Andy Potts Andy Potts
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SKA began its season with an impressive 3-1 victory at Metallurg – and 20-year-old goalie Pyotr Kochetkov got the win in his first game for the club after joining from HC Sochi. Elsewhere, Oleg Znarok had a tough time in his first outing as Spartak head coach; his game at Dinamo Riga ended in an overtime loss. Avtomobilist also faced a fight, coming from 0-2 to beat Severstal on overtime, Dynamo Moscow defeated Torpedo and there were road wins for Vityaz and Neftekhimik at Traktor and Dinamo Minsk.

Motormen come from behind to beat Severstal

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 Severstal Cherepovets 2 OT (0-1, 1-1, 1-0, 1-0)

Goals: 0-1 E Bodrov (Alexeyev, Morozov 4:11); 0-2 Geraskin (Trubachyov, Vovchenko 20:34); 1-2 Holland (Khripunov 23:48); 2-2 D Bodrov (Macek, Litovchenko 46:15); 3-2 Litovchenko (61:55)

Goalies: Kovar – Podyapolsky

Highly-fancied Avtomobilist, widely expected to be among the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season, faced a stiff test against Western Conference outsider Severstal. Although the home team won through in the end, it had to claw back a 0-2 deficit before taking the verdict in overtime.

Avto went into the game without two key players: Anatoly Golyshev, one of its leading scorers last season, is injured and summer signing Pavel Datsyuk is feeling his way to full fitness after missing out on all the pre-season action. Their absence was expected, but Andrei Martemyanov’s team still struggled in the early stages. Evgeny Bodrov put Severstal ahead in the fifth minute and early in the second period Igor Geraskin doubled the visitor’s lead.

The youngster’s strike was the jolt that Avtomobilist needed. Almost immediately, Peter Holland scored off Stepan Khripunov’s breakaway to register his first goal in the KHL and reduce the arrears. Another summer signing, Brooks Macek, got an assist in the third period as Denis Bodrov tied the game. It was hard on Severstal, which had put in an enterprising performance and spent more time on the attack than its opponent. But when the game went to overtime, it was Avtomobilist that found the killer instinct. Vyacheslav Litovchenko burst through two defensemen to fire home the winning goal.

Kochetkov backstops SKA to victory

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 1 SKA St. Petersburg 3 (0-1, 1-1, 0-1)

Goals: 0-1 Rundblad (Plotnikov 19:06 PP); 1-1 Kozun (O’Dell 29:44 PP); 1-2 Yakupov (Rundblad 37:46 PP); 1-3 Tkachyov (Zub, Karpov 58:23)

Goalies: Koshechkin – Kochetkov

The big game of the day saw SKA travel to Metallurg for Alexei Kudashov’s first championship game behind the Petersburg bench. The head coach faced a problem: goalie Magnus Hellberg is recovering from injury, so 20-year-old Pyotr Kochetkov, signed from HC Sochi in the summer, made his debut for his new club. It was only the youngster’s third KHL outing, but he did himself proud to backstop his team to victory.

Photo: 02.09.19. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

The opening goal came late in the first period with SKA enjoying a 5-on-3 power play. David Rundblad, whose scoring suddenly burst into life in last season’s playoff, continued where he left off with a decisive finish to give the visitor a deserved lead.

However, Magnitka drew level with a power play goal of its own midway through the game. Brandon Kozun, who joined the club from Lokomotiv in the summer, got his first goal for his new employer off an assist from fellow debutant Eric O’Dell. Game on!

Another power play proved decisive. Metallurg strayed once again and with Arkhip Nekolenko in the box, SKA took advantage when the puck rebounded onto Nail Yakupov’s stick and he steered it into the net. Vladimir Tkachyov, the leading scorer in pre-season, continued his hot streak into the championship when he added a third late in the game to seal the win.

Slow start for Skudra in Chelyabinsk

Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 Vityaz Moscow Region 4 (1-1, 1-1, 0-2)

Goals: 0-1 Moiseyev (Jerabek 2:28); 1-1 Karpukhin (Popov, Glinkin 11:34 PP); 1-2 Semin (Makeyev 27:37); 2-2 Sedlak (Calof 27:50); 2-3 Semin (41:26 PP); 2-4 Grebenshchikov (Larichev 48:28)

Goalies: Demchenko – Ezhov

Traktor made it through pre-season without losing a single game in regulation but was unable to continue that run into the start of the regular campaign. Two goals from Alexander Semin led Vityaz to victory and condemned Peteris Skudra to an unhappy start to life behind the Traktor bench.

For Mikhail Kravets, taking charge of Vityaz for the first time in a competitive game, things could not have started better. Danila Moiseyev put the visitor ahead in the third minute and from that point on, Traktor was always playing catch up. Twice the home team managed to tie the game, but when Semin potted his second of the night on a power play early in the third, there was no way back. Svyatoslav Grebenshchikov made the game save midway through the final stanza. For Traktor there was at least the consolation of seeing Czech forward Lukas Sedlak mark his KHL debut with a goal.

Little respite for Minsk’s worries

Dinamo Minsk 2 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 4 (0-1, 2-1, 0-2)

Goals: 0-1 Poryadin (Zakharchuk, White 6:34); 1-1 Pulkkinen (Shore 24:57 PP); 1-2 Zakharchuk (Sharipzyanov, Khafizov 34:28); 2-2 Gragnani (Shore 36:27 PP); 2-3 Bryntsev (Avtsin,Kulikov 48:36); 2-4 Kazionov (Kulikov 59:28 empty net)

Goalies: Enroth – Barulin

Minsk saw a meeting between two teams that suffered difficult pre-seasons. Both Dinamo and Neftekhimik were limited to one win apiece, hardly ideal preparation for the challenges ahead. That poor form did not discourage the Belarusian fans from flocking to the game: 15,266 came to Arena Minsk for the start of the campaign.

Most of them left disappointed. Despite a battling performance, Craig Woodcroft’s team began with a defeat. The third period proved decisive. Neftekhimik went in front in the 49th minute through Alexander Bryntsev, who fired home a wrister from the top of the circle after Alexander Avtsin brought play behind Jhonas Enroth’s net. Denis Kazionov’s empty-netter sealed the verdict.

In the first two periods, Neftekhimik took the lead twice but was pegged back on each occasion. Dinamo’s summer signing Drew Shore had two assists on power play goals for Teemu Pulkkinen and Marc-Andre Gragnani. The Finn was Minsk’s leading scorer last season and began in effective form this time around, Gragnani returned to Belarus after a season at Kunlun Red Star where he played alongside Shore.

Dynamo holds on to sink Torpedo

Dynamo Moscow 3 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 (2-1, 1-0, 0-1)

Goals: 0-1 Schroeder (Zhafyarov, Howden 2:34 PP); 1-1 Shipachyov (2:45); 2-1 Petersson (Hietanen, Shipachyov 5:46 PP); 3-1 Kulyomin (29:07 SH); 3-2 Genoway (Zhafyarov 51:09 PP)

Goalies: Bocharov – Lindbak

Vadim Shipachyov picked up two points as Dynamo began the season with a narrow victory at home to Torpedo. All five goals were scored with at least one man in the penalty box; Vyacheslav Kulyomin’s short-handed effort in the middle frame proved sufficient to win it.

Photo: 02.09.19. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Dynamo (Moscow) - Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod)

The game got off to a fast start. Torpedo took the lead on the first power play of the game when Jordan Schroeder got his first KHL goal after joining from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL. However, the goals – and the penalties – kept coming as Dynamo turned it around in just three minutes. First Shipachyov tied the scores after 11 seconds with an unassisted power play goal. Then Anton Volchenkov was ejected from the game for interference and while that major penalty ran down, Chay Genoway also found himself in the box. Shipachyov had an assist as Andre Petersson got his first goal for Dynamo.

The scoring slowed and it wasn’t until midway through the second period that the teams found the net again. This time Kulyomin made it 3-1 to the Blue-and-Whites with a short-handed goal after an interception in center ice. The two-goal lead flattered the home team somewhat; the stats suggested a closer game than the scoreline. And it was little surprise when another Torpedo power play saw Genoway reduce the arrears midway through the third period. However, the penalties kept coming, harming Torpedo’s chances of salvaging the game. Even a late 6-on-4 surge could not discomfort Dynamo as the home team got the win.

Dinamo spoils Znarok’s return

Dinamo Riga 2 Spartak Moscow 1 (1-0, 0-1, 0-0, 1-0)

Goals: 1-0 J Berglund (Marshall, Ullstrom 11:31 PP); 1-1 Karsums (Daugavins, Hanzl 31:39 PP); 2-1 Ashton (Marshall, Darzins 60:47)

Goalies: Gudlevskis – Bespalov

An overtime goal from Carter Ashton was enough to give Dinamo Riga victory over Spartak in its opening game of the season. A long pass from Lauris Darzins caused confusion as goalie Nikita Bespalov rushed from his crease to cut out the danger only for Ashton to get there first and steer the puck into the net. That spoiled Oleg Znarok’s return to KHL coaching after a season’s absence, but gave Dinamo cause for optimism that this season might bring a return to the playoffs.

Znarok was something of a cult figure as a player at Dinamo Riga, so it was fitting that his return to coaching in the KHL came here in Latvia. His Spartak team came to Riga at the focus of plenty of attention, with much expected of the country’s most-titled active coach.

However, Dinamo also had reason for optimism after a strong pre-season saw it win the Latvian Railways Cup here last month. And it was the host that struck first after it got a 5-on-3 power play midway through the first period. Jacob Berglund, the leading goalscorer in last season’s DEL, got his first KHL goal within half a minute of Dinamo’s first PP of the campaign.

The home team continued to have the better of the game but was caught out midway through the second period when Spartak’s Latvians combined to tie the game. Kaspars Daugavins had an assist, Martins Karsums scored the power play goal and the scores were locked at 1-1.

But there would be no more scoring in regulation and in the extras it took Ashton just 47 seconds to find the winner.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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