Andy Potts,
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The Eastern Conference Semi-final line-up is complete following victories for Avangard at Admiral and Barys at home to Traktor. When the action starts up again on March 9, Avangard will welcome Ak Bars to Omsk, while Barys travels to defending champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

Avangard’s composure becalms Admiral

Admiral Vladivostok 0 Avangard Omsk 2

(Avangard wins the series 4-2)

A second successive shut-out saw Avangard wrap up this series in six games, sinking Admiral and advancing to an Eastern Conference Semi-final match-up with Ak Bars.

The Omsk team had lost its two previous playoff games in Vladivostok, but arrived for Saturday’s encounter buoyed by a 6-0 victory that gave it the series lead once again and moved it to within one win of progress.

That, plus an electric start to the game, ensured that the momentum swung decisively in Avangard’s favor, condemning Admiral to another first-round playoff exit.

It took just 48 seconds for Avangard to open the scoring. Ilya Zubov fired the puck goalwards from the point, Valentin Pyanov deflected it across the face of the net and Ilya Mikheyev was on hand at the far post to shoot home as the target gaped in front of him. For Admiral, it was a deflating blow, subduing the home crowd before the home team even had a chance to test out Dominik Furch in the visitor’s net.

With Avangard enjoying such an early lead, Admiral’s offense found itself stifled. The visitor could focus on defense, and the home team was left foundering in center ice for much of the opening stanza. Furch faced just four shots in the first period, and dealt with them comfortably.

The middle period followed a similar pattern, as the Siberians continued to play cautiously even on the power play. Admiral was limited to a solitary dangerous moment for Vladimir Tkachyov; Avangard doubled its lead when Vladimir Sobotka despatched the puck after Nikolai Lemtyugov’s daring rush was hampered, but not halted, by a pair of D-men.

In the final stanza, Admiral raised its game and began to test Furch more sternly. Tkachyov was once again at the heart of the home team’s best moments, but the Czech goalie was in fine form and kept his goal intact until the very end. The final major incident came at the other end, when Ilya Zubov had a penalty shot after Igor Bobkov moved the goalposts; the goalie redeemed himself by winning that duel, but Avangard eased to victory.

The next game for Fyodor Kanareikin’s men will be in Omsk on March 9 when Avangard starts its series against Ak Bars in the second round of this year’s playoffs.

04.03.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Admiral (Vladivostok) - Avangard (Omsk region)

Boyd’s winner sees Barys progress

Barys Astana 2 Traktor Chelyabinsk 1

(Barys wins the series 4-2)

Barys came from behind to win the game and the series, progressing to the Conference Semi-finals for only the second time in its history.

The winner arrived on a power play early in the third period, created by a moment of magic from Konstantin Pushkaryov. The forward, who began the series by scoring the KHL’s fastest ever playoff goal, finished it with a sublime no-look pass across the face of Pavel Francouz’ net to present Dustin Boyd with the straightforward task of putting the puck into an open net. Barys was in front, and it would hold that lead until the hooter.

Traktor, playing for its playoff future, made the brighter start and took a deserved lead in the 10th minute with a power play goal from Kirill Koltsov. The veteran defenseman turned circles on the right flank before spotting the chance to advance towards the face-off spot. As Yegor Shalapov backed off, undecided whether to pressure the puck or cut off a pass to another forward at the near post, Koltsov made the choice irrelevant with a powerful shot to beat Henrik Karlsson and open the scoring.

Traktor continued to have the better of the opening session, building on its livelier start to ensure that the most dangerous incidents happened around Karlsson’s net. But the visitor was unable to extend its lead, and soon paid the price.

If the first period was very much Traktor’s, the middle session swung back in the host’s favor. Barys dominated the play, generating a 16-4 shot count and tying the game through Vladimir Markelov’s 23rd-minute goal. The 29-year-old picked up his second playoff goal of the season, applying the backhand to a Kevin Dallman feed from the point to beat Francouz from close range. The home side may feel it should have extended that lead: Dallman hit the piping and Francouz made several smart saves to keep the scores level until the second intermission.

The third period saw Boyd’s early goal separate the teams, but Traktor had its chances to respond. A double minor penalty on Pushkaryov handed the visitor the initiative, and Karlsson made a fine save to deny Paul Szczechura from point-blank range as Barys struggled to kill that penalty. But the host held firm, and when Szczechura was foiled again after a great chance in the last minute, the home crowd was already celebrating.

04.03.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Barys (Astana) - Traktor (Chelyabinsk)

Andy Potts,
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Related clubs

Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Admiral (Vladivostok) Admiral (Vladivostok)
Barys (Nur-Sultan) Barys (Nur-Sultan)
Traktor (Chelyabinsk) Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
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