Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Vityaz has been the success story of the season so far, and Sunday’s battling 4-2 victory at SKA highlighted the qualities of Mikhail Kravets’ team this season. The backs-to-the-wall performance took Vityaz to the top of the KHL table while denying SKA the chance to reach the Western Conference summit. In the day’s other game, Vyacheslav Voynov led the way in Avangard’s 5-2 win at home to Kunlun Red Star.

Three-point Voynov too strong for Red Star

Avangard Omsk 5 Kunlun Red Star 2 (1-1, 2-0, 2-1)

Goals: 1-0 Voynov (8:17); 1-1 Foo (Yip 13:45); 2-1 Beck (Voynov, Shumakov 22:09 PP); 3-1 Grachyov (Pokka, Shumakov 36:50); 4-1 Voynov (Klinkhammer, Andrighetto 41:30 PP); 5-1 Shumakov (Grachyov, Klinkhammer 57:10); 5-2 Chelios (Cracknell, Fram 59:27 PP)

Goalies: Sudnitsin – Hrubec

Vyacheslav Voynov was the star as the Avangard overpowered Red Star to return to the top of the Chernyshev Division. The defenseman had two goals and an assist as last year’s beaten finalist condemned Red Star to a third successive loss on the road.

Photo: 22.09.19. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Avangard (Omsk) - Kunlun Red Star (Beijing)

Voynov opened the scoring in the ninth minute when he intercepted the puck in center ice and decided to do the job himself. Surging forward, he shot from between the hash marks and found a way through Simon Hrubec’s five-hole. However, Kunlun was not immediately deterred and the visitor produced a strong first period. Along the way, Spencer Foo tied the scores, showing great hands to engineer a shooting lane in front of the net and flick a wrister over Alexander Sudnitsin’s shoulder.

The second period saw Avangard build a decisive lead. An early power play saw Voynov pick out Taylor Beck and the Canadian forward found the net against his former club. Then Evgeny Grachyov added a third to take the game away from the visitor.

Voynov got his second goal early in the third on another power play, with new signing Rob Klinkhammer collecting an assist on his Avangard debut. The former Ak Bars and Dinamo Minsk man soon added another when Sergei Shumakov made it 5-1 in the closing minutes. Jake Chelios got a late consolation for Red Star, but this was Avangard’s – and Voynov’s – day.

Ezhov denies SKA, Vityaz tops the table

SKA St. Petersburg 2 Vityaz Moscow Region 4 (0-1, 1-1, 1-2)

Goals: 0-1 Semin (Lajunen, Aaltonen 16:28 PP); 1-1 Kagarlitsky (Byvaltsev, Zemchonok 21:27); 1-2 Chernov (Lajunen, Aaltonen 30:15 PP); 1-3 Mons (44:49); 2-3 Barabanov (Kagarlitsky, Zub 52:35 PP); 2-4 Makeyev (Semin, Aaltonen 57:56 empty net)

Goalies: Kochetkov (Melnichuk 44:49) – Ezhov

Historically, SKA has had a huge advantage over Vityaz in the KHL era. Of 26 meetings between the teams, 24 have produced wins for the Army Men. The most recent Vityaz success was back in January 2011 while last season’s playoff saw SKA sweep through the first round with a series of big wins.

Photo: 22.09.19. KHL Championship 2019-2020. SKA (St.Petersburg) - Vityaz (Moscow Region)

But the current Vityaz roster is a very different beast. Coming into Sunday’s match-up full of confidence on a six-game winning streak, Mikhail Kravets knew his team could take over the leadership of the KHL with another win. And, thanks to a combination of gritty defense and clinical finishing, the visitor prevailed. Ilya Ezhov, up against one of his former clubs, had 49 saves, another 20 shots were blocked by a hard-working defense and SKA peppered the net throughout, finishing with 86 attempts in 60 minutes. Crucially, though, it only mustered two goals.

The first period told the story of the game. SKA attacked and attacked but could not score. Vityaz had just three shots on target but took the lead when Alexander Semin converted a power play late in the session. SKA tied the scores early in the second through Dmitry Kagarlitsky but was again undone by the Vityaz power play. Ville Lajunen and Miro Aaltonen combined for a second time, with Pavel Chernov getting the goal. Once again, SKA dominated the play throughout the stanza but could not turn that pressure into goals.

Vityaz began the third period with a 5-on-3 advantage. That did not accrue, but it wasn’t long before Evgeny Mons surged down the left to shoot home the third goal and chase Pyotr Kochetkov from the home net. Alexander Barabanov redirected a Kagarlitsky shot past Ezhov to reduce the deficit and set up a tense finale but Vityaz held firm and refused to allow the pressure to build. Alexei Kudashov opted to withdraw his goalie with more than two minutes left in a bid to salvage the game, but just eight seconds later Alexei Makeyev was shooting into an empty net to settle the outcome. Vityaz has never hit these heights before.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Related clubs

Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Vityaz (Moscow Region) Vityaz (Moscow Region)
Kunlun Red Star (Beijing) Kunlun Red Star (Beijing)
SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
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