Philip Larsen got the game-winner in Davos to wrap up a thrilling Green Derby clash as the KHL World Games returned to Switzerland.
Fans in the Alpine town were treated to a pulsating battle between two of the league’s top teams – and both of them played a full part in an absorbing encounter that ebbed and flowed from the opening face-off. The teams wasted no time in getting into the action, trading four goals in the first period. Matthew Frattin gave Ak Bars a fourth-minute lead when he converted Albert Yarullin’s no look pass.
However, Ufa hit back with two goals in 64 seconds to jump into the lead. Linus Omark tied the game when he redirected a point shot from Alexei Semenov; Dmitry Kugryshev made it 2-1 after Alexander Kadeikin won a face-off in the Kazan zone. Ak Bars tied it up on the power play with Yarullin involved again. This time the defenseman’s shot cannoned back off the boards and in the scramble to get the puck, Viktor Tikhonov displayed composure and control to slide it into the net beyond Andrei Kareyev’s outstretched arm.
Twice the provider, Yarullin turned goalscorer just nine seconds into the second period. Kirill Petrov surged forward from the face-off, found his colleague on the blue line and the defenseman did the rest with a thumping shot.
It wasn’t just the frequency of the scoring that excited the Swiss public. The quality of the game was also something special. Take the Salavat Yulaev equalizer in the 33rd minute. Omark was the architect, and his superb vision created an opening for Eduard Gimatov to rifle home a one-timer from the edge of the circle. Moments later, Vladislav Kara displayed no less ingenuity at the other end, slipping the puck through his own legs to fashion a shooting chance that Kareyev barely kept out of the net. This was the kind of flair the neutrals in the crowd were hoping for; the teams delivered it in generous quantities.
The third period could not separate these two old derby rivals but even without further goals there was plenty to keep the crowd entertained. Salavat Yulaev started the session stronger, and Semenov almost squeezed a shot through Adam Reideborn midway through the frame. The Swedish goalie, meanwhile, also produced big stops to halt Omark shortly after the intermission and Pyotr Khokhryakov on the breakaway during an Ak Bars power play. Later in the third, though, Ak Bars posed more of a threat and Justin Azevedo almost grabbed the headlines in the last minute but shot wide of the target after forcing his way into a dangerous position.
And so, overtime. But only for 10 seconds. Omark, once again, was the driving force for Ufa, bursting forward from the face-off and picking the perfect moment to slide the puck back to Larsen between the hash marks. The Danish D-man saw his shot take a deflection on its way into the net as he wheeled away in celebration of the winning goal.
Philip Larsen, goalscorer, Salavat Yulaev
It was a great event, two great teams coming to Switzerland to play in the mountains. I don’t think anybody really knew what to expect from this game. A lot of fans turned out and they made it a special occasion. The game was hard fought, so we’re really pleased to come away with the win. It’s important for our team because we haven’t played the way wanted in recent weeks. Linus Omark was awesome tonight. He deserved a game like this, and his passing was the key to our win.
Justin Azevedo, forward, Ak Bars
I can’t say exactly what happened with that chance at the end, I haven’t seen the replay. But there’s nothing I can do about it now anyway. Both teams worked hard, we both wanted to win and in the end Salavat Yulaev played better and unfortunately we couldn’t match that. Their goalie did well today. We knew what to expect from each other.
It was clear that today had a different atmosphere, the ice was good and we got a different feeling coming to play in a new place. I think it was a great advert for the KHL: overtime, lots of goals.
Patrick Bloch, CEO, Swiss Ice Hockey Federation
It was a great honor for us to stage this game. We saw so many great players, several of them had played in Switzerland before and it was nice to see them here again.
Not long ago I spoke with Sven Andrighetto, the only one of our Swiss players in your league at Avangard. He’s really enjoying it out there and now we can see the level he’s playing at.
It takes a lot of work to put on these games, but if a team is staying here for the Spengler Cup, why not have events like this as well. I think the fans really enjoyed it.
We got to see how the KHL works with different technologies. Our director of refereeing is excited about the idea of having more cameras to review disputed incidents, like you have, and hopefully we can implement that soon. We’re trying to keep moving forward. We also got to see the smart puck system, and you can do it all so easily with a tablet. All of that impressed us.
Andrei Kareyev, goalie, Salavat Yulaev
Seven goals – it’s great for the fans, but not so good for the goalies. Playing in unfamiliar surroundings, maybe the focus, the concentration wasn’t quite there. But the main thing was to send the crowd home happy. It’s an important win for us, especially since the last few games weren’t all that great. We still think we can play better – allowing three goals isn’t good enough.
Nikolai Tsulygin, head coach, Salavat Yulaev
Hockey isn’t just a job, it’s a pleasure for these guys. On the sidelines, maybe you could see better, but I felt that both teams battled hard and played some good hockey. It’s an important win for us, it gives us a lift. Up to this game we’d been playing quite well but we kept losing in the closing minutes, usually to a single goal.
Dmitry Kvartalnov, head coach, Ak Bars
It hurts to lose like that. The game swung like a pendulum: the first period was even, we were better in the second but worse in the third. We had new players on the team, not many defensemen but that’s no excuse. Salavat started on the front foot, they had no choice because of the league standings. But we should have played better.
To be honest, I can’t say I’m thrilled with today’s game. If we’d won, I guess everything would be OK, but we lost so there’s frustration. We needed to be more solid, we scored three goals – that’s good – but it wasn’t enough to win. We didn’t play properly on defense.