Ak Bars is all set for an Eastern Conference Final showdown with Metallurg Magnitogorsk next week after wrapping up its Semi-final series with a comfortable home win over Avangard. The teams face off on Thursday when the Conference Final gets underway in Magnitogorsk.
(AK Bars wins the series 4-2)
A ruthless performance from Ak Bars gave Avangard no hope of prolonging this series into a game seven showdown. From the moment Fyodor Malykhin put the host ahead on the first power play of the night, there was only one winner. Three unanswered goals in the second period put the outcome beyond any doubt, and in the third Albert Yarullin wrapped up an emphatic victory with another PP marker.
After a subdued start to proceedings as the Tatneft Arena observed a minute’s silence in memory of renowned player, coach and commentator Sergei Gimayev, the game sparked to life almost immediately. Avangard’s Erik Gustafsson picked up a tripping penalty and Ak Bars converted the power play in the fifth minute. Justin Azevedo attacked down the left and swung the puck across the ice to the unmarked Vladimir Tkachyov. He drilled it back across the face of Dominik Furch’s net and Malykhin was on hand to turn it into the goal. With a lead to defend, Ak Bars did just that: Avangard managed just three shots on Emil Garipov’s net in the opening stanza, and rarely looked capable of tying the scores.
The second period began in much the same manner as the first. Avangard took an early penalty, Ak Bars took full advantage. Jiri Sekac was the scorer this time, enjoying a straightforward finish from the slot after Malykhin supplied the killer pass from the goal line. The visitor’s problems quickly increased. Barely a minute later, Artyom Lukoyanov made it 3-0 with Malykhin at the heart of things again. He advanced down the right on the counter attack and, with the Avangard defense flat-footed, Lukoyanov collected a pass between the hash marks and fired home a wrister that left Furch with no chance.
There was still more to come. Sergei Orlov took a double-minor for roughing, and he had barely returned to the game when Tkachyov added a fourth to go with his three earlier assists. The play started with Stepan Zakharchuk’s pass from blue line to blue line, picking out Andrei Chibisov. The D-man continued his own advance and took a return pass from Chibisov to move into a shooting position at the left-hand face-off spot. However, he spotted Tkachyov unmarked on the opposite side of the ice and set up his team-mate to leave Furch with too much ground to recover as the shot came in.
The game was done and the final stanza lacked some of the intensity of what had gone before. But there was still time for one last flourish from the host, setting the stamp on a series win with a late power play goal from Yarullin. His slap shot from a central position was too good for Oleg Shilin, Avangard’s replacement goalie, and completed the scoring.
Ak Bars now advances to play Metallurg in a mouth-watering match-up between two old rivals. Both teams have hopes of making history by becoming the first to lift the Gagarin Cup three times, and the action promises to be relentless when the series starts in the Urals on Thursday.