In December, the Euro Hockey Tour is back after the first stage in Finland – somewhat surprisingly won by the Czech Republic – international hockey is back as this time the top four European national teams will clash in Russia. Most of the games will be played at the CSKA Arena in Moscow, except for the very first game of the tournament between Finland and the Czech Republic, scheduled in Plzen, and the Sunday game between Russia and Finland again, to be played at the Stadium St. Petersburg. Last year, the outdoor game gathered more than 71,000 fans as the home team pleased the crowd with a 5-0 win.
After losing the home stage to the Czech Republic, the Finns will bring in Moscow an experimental roster with only five KHL representatives – down from 11 that made the trip back home to the Karjala Cup. Many players will have a week off, while Olkinuora, Pokka, and Aaltonen will be back for another run with the Jatkoaika jersey. Will the Finns seek revenge for the 0-5 loss at the Stadium St. Petersburg?
KHL representatives: Marek Langhamer (Amur), Simon Hrubec (Kunlun Red Star), Jakub Jerabek (Vityaz), Andrej Sustr (Kunlun Red Star), Ondrej Vitasek (Amur), Jiri Sekac (CSKA), Dmitrij Jaskin (Dynamo Moscow), Andrej Nestrasil (Metallurg), Hynek Zohorna, Tomas Zohorna (both – Amur), Lukas Sedlak, Tomas Hyka (both – Traktor).
The Czech bench boss Milos Riha decided to go to an increase in KHL representatives, calling 12 players this time around – up from the 8 he called back in November. After winning the Karjala Cup, the Czechs will ice yet another competitive roster, led by one of the top players in the KHL in Dmitrij Jaskin. The team will feature many others in a leading position for their side, including CSKA's Jiri Sekac, Metallurg's Andrej Nestrasil, and Amur's Czech contingent. Milos Riha's troop will start the tournament on home soil, facing the Finns in Plzen on Dec. 12.
KHL representatives: Lars Johansson (CSKA), Adam Reideborn (Ak Bars), Klas Dahlback (CSKA), Mikael Wikstrand (Ak Bars), Viktor Loov (Jokerit), Andre Petersson (Dynamo Moscow), Markus Ljungh (Admiral), Dennis Rasmussen (Metallurg), Malte Stromwall (HC Sochi), Magnus Paajarvi Svensson (Lokomotiv).
After cutting the KHL representatives to a minimum for the Finnish stage, the Tre Kronor upped them to 10. Three players (Reideborn, Dahlbeck, Wikstrand) already lined up for Sweden at the Karjala Cup, while the others have already represented their country in the past. Magnus Paajarvi Svensson has been in exceptional shape for Lokomotiv, but he won't be joined by his friend Anton Lander at the Channel One Cup. It's curious to see that stage after stage, usually, both goalies playing for the Swedes come from the KHL.
KHL representatives: Ilya Sorokin (CSKA), Alexander Samonov (SKA), Timur Bilyalov (Ak Bars), Nikita Nesterov, Alexei Marchenko (both CSKA), Vyacheslav Voynov (Avangard), Rushan Rafikov (Lokomotiv), Igor Ozhiganov (SKA), Nikita Lyamkin (Ak Bars), Viktor Antipin (Metallurg), Artyom Sergeyev (Salavat Yulaev), Andrei Mironov (Dynamo Moscow), Mikhail Grigorenko, Kirill Kaprizov, Anton Slepyshev, Sergei Andronov, Pavel Karnaukhov (all – CSKA), Andrei Kuzmenko, Anton Burdasov, Vladimir E. Tkachyov, Evgeny Ketov, Alexander Barabanov (all – SKA), Vadim Shipachyov (Dynamo Moscow), Vladimir A. Tkachyov (Ak Bars), Kirill Semyonov (Avangard), Damir Zhafyarov (Torpedo), Nikita Soshnikov (Salavat Yulaev).
After the disappointment at the Karjala Cup, Team Russia's Alexei Kudashov decided to call the most potent possible roster, just as usual, for the home stage. It will be interesting to see Vadim Shipachyov's return to the national team, as well as to check if players like Zhafyarov and Soshnikov can bring their A-game on the international scene as well. Similarly, for other players, the Channel One Cup will be a great chance to revitalize their season. Sergei Andronov and Nikita Nesterov – just to name a couple of players – are playing below their potential, and a trip with the national team can be the key to new emotions and better performance as the KHL heads toward the second half of the regular season. It is expected that a record-beating crowd will support the Russians in St. Petersburg on Sunday, Dec. 15, for the second outdoor game after last year's showdown.
The 2019 Channel One Cup will start on Dec. 12 and will be played at the CSKA Arena in Moscow (except for the Czech Republic – Finland game in Plzen and the Russia – Finland outdoor showdown in St. Petersburg). The four teams will compete on a three-game round-robin through Sunday, Dec. 15.