Andy Potts,
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A dramatic final day of action in the Eastern Conference went down to the wire. First, Amur lost in a shoot-out at Admiral, only to learn that it had secured a playoff place after Sibir went down at home to Traktor. That left Avangard needing a win in regulation time to make the top eight – and after trailing 1-3 at Barys, the Hawks got there with 60 seconds to spare.

The Eastern Conference playoffs begin on Sunday. The pairs are: Ak Bars vs Amur, Salavat Yulaev vs Avangard, Traktor vs Neftekhimik and Avtomobilist vs Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

Last-gasp Koshelev goal saves Avangard

Barys Astana 3 Avangard Omsk 4 (3-1, 0-2, 0-1)

Avangard doesn’t like doing things the easy way. Going into this game, the Omsk team could have been out of playoff contention; instead, defeats for Amur and Sibir kept the dream alive. However, it took a goal with 60 seconds left on the clock for Semyon Koshelev to snatch a dramatic comeback victory and take advantage of the stumbles of others.

The 22-year-old potted his eighth goal of the season and will rarely score one quite as important as his late strike salvaged Avangard’s campaign following a thrilling recovery from 1-3 down.

Admittedly, it all began so well. Kirill Semyonov put Avangard ahead with a fourth-minute power play goal. Barys, already eliminated, had nothing to play for, and it seemed like plain sailing for German Titov’s team. But the Kazakhs were eager to end their season on a high and hit back to lead at the first intermission. Alexei Maklyukov, Ivan Kuchin and Yaroslav Yevdokimov did the damage; Avangard was on the brink of missing the playoffs.

Then came the rally. Daniil Faizullin reduced the arrears, the video review denied Nigel Dawes a fourth goal for Barys and Semyonov got his second of the game to tie the scores. In a barnstorming final frame, Avangard outshot Barys 13-4, but had to wait until late before making the top eight.

Photo: 01.03.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Barys (Astana) - Avangard (Omsk region)

Sibir stumbles at the last

Sibir Novosibirsk 1 Traktor Chelyabinsk 4 (0-2, 1-0, 0-2)

Sibir suffered only its fourth loss in 17 games under head coach Vladimir Yurzinov – but it proved fatal to the team’s hopes of returning to the playoffs after missing out last year.

Any kind of result – even an overtime loss – would have been sufficient to put the Siberians into post season, but Traktor seized control of the game in the opening stages and Sibir never recovered. Alexei Kruchinin and Vitaly Kravtsov helped the visitors jump to a 2-0 lead inside eight minutes, and the score at the first intermission was more firmly in Traktor’s favor than the balance of play might suggest.

Rok Ticar pulled one back on the power play early in the second, and Sibir’s hopes were alive once more. But Pavel Francouz was in impressive form for the visitor and he kept Traktor’s lead intact. Paul Szczechura made it 3-1 early in the final frame and, after Sibir withdrew goalie Alexei Krasikov in the 57th minute, Artyom Penkovsky wrapped it up with an empty-netter.

Yurzinov, who replaced Pavel Zubov in early December, was left to contend with his disappointment; Traktor claims third place in the East and advances to face Neftekhimik in the opening round of the playoffs.

Amur advances despite defeat

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

Amur is in the KHL playoffs for only the second time, despite losing out in a shoot-out at Admiral.

Konstantin Glazachev’s goal midway through the first period threatened to sink Amur, but Michal Jordan tied the scores in the second frame. Home goalie Nikita Serebryakov performed strongly in the Admiral net to keep the scores level, and he went on to frustrate Amur in the shoot-out.

Serebryakov denied all five attempts from the visitor as Vadim Pereskokov claimed the winning goal. That left Amur with an anxious wait for the results from Novosibirsk and Astana, but the team could celebrate once word arrived that Sibir had lost and Andrei Martemyanov’s team was into the playoffs.

“We showed great strength getting into the playoffs, and we can compete with the most serious of opponents,” said the head coach.

Derby delight for Salavat Yulaev

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 4 Ak Bars Kazan 2 (2-0, 1-2, 1-0)

The latest instalment of the ‘Green Derby’ went Salavat Yulaev’s way as second held the edge over first in the Eastern Conference.

The home team took control in the first period, with goals from Maxim Goncharov and Ilya Zubov opening a 2-0 lead. Linus Omark, who signed a new contract with the Ufa team, chipped in with two assists.

But Ak Bars hit back to tie the game midway through the second period. Jiri Sekac’s power play strike reduced the deficit before Artyom Lukoyanov levelled the scores. Parity was short-lived, though, as Vyacheslav Solodukhin’s 34th minute marker put the host back in front.

There was still time for Omark to complete a hat-trick of assists as Anton Burdasov’s power play goal wrapped up the win.

Avto gets home advantage for playoffs

Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk 0 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 (0-0, 0-2, 0-1)

There was relatively little riding on the outcome of this game but Avtomobilist’s victory ensured the Ural team will start its post season at home after pipping Metallurg to fourth place.

After a goalless first period, Anatoly Golyshev broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute, and Ilya Krikunov doubled the lead soon afterwards. Andrei Obidin added a third, and goalie Vladimir Sokhatsky made 27 saves for his shut-out.

Magnitka rallies to end season with a win

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2 (0-1, 1-1, 2-0)

Last season’s runner-up, Metallurg, finished its regular season with a victory after recovering from 0-2 down at home to Neftekhimik.

Dennis Everberg and Nikita Filatov put the visitor ahead with goals in the first two periods, but Matt Ellison brought the home team back in contention in the 34th minute.

Evgeny Timkin tied it up early in the third, and Denis Kokarev got the decider with a couple of minutes left. Magnitka wraps up its campaign with a win to go into the playoffs on a high; Neftekhimik has lost twice since the end of the Olympics.

Sochi finishes with a win

Lada Togliatti 2 HC Sochi 3 (1-2, 1-1, 0-0)

Sochi finished its regular season campaign with victory to set up a playoff match-up with Jokerit. Artyom Tomilin’s goal late in the second period proved decisive at Lada, which finishes the season second from last in the Eastern Conference.

This game started in explosive fashion: Kirill Kapustin gave Lada the lead in the third minute, but his power play goal was cancelled out by Yegor Morozov just 31 seconds later. Eric O’Dell put Sochi ahead before the first intermission.

Midway through the game, Shane Harper tied the scores at 2-2. However, Tomilin delivered the winning goal in the 40th minute before a goalless third period.

Andy Potts,
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Related clubs

Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg) Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg)
Admiral (Vladivostok) Admiral (Vladivostok)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Amur (Khabarovsk) Amur (Khabarovsk)
Barys (Nur-Sultan) Barys (Nur-Sultan)
Lada (Togliatti) Lada (Togliatti)
Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk) Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)
Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
Sibir (Novosibirsk Region) Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)
HC Sochi (Sochi) HC Sochi (Sochi)
Traktor (Chelyabinsk) Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
Ugra (Khanty-Mansiysk) Ugra (Khanty-Mansiysk)
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