It’s the second time a KHL team has gone to England this year, with Great Britain looking for top class opposition before playing in the IIHF’s Elite Pool for the first time in 25 years. Back in February, Dinamo Riga went to Coventry for a game that captured the imagination of local fans and Latvian expats alike. GB won in front of a boisterous sell-out crowd and there are high hopes for similar excitement at the weekend.
GB captain Jonathan Phillips told Ice Hockey UK: “I expect Torpedo to be formidable opposition, just like Riga were back in February. It was a fantastic night against Riga in Coventry and I am sure these two games will be no different.
“These games will be perfect preparations for what lies ahead of us in Slovakia next month.”
Torpedo’s roster for the games has an unfamiliar look. The team is without its imports and is also missing the likes of Damir Zhafyarov, away on international duty. It’s a chance for youngsters to impress – guys like goalie Andrei Tikhomirov and D-man Dmitry Rodionychev can build on breakthrough seasons in the senior game while young forwards Donat Stalnov and Mikhail Yesayan, both of whom made their KHL debuts last season, are also in the party.
There’s plenty of experience too. Dmitry Semin brings more than 600 KHL appearances, Anton Shenfeld was part of Metallurg’s 2014 Gagarin Cup-winning roster. Long-serving Vladimir Galuzin has represented Torpedo in every season in the KHL’s history and former Russian international Mikhail Varnakov has two KHL All-Star Game appearances in a career that his included spells with Ak Bars, Dynamo Moscow and SKA as well as 21 international call-ups for Russia.
For GB, head coach Pete Russell has confirmed his 25-man party for Slovakia following last weekend’s exhibition games against Italy and Hungary. The Torpedo meetings will be his roster’s send-off before flying to Kosice next week.