SKA, Avtomobilist and Amur won the first silverware of the summer, Sun Zehao hopes to shine with Red Star and a new Tretyak is thwarting forwards ...
The summer’s first pre-season tournaments are over and the favorites have tended to do well. In Sochi, SKA powered to victory in the Sochi Hockey Open, winning all four games and finishing three points clear of Russia’s ‘B’ team. SKA’s success came without Pavel Datsyuk, but saw Nail Yakupov get his first goals for the team. Another player who caught the eye in Sochi was Avangard forward Denis Zernov. His 4+3 points made him the leading scorer.
Avtomobilist dominated in Nizhny Novgorod to win the Governor’s Cup without losing a single game. There were promising signs from the team’s high-profile new signings Dan Sexton, Nigel Dawes and Stephane Da Costa, but Andrei Martemyanov was also able to ice an experimental roster in two games without suffering any ill effects on the scoreboard.
Finally in Astana, Martemyanov’s old club, Amur Khabarovsk, won the President of Kazakhstan’s Trophy, thanks to an impressive 40-save performance from new goalie Libor Kasik in the decisive 2-1 victory over Neftekhimik. Barys came third, with the Kazakhstan national team – missing most of its Barys players – coming last of the four teams despite an overtime victory over Barys on Sunday.
The big trade news of the week concerned SKA and CSKA as the Army clubs swapped forwards. Sergei Kalinin switched from Petersburg to Moscow, with Andrei Kuzmenko made the reverse journey. Kuzmenko admitted that he only heard about the trade during the intermission of Russia’s ‘B’ team warm-up game, while both clubs insisted that the deal was a good one for them.
In other transfer news, former Philadelphia Flyer Roman Lyubimov was placed on waivers by CSKA a year after returning to the Moscow club. The forward had 11 (5+6) points in 40 KHL games last season.
Remember when Tretyak was the goalie? Dinamo Riga is hoping those days could be coming back. The Soviet legend’s grandson Maxim Tretyak is on a try-out with the Latvians, and did his chances no harm at all when he stopped two penalty shots in the same period to help his team defeat Dinamo Minsk at the Nizhny Novgorod tournament. Elsewhere, Ivan Nalimov completed a move to Kunlun Red Star after spending last season with Admiral and Salavat Yulaev.
Chinese goalie Sun Zehao is hoping to become his country’s first man between the piping in the KHL. The 23-year-old Red Star prospect has been in Jussi Tapola’s roster throughout the pre-season program and has reportedly impressed in the club’s camps in Latvia and the Czech Republic. As a contender to backstop Team China at the 2022 Olympics, he’s in no doubt about the value of Red Star to Chinese hockey.
“When we played against Pirati Chomutov the other week it was a good chance to check on the progress of our Chinese players,” he said in an exclusive interview with KHL.ru. “We held our own against one of the leading teams from a strong European league.
“Before the Olympics come to Beijing we can be even stronger … But Chinese hockey needs more pro teams so Chinese players get a chance to show what they can do. That’s why it’s so cool that Kunlun Red Star and the KHL have come to China. I’m sure this will start a new stage in our hockey development.”
Due to problems with Arena Omsk, Avangard is forced to play at a different arena this season. After reviewing various options, the team has chosen to relocate to Moscow Region and use Arena Balashikha, the former home of 2010 Gagarin Cup finalist HC MVD. In addition, Avangard will stage a few open-air games in Omsk to ensure that local fans still have a chance to see their heroes in action.
It’s not the first team Arena Balashikha has hosted a team from another city. Following the merger between Dynamo Moscow and MVD, the arena staged several games involving the newly-constituted Muscovite club. But it will be the first full season of KHL action at the venue since MVD’s run to the grand final.