SKA and CSKA claim their Divisional titles, Astana gets set for a Week of Hockey Stars, Bergstrom chases a record scoring streak.
Sunday’s games confirmed the two Divisional champions from the Western Conference. Not surprisingly, the prizes went to SKA and CSKA, two teams that have been out in front for the whole of the season. SKA claimed the Bobrov Division crown thanks to a 5-0 victory at Lada, moving it to 120 points. Once Jokerit failed to beat Metallurg later in the day, the Finns were no longer able to match that tally.
Then, in the last game of the day, it was CSKA’s turn. A 3-0 victory at Slovan secured top spot in the Tarasov Division ahead of Lokomotiv, which needed overtime to beat Dynamo. CSKA still has an eight-point gap to make up on SKA if it is to finish top of the pile in regular season for the fourth season in a row. However, no Gagarin Cup winner has ever finished first in regular season … so superstitious CSKA fans may be hoping this is a race their team is unable to win!
Vadim Shipachyov recently potted his 500th career point in the Russian championship when his goal and assist on Friday helped SKA to victory at Traktor. The former Severstal man has been in fine form this season, despite the disruption of that unhappy spell at Las Vegas, producing 19 (8+11) points in his first 15 games back in Russia.
Now he has another target firmly in his sights, needing two more points to reach 300 for SKA. Team-mate Nikita Gusev is also close to a milestone: he’s two away from 200 points for the Petersburg club.
Sibir’s 4-7 loss at Kunlun Red Star put a damper on the club’s playoff push … but another assist for Swedish forward Alexander Bergstrom stretched his winning streak to 13 games. If he can contribute in his next four appearances, starting Thursday at home to Avangard, he will match Alexander Radulov’s KHL record scoring streak of 17 games.
Not that Bergstrom is counting on it: “It will be really hard to beat that record, we’re not a high-scoring team,” he said in an exclusive interview with KHL.ru. “I don’t really pay much attention to my stats, I just want to help the team win.
“Maybe in the minor leagues I had runs where I might score in nine games running, but it’s great that I can do this now to help our team when we are battling for the playoffs.”
This week culminates in the All-Star Game in Astana, with the Kazakh capital set to host a glittering celebration of the best in the KHL – and beyond. Just like last year’s big event in Ufa, the week also features the pick of the young talent in Russia’s youth league - remember SKA’s Andrei Altybarmakyan showing the big names how it’s done in last year’s final? - and the top talents in the Women’s Hockey League, who will get the festivities started on Wednesday.
And the rise of Russia’s women continues on the international scene. The IIHF Women’s U18 World Championship got underway in Dmitrov on Saturday with a Russian team drawing heavily on the prospects from the WHL. And, in a sensational opening match-up, Russia downed Canada 3-2, defeating the North American superpower for the first time ever in this competition. The tournament has attracted capacity crowds to the home of Tornado Moscow Region, and – like our own Women’s All-Star Game – is helping to further promote the growth of women’s hockey across Russia and the countries of the KHL.