Traktor Chelyabinsk 4 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 1 (1-0, 1-1, 2-0)

(Traktor leads the series 2-0)

For the second game in a row, Traktor’s game-winner was a product of its youth system. After Vitaly Kravtsov settled yesterday’s meeting in overtime, 20-year-old Marsel Sholokhov got the winner here.

Photo: 05.03.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Playoffs. Traktor (Chelyabinsk) - Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)

Sholokhov is something of a slow-burner: 30 appearances in 2016-17 did not yield a single point (admittedly, from limited game time), but he took advantage of his opportunities in the second-tier VHL to grab his first goals in adult hockey. His role with Chelmet also netted him a call-up to the World Juniors over the New Year, where he scored twice in five games for Russia. Today brought his first playoff goal in the KHL, and it ended up being the game-winner.

It was something of a poacher’s effort, reacting fastest on the slot after Yury Petrov’s effort was blocked by Ilya Ezhov and giving Traktor a 2-0 lead after 25 minutes. Earlier, Richard Gynge had opened the scoring after 80 seconds, and Neftekhimik never really recovered. Oleg Piganovich got one back on the power play late in the middle frame, deflecting Erik Gustafsson’s shot past Pavel Francouz, but that was as good as it got for the visitor.

The third period saw Traktor extend its lead and ease to victory. Gynge combined with Linus Videll to set up a blistering counter-attack that ended with Videll making it 3-1, then Alexei Kruchinin found the empty net to wrap up the scoring.

Neftekhimik heads home for games three and four in this series, but knows that it has to find answers not just to Traktor’s experienced players, but also a response to its emerging talents.

Andy Potts,
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