It’s all about the coaching. For two teams, it’s already time to make changes. Dinamo Riga and Ugra both replaced their head coaches during the week; Ugra immediately reaped the benefits with a first win in nine games. Meanwhile, at in-form Neftekhimik, Andrei Nazarov reached a milestone with his 500th KHL game as head coach. He’s the first to reach that mark – no mean achievement alongside some of the distinguished and experienced coaches working in the competition.
Stanislav Galimov, Patrik Hersley, Nigel Dawes and Eeli Tolvanen picked up September’s player-of-the-month awards. Torpedo’s Galimov was the top goalie of the month, finishing with a run of 167 minutes without allowing a goal. Finnish teen star Eeli Tolvanen took the rookie of the month award after the 18-year-old hit two hat-tricks in the early stages of the season and totalled 14 points for Jokerit.
Hersley (SKA) and Dawes (Barys) also showed impressive productivity. Defenseman Hersley picked up 17 (9+8) points from 12 appearances, including a run of six consecutive games with a goal. That’s the kind of scoring form that could lift him beyond most forwards. Dawes, however, outstripped that: he fired 15 goals and added five assists on his way to the monthly prize. His treble against Salavat Yulaev on Sep. 5 also made him the KHL’s all-time leader in hat-tricks.
News of the first coaching casualties arrived this week. On Friday, Ugra announced the departure of head coach Igor Zakharkin and his colleagues. Zakharkin’s spell in Khanty-Mansiysk was brief: he arrived from Salavat Yulaev over the summer, but took charge of just 14 games.
His replacement is Anatoly Yemelin, who has previously served behind the bench at Avtomobilist and Salavat Yulaev. Ironically, his tenure in Ufa was ended at a similar stage of the season in 2015; his replacement? Igor Zakharkin. Yemelin got off to a winning start in his first game on Saturday, edging an overtime verdict at HC Sochi thanks to a Pavel Varfolomeyev goal.
One day earlier, Dinamo Riga dismissed Sandis Ozolins as head coach following a run of 12 consecutive losses. Ozolins, a legend of Latvian hockey as a player, joined the team’s coaching staff last season and was promoted to the top job over the summer, but found it difficult to translate his on-ice genius into a successful coaching program. He is replaced by Girts Ankipans, who steps up from the coaching staff. His first game in charge comes on Tuesday, away to CSKA.
There’s no shortage of great coaches working in the KHL, and no shortage of experience among the men standing behind the benches from Bratislava to Beijing. But the man whose taken charge of most games since the league began in 2008 might not be the first name to spring to mind.
Andrei Nazarov, currently in charge of Neftekhimik, recently became the first head coach to reach 500 games in the KHL. He was already in place at Traktor in the final season of Russian Superleague hockey and spent two further seasons there before going on to Vityaz, Severstal, Donbass, Barys (twice), SKA and now Neftekhimik. Along the way, he helped to nurture the talents of Vadim Shipachyov, Artemy Panarin and Evgeny Dadonov.
Nazarov is not the only coach who has been active in the KHL since its start. Among his opponents in that first season, we can find Oleg Znarok, Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, Milos Riha and Vladimir Krikunov. However, each of those four have had relatively extended periods away from the league, on international duty or fulfilling different roles. As a result, Nazarov, still only 43, is currently out on his own.
The IIHF Semi-Annual Congress took place in Marbella, Spain and approved a set of rule changes. JHL executive director Alexei Morozov was among the guests of the Congress. He presented the Junior club world cup (JCWC) 2018 project and discussed potential foreign teams participation in the tournament.
2018 Junior Club World Cup will be held in the capital of XXII Winter Olympics in cooperation with Educational Center for Gifted Children Sirius.
SKA-1946 from Saint-Petersburg kept the lead in Western conference despite two shootout losses to Almaz. In the Eastern conference Mamonty Yyugry returned to the top as they won all three games last week scoring 15 goals with only 1 allowed.
Best goaltender of the last week Conrad Molder from Kunlun Red Star Junior picked up an assist in the match against Chaika. Molder was a part of a winning goal combination in the third period.
Speaking of Kunlun, Pavel Krutiy scored the first hat-trick in the history of the franchise. This happened in the second match against Chaika. Chinese team won 3:5.
Top players of the week:
Top players of the month:
With three weeks of the 2017-18 WHL Championship behind us, the teams have played 4 games each and we have reached the first break in the season schedule, in which many of the players will be on national team duty.
Agidel of Ufa lead the current standings, with 3 victories and an impressive goal differential of 25-8.
Skif (Nizhny Novgorod) occupies second place with Tornado (Moscow Region) just behind in third.
It is an Agidel player, forward Olga Sosina, who leads the Top Scorers rankings with 11 (3+8) points, and her impressive haul includes a hat-trick against SKSO (Sverdlovsk Region).
Sosina's Agidel team-mate and captain, Ekaterina Lebedeva, is the WHL's current Top Sniper with 6 goals, four of which she struck in one game.
Maria Pechnikova has the League's highest +/- rating so far, having already reached the +10 mark.
The stand-out goaltender is currently Valeria Merkusheva of Dynamo Saint Peterburg, who has one shutout and a goals against average of 1.51.
The WHL returns to action on the 26th and 27th of October with games in Saint Petersburg and Krasnoyarsk, when Dynamo welcomes Agidel and Biryusa faces off against SKSO (Sverdlovsk Region).
This week’s big talking point revolves around SKA’s winning streak. Oleg Znarok’s team currently has 16 successive victories; if it prevails in its next three outings, it will set a new KHL record of 19 consecutive wins. It won’t be easy: Monday and Wednesday bring tricky away engagements at Lokomotiv and Salavat Yulaev before Friday’s potential red-letter day at home to Sibir.