Andy Potts,
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SKA St. Petersburg 3 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 1 (1-0, 1-1, 1-0)

(SKA wins the series 4-1)

SKA continued its impressive march through this year’s playoffs, moving into the Western Conference final after completing a 4-1 series win over Lokomotiv. The defending champion has now got through two rounds of post-season action for the loss of just one game – a demonstration of efficient progress that recalls last season’s playoffs.

Photo: 22.03.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Playoffs. SKA (St.Petersburg) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

On the night, a goal in each period proved sufficient to defeat Loko. Ilya Kovalchuk opened the scoring, Vadim Shipachyov reinstated the lead after Ivan Lekomtsev put Lokomotiv back in the game, and Ilya Kablukov made it 3-1 early in the third. Kovalchuk and Shipachyov also collected assists on each other’s goals

SKA told the lead in the 14th minute, with Kovalchuk claiming the goal. His point shot took a looping deflection off Pavel Kraskovsky before getting tangled in Jakub Nakladal’s skates and squirming into the net. Goalie Alexander Sudnitsin desperately tried to scoop it away with his stick but the puck remained agonizingly out of reach.

Although beaten on that occasion, Sudnitsin was his team’s key player in the opening frame. The goalie made 18 saves as SKA unleashed a fusillade of shots on his net; at the other end Lokomotiv could only test Mikko Koskinen twice in the early exchanges before it was forced into a big defensive effort.

However, SKA could not extend its lead and had cause to regret its profligacy moments into the second frame. Lokomotiv drew level with its first attack of the period, Ivan Lekomtsev finding the net from the top of the circle with a wrist shot; Koskinen’s view was obscured by his defenseman, Anton Belov, and he lost the flight of the puck as it flashed over his shoulder.

That was not the cue for an increased Lokomotiv offensive presence. Indeed, although the Railwaymen generated four shots in the middle frame, the visitor spent a paltry 46 seconds in possession in attacking areas. SKA, meanwhile, kept up the pressure and went back in front in the 29th minute. Artyom Zub released Kovalchuk into an attacking position with a glorious long pass, but this time the forward was unable to get into a shooting position and instead fed Shipachyov. The former Severstal man, making his 300th SKA appearance in tonight’s game, fired home with the help of a deflection of a defenseman’s skates; SKA had the lead once more.

The game was taken away from Lokomotiv early in the third when SKA made it 3-1. Evgeny Ketov chased the puck down behind the net, overpowering Nikita Cherepanov and picking out a pass for Kablukov. A one-timer from the face-off spot did the rest, and the outcome was all but certain. Loko pushed forward in one final charge, seeking to save the game and the series, but could find no way past Koskinen.

Andy Potts,
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