KHL.ru continues its series on the IX season of the Championship through the eyes of our finest photographers. Today, we reflect on what turned out to be a typical season for Avangard Omsk.
In the club’s nine seasons in the KHL, Avangard has reached the second round of the playoffs on all but two occasions. Set against this impressive statistic, however, is the fact that the Hawks of Omsk have only once progressed further than this stage, in 2012, when they eventually lost a thrilling Gagarin Cup final series to Dynamo Moscow. Many expected great things from Avangard this year, particularly after a highly impressive regular season, but once again Avangard was eliminated in the Conference semi-final.
The team trained and prepared for the 2016-17 season under the guidance of Evgeny Kornoukhov, but the club relieved the head coach of his duties a matter of days before the start of the campaign. In his place stepped Fyodor Kanareikin, former boss of Atlant, Metallurg Magnitogorsk and Spartak.
Under Kanareikin’s guidance Avangard won their division and secured second spot in the Eastern Conference. The team did stumble slightly on the home straight, with five defeats and only two regulation-time wins in the last nine games, but the Hawks had already banked enough points to hold on to second place.
In the first round of the playoffs, Avangard was paired with Admiral. The men from the Far East showed admirable resistance against the clear favorites, but the Omsk Men’s superior class ensured a 4-2 series victory. However, a far more formidable obstacle - two-time Gagarin Cup winner Ak Bars – barred the way to the Conference final. This time it was 4-2 to the Kazan Men, and the Hawks’ season was over.
Avangard’s best sniper and top scorer in the 2016-17 regular season was forward Nikolai Lemtyugov, with 31 (18+13) points from 52 games. Many expected Anton Burdasov to give Nikolai a run for his money, but Lady Luck was against him – a succession of injuries limited him to just 35 appearances.
The Hawks have always enjoyed a good relationship with the fans, and the club is an enthusiastic participant in off-the-ice activities and charity events. This season was no exception, and the fans will doubtless be treated to many more surprises during the forthcoming campaign.
Expectations for next season are understandably high among the Omsk fans. The team will be led by Andrei Skabelka: the specialist who guided Avangard’s more modest neighbor, Sibir, to a bronze medal place in 2014-15. How high will the Hawks fly in the rapidly approaching tenth season of the KHL Championship?