The Sochi Hockey Open has already established itself among the key pre-season tournaments. Not only does it offer a chance to check on the progress of several teams a month before the start of the KHL season, it also boasts a wide-ranging program of entertainment and makes a big effort to promote the game in this southern city.
This year, for example, many spectators found the tournament began as their aircraft made its descent into the city. Cabin crew on flights into Sochi handed out vouchers that could be exchanged for free tickets to any day’s play in the Olympic complex. This came as a shock to many passengers, for whom the words ‘Sochi’ and ‘August’ had little to do with ‘hockey’. Even so, the opening game attracted just over 2,000 fans to the Shaiba Arena – even though the host team was not playing until the evening.
Craig MacTavish’s first roster behind the Lokomotiv was far from fully stocked with the club’s new arrivals. But there was a place for ex Ak Bars forward Anton Lander and Canadian right-winger Ty Rattie. Alexander Svitov centered the second line, but Stephane Da Costa did not feature on Saturday.
Avangard also started out without a full-strength line-up. Forward Sven Andrighetto is flying to Sochi at the start of next week, while Slava Voynov and one of last season’s leaders, Ilya Mikheyev, were also out of the roster. Hartley’s newcomers were limited to Alexei Potapov (first line), Valentin Pyanov and Nikita Shcherbak (second line) and Pavel Dedunov and Evgeny Grachyov (third line).
It didn’t take long for Rattie and Lander to show a good understanding, combining for an excellent power play goal early on. It was clear that MacTavish had been working on Loko’s special teams: his players were a constant threat to Igor Bobkov’s net. The second goal came at equal strength, but was in fact just seconds after an Avangard player left the box. At the other end, the defense was solid, limiting Avangard to shots at Ilya Konovalov from the blue line.
However, the Hawks looked physically stronger at the start of the tournament and they played with far greater intensity in the third period. Loko had three spells on the PK and Sergei Shirokov converted one of those opportunities into a goal as Shcherbak collected his first point in his new colors. Hartley went all out to save the game but there was no way back.
Bob Hartley, head coach, Avangard
It was a good game overall, congratulations to Lokomotiv on their win. We had several new players, there were some good things from individuals and some good things tactically, but right now not everything is working. That’s normal for pre-season.
What advice would I give Craig MacTavish about the KHL? He’s got a wealth of experience from working in the NHL, but when we meet here we enjoy a different style of play.
Craig MacTavish, head coach, Lokomotiv
That was a typical pre-season game. Both teams tried hard and played some decent hockey. Da Costa couldn’t play today because of an injury, but it’s nothing serious. We think he’ll only miss a couple of games.
How do I rate Anton Lander’s move to Lokomotiv? He’s a great forward, I know him from my time at Edmonton. Anton battles in every game, and he has skills.
Ty Rattie, forward, Lokomotiv
The main thing was that we won today. I was a bit nervous before my first game but it all went OK. It’s only an exhibition game but right away I noticed the bigger ice. The chance to work with Craig MacTavish was a big reason behind my coming to the KHL. But the most important thing is that the hockey here is really great and I want to play at a high level. I’m pleased to get a goal in my first game, thanks to Anton Lander who gave me a great pass. We’ve been working a lot on our power play.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3 Avangard Omsk 1 (1-0, 2-0, 0-1)
Goals: Rattie (Kronwall, Lander PP 5:02); 2-0 Afanasiev (Apalkov, Osipov 29:45); 3-0 Averin (Lander 35:16); 3-1 Shirokov (Chudinov, Shcherbak PP 50:55).
Goalies: Konovalov - Bobkov
Sochi entertained Dinamo Riga in the evening game and the home team took to the ice amid all the fanfare of the tournament’s opening ceremony. In contrast with the other teams at the event, the Latvians have already played a couple of warm-up games, giving opportunities for many new signings to get a feel for life with their new club.
Following the departure of experienced goalie Konstantin Barulin, Sochi needs a new leader between the piping. However, neither of the newly signed netminders Ilya Proskuryakov or Nikita Bogdanov featured in today’s game. Among the skaters there were plenty of new faces: a first line of Morgan Ellis, Malte Stromwall and Ilya Krikunov, plus debuts for Simon Bertilsson, Anatoly Yelizarov and Ilya Nazarevich.
A rather bland first period highlighted the importance of scoring the first goal and it was Dinamo that eventually went in front early in the second frame when Emils Gegeris finished off a slick passing move. The goal brought the game to life, with the home team upping the tempo in a bid to level the scores. However, a more aggressive approach did not produce more pressing in center, but a rash of penalties. Dinamo had a 5-on-3 advantage for almost two minutes but Girts Ankipans’ men still need to work on their power play: apart from a couple of point shots, there was little to trouble the home goal.
Sochi’s PP wasn’t much better, but shortly after a power play came to an end the home team tied it up through Oleg Pogorishny. That took us to a shoot-out and, after 18 attempts, Dmitry Lugin gave Sochi the verdict.
Girts Ankipans, head coach, Dinamo Riga
For the first game at this level, both teams played some reasonable hockey. There was a good tempo but at times the players’ enthusiam got the better of them. There were lots of fights.
Sergei Zubov, head coach, HC Sochi
The game turned out quite lively, I enjoyed the third period most of all. We created some presentable chances and I was pleased that we withstood that 3-on-5 situation in the second period. All our goalies will get a chance in this tournament; right now we have four on the team.
Ilya Krikunov, forward, HC Sochi
Both teams played quite well today and I’m happy that we got the win. It was a pity that we couldn’t do it earlier and had to go all the way to a shoot-out. It feels good to be back at Sochi, I enjoy the atmosphere here and it really feels like I’ve come back home.
Lauris Darzins, forward, Dinamo Riga
That’s the second time we’ve had a long shoot-out in this pre-season. We used a lot of guys who don’t usually get a shot and the coaches got to see what everyone can do. It could be that last season it was only our lack of fortune in shoot-outs that cost us a playoff place. It’s disappointing that we couldn’t we today, we’ll have to try something different. But the main thing is to be in the right place to start the new season.
HC Sochi 2 Dinamo Riga 1 SO (0-0, 0-1, 1-0, 0-0, 1-0)
Goals: 0-1 Gegeris (Gillies, Marenis 23:14); 1-1 Pogorishny (Shmelyov, Kapustin 41:54); 2-1 Kapustin (shoot-out)
Goalies: Shikin - Gudlevskis
Saturday saw the start of the pre-season action for Torpedo and Dynamo Moscow. Both teams were missing their leading players, but Vladimir Krikunov was able to welcome back Maxim Afinogenov after he missed almost all of Dynamo’s season through injury last time. Torpedo’s coaches handed debuts to giant goalie Anders Lindback and forward Jordan Schroeder, and also deployed a fourth line of forwards born in the 21st century.
In his first game, Schroeder demonstrated that he could score and create, collecting two points in this game and deciding the outcome. The Muscovites tried to fight back but fell short. The teams will meet again next week in the Governor’s Cup in Nizhny Novgorod.
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 Dynamo Moscow 1 (1-0, 0-0, 1-1)
Goals: 1-0 Schroeder (Alyayev 10:18); 2-0 Shenfeld (Schroeder, Bocharov 40:22); 2-1 Muranov Kruglov 52:30)
Goalies: Lindback, Tikhomirov – Bocharov, Kuznetsov
Traktor, currently on camp in Slovenia, took on Hungarian opposition in its first pre-season game. Peteris Skudra was able to use all his new imports and they formed the first line. Jesse Virtanen played on defense, while forwards Tomas Hyka and Lukas Sedlak combined with Christian Thomas. Sergei Mylnikov stood between the piping.
Skudra’s team had few problems with its rival from Budapest, jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Andrei Yerofeyev and Sergei Tereshchenko. Hyka’s first goal for his new club made it 3-1 and the game ended in a comfortable win for Skudra in his first game in charge.
Traktor Chelyabinsk 6 MAK Budapest 2 (2-0, 3-2, 1-0)
Traktor goals: 1-0 Yerofeyev (Fateyev, Karlin); 2-0 Tereshchenko (Hyka, Sedlak); 3-0 Tertyshny (Borodkin, Thomas); 4-1 Hyka (Virtanen); 5-1 Borodkin (Tertyshny, Podkorytov); 6-2 Thomas.