The final day of action in Sochi saw SKA confirm its supremacy throughout the week, while in Nizhny Novgorod fans enjoyed two tight battles as the Governor’s Cup continues.
Kunlun Red Star 2 Russia ‘B’ 4 (1-0, 1-3, 0-1)
Russia’s Olympic hopefuls defeated the organization charged with preparing China’s program for the 2022 Games – but only after allowing Red Star a 2-0 lead.
Kunlun handed a debut to newly-signed goalie Ivan Nalimov and the former Admiral man even collected an assist as power play goals from Ville Lajunen and Patrik Lundh saw the Chinese team take the early initiative.
But the Russian roster hit back. Mikhail Maltsev scored a beauty of an individual effort to reduce the arrears, then a major penalty on Red Star’s Victor Bartley was punished in full when Andrei Svetlakov and Denis Zernov both scored to give their team the lead. Zernov added an empty-net goal to leave Red Star head coach Jussi Tapola frustrated.
“We allowed two goals on the penalty kill and that was the decisive moment of the game,” Tapola added. “But the whole issue with our penalties goes back to our lack of readiness. If players aren’t 100% in the zone, physically and mentally, then anything can happen to you and that includes needless penalties. That’s something we have to work on.”
Russia’s head coach, Oleg Bratash, was satisfied with his day – and his week in Sochi. “It was another really useful game for our youngsters,” he said. “Hopefully the game and the whole tournament will give a boost to their development.”
Russia’s win secured second place in the tournament, ahead of Lokomotiv in third. Red Star, Ak Bars and Sochi all ended with one win apiece.
SKA St. Petersburg 4 Ak Bars Kazan 0 (0-0, 1-0, 3-0)
SKA completed its fourth win from four games in Sochi to collect the first trophy of the season and sound a warning to the rest of the KHL. This concluding game of the tournament was a dress rehearsal for this year’s Opening Cup and the regular-season champion had the better of the Gagarin Cup winner.
The SKA power play made all the difference. Twice, Ilya Vorobyov’s team gained a 5-on-3 advantage, and twice it cashed in. Alexei Byvaltsev and Patrik Hersley produced a goal and an assist apiece either side of the second intermission as some of the Army Men’s special teams begin to take shape. Then Nail Yakupov added a third in the 54th minute and Ilya Kablukov closed out the 4-0 victory.
It was another good day for Magnus Hellberg, who posted his second shut-out in two games for his new team. The Swede blanked his former club Kunlun Red Star in his previous outing and looks ready to push Igor Shestyorkin for the starting role throughout the coming campaign. And as SKA eased to victory, it was hard not to cast an eye over the talent absent from Wednesday’s roster: no Pavel Datsyuk, and none of the youngsters involved with Russia ‘B’ at the same tournament.
Head coach Vorobyov was quietly content with his team’s performance. “I could start to draw conclusions about [new signings] Yakupov and Tokranov but this is only the first pre-season tournament,” he said. “We’re happy with our results and we’ll carry on working. Some of the guys surprised us a bit, but it’s too early to name names.”
Spartak Moscow 3 Dinamo Minsk 4 OT (1-0, 2-1, 0-2, 0-1)
Spartak’s overtime win over Dynamo Moscow yesterday gave the Red-and-Whites a big boost, but it was Dinamo Minsk who ended up on top here despite trailing 0-3 in the second period.
Two goals from Ilya Zubov helped Spartak take control early on, but Ilya Litvinov got one back for Dinamo late in the second stanza and the balance of the game shifted. Late in the play, Quinton Howden put the Belarusians right back in the fight before Teemu Pulkinen took it into overtime. The Finn followed up with the game-winner in the 62nd minute. That secured Dinamo’s first win of the tournament.
For Spartak head coach Vadim Yepanchintsev, it was a reprise of the previous day’s game where Spartak let slip a 3-1 lead before winning in overtime. Once again, he reminded his players that they need to play the full 60 minutes. “It’s good that this is happening in pre-season,” he added. “The things that are not working now can be put right before we get into the regular season.”
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 3 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 4 SO (0-1, 2-1, 1-1, 0-0, 0-1)
Two goals from Francis Pare helped Avtomobilist strengthen its grip on top spot in Nizhny Novgorod with a third consecutive victory. But it took a late tying goal from Denis Bodrov to send this game into overtime and ultimately a shoot-out that Alexander Kucheryavenko settled in Avto’s favor.
Mathew Bodie’s 56th-minute goal seemed to have earned Torpedo a victory after the host’s surprise 0-1 loss against Dinamo Riga, but Bodrov changed all that as the Motormen rolled out in front of the pack.
Torpedo goalscorer Danil Veryayev said: “The game was OK but those penalties towards the end disrupted our play. It’s a pity that we lost, but it’s not the end of the world. We’ll keep on working.”
The tournament continues tomorrow with Avtomobilist playing Dinamo Riga before Dynamo Moscow takes on Dinamo Minsk.