individual duels were won by the men in yellow. “Our hosts thought we’d come to Petersburg in a gloomy mood, with our heads down and ready to surrender, but we had no intention of losing. It’s still too early for us to think about our vacations,” said Milos Riha after the game.

The teams waited until late in the third period to settle matters. First Konstantin Panov spurned an excellent chance to put his team back in the lead, then the Petersburg men allowed Jaroslav Obsut to launch a raid from his own zone, charge all the way to the hosts’ blue line, and supply the finishing touch to the move himself.

Since all three goals so far had been scored in power play, the last-minute dispatching of Atlant defenseman Ilya Gorokhov to the penalty box handed the Petersburg team a decent chance to take the game to overtime. Vaclav Sykora sacrificed the goalie for a sixth skater, but the result was a third goal for the Mytishchi men.

Triumphant Atlant forward Vadim Yepanchintsev was in no mood for in-depth analysis: “Everything went right for us today. We won, and that’s the main thing; as for how we did it – that no longer matters. This game is already history.”

Sergei Rychikhin, Saint Petersburg

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