Andy Potts,
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The day’s big stories all came in the Eastern Conference. Leader Ak Bars won the latest ‘Green Derby’ against Salavat Yulaev 2-1, thanks to Danis Zaripov. Second-placed Avangard suffered a shocking 1-5 home drubbing against struggling Ugra. After a week of lively transfer activity, Nick Schaus enjoyed a successful debut for Kunlun, opening the scoring in a 3-1 victory over Dinamo Riga.

Sabolic at the double

Admiral Vladivostok 4 Amur Khabarovsk 2 (0-0, 2-1, 2-1)

Amur missed a chance to move into a playoff place when it lost out in the Far East derby against Admiral.

The home team was led by Robert Sabolic, with the Slovenian international picking up three points to win this match-up and avenge Admiral’s 1-2 loss in Khabarovsk before the international break. That international schedule saw Amur’s Czech duo of Jan Kolar and Tomas Zohorna face an epic journey from Moscow to Vladivostok after playing for their country on Sunday afternoon, and the duo found themselves in the penalty box as Dmitry Sayustov gave Admiral the lead early in the middle frame. Georgy Berdyukov tied it up, but another Amur penalty saw Sabolic assist on Viktor Alexandrov’s 2-1 goal.

Sayustov’s evening went downhill early in the third when he was ejected for tripping, but the major penalty produced a goal at each end. Sabolic got a shorthanded score to make it 3-1 before Alexandre Picard pulled on back for Amur. A second Sabolic goal, this one into the empty net, wrapped up the win.

Schaus makes an instant impact

Kunlun Red Star 3 Dinamo Riga 1 (2-0, 0-0, 1-1)

Nick Schaus only moved from Metallurg to Red Star last week, with the American defenseman heading East as part of the deal that took Wojtek Wolski the other way. But just five minutes into his Kunlun debut, the 31-year-old had his first goal for his new club.

Kunlun’s day soon got better as Cory Kane added a second in the 11th minute, chasing Janis Kalnins from the visitor’s net. Dinamo got one back early in the third thanks to Miks Indrasis, but there was no way back. Lucas Lockhart scored his first goal for Kunlun, assisted by another debutant, Kirill Lebedev, as the home team made it two wins in four.

Ugra stuns Avangard

Avangard Omsk 1 Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk 5 (1-0, 0-2, 0-3)

High-flying Avangard was shocked by struggling Ugra, with the visitor romping to an emphatic victory. After nine consecutive defeats, the Mammoths finally grabbed a shoot-out win against Avtomobilist before the international break, but this was still utterly unexpected.

Avangard seemed to be in control after taking a first period lead through Kirill Semyonov, but then it all went wrong. Artyom Mikheyev tied it up on the power play early in the second, and Artyom Bulyansky gave Ugra the lead late in that frame. All that came against a background of relentless Avangard pressure, with 22 shots at Ilya Proskuryakov’s net but no further goals.

Into the final frame, and Pavel Varfolomeyev took the game out of the home team’s reach. He scored the 3-1 goal and assisted as Anton Korolyov made it four in the 44th minute. Replacement goalie Dominik Furch, who may have hoped for a rest after his international exploits at the weekend, played the remainder of the game and allowed 18-year-old rookie Stepan Grymzin his first ever KHL goal.

Photo: 18.12.17. KHL Championship 2017/18. Avangard (Omsk region) - Yugra (Khanty-Mansiysk)

Zaripov gets controversial winner

Ak Bars Kazan 2 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1 (1-0, 1-1, 0-0)

Danis Zaripov got the winning goal in the latest instalment of the ‘Green Derby’ – but there was controversy about his strike.

Zaripov found the net seconds before the end of the middle frame, producing a superb piece of skill to turn away from a defenseman and squeeze a shot through traffic and into the net via a deflection. However, his team-mate Stanislav Galiyev appeared to be standing on the paintwork as the shot came in. Salavat Yulaev called for a video review, but the referees upheld their original verdict and awarded the goal. After the game, visiting head coach Erkka Westerlund admitted that he did not understand why the officials had allowed the goal. The decision meant that, for the second game running, Zaripov claimed the game winner.

The goal, and the timing of it, was hugely frustrating for Salavat. The team had recovered from allowing Rob Klinkhammer to put Ak Bars in front early on, and drew level thanks to a power play goal from Teemu Hartikainen. But in the final frame, Ak Bars shut down the game and defended its lead well. The teams managed just nine shots on goal between them, giving little chance for Westerlund’s team to tie the scores.

Photo: 18.12.17. KHL Championship 2017/18. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)

Galimov sets up Neftekhimik win

HC Sochi 0 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2 (0-1, 0-0, 0-1)

Emil Galimov was the architect as Neftekhimik maintained its push at the top of the Eastern Conference. The 26-year-old former Lokomotiv forward assisted on both his team’s goals, while Ilya Ezhov made 21 saves to stop Sochi.

For Andrei Nazarov’s team, which welcomed new arrival Dennis Everberg following his return from team Sweden, it was another example of how to find ways to win. There was little enough between the teams, but when Konstantin Barulin padded away a Galimov shot in the 12th minute, Dan Sexton was on hand to snaffle the rebound. The second goal followed a similar pattern, with Ildar Shiksatdarov producing a neat finish after another Galimov effort was blocked. In between, neither team could find a way through: Neftekhimik remains on course for a top-four finish this season.

Regin’s late goal saves Jokerit

Jokerit Helsinki 4 Lada Togliatti 3 SO (2-0, 0-0, 1-3, 0-0, 1-0)

Jokerit, missing star forward Eeli Tolvanen due to the upcoming World Junior Championship, almost suffered a shock defeat against struggling Lada. A Peter Regin goal 26 seconds from the end of regulation saved the Finns from missing out completely, before Olli Palola won it in a shoot-out.

Earlier, things looked good for Jokerit. Niclas Jensen opened the scoring after 14 seconds, and Sami Lepisto added a second midway through the first period.

But Lada hit back in the third to stand on the brink of an unexpected win. Denis Zernov scored twice, either side of Alexei Mastryukov’s marker, before Regin stuffed home the puck in an almighty scramble to save the day for the host.

Barys battles past Bratislava

Slovan Bratislava 0 Barys Astana 2 (0-0, 0-0, 0-2)

Barys picked up a morale-boosting win to arrest its recent slump and climb to sixth in the Eastern Conference.

It took a long time to find a way past a stubborn Slovan team, with goalies Jakub Stepanek and Henrik Karlsson on top for much of the game. Karlsson finished with 28 saves; Stepanek was beaten just once, midway through the third period.

That goal came from Dmitry Shevchenko, reacting fastest to Maxim Semyonov’s shot and potting his third of the season. An empty-net effort from Kevin Dallman sealed the win in the last minute.

Andy Potts,
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Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
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