The East’s success means the overall score in the series is now 8-3 in favor of the West and four players – Nikita Goncharov (Russkiye Vityazi), Yegor Anisimov (Dynamo St. Petersburg), Yegor Chinakhov (Omskiye Yastreby) and German Shaporev (Altai) – were invited to play in next weekend KHL All-Star Game, the climax of the FONBET 2020 All-Star Week.
The first period proved to be the highest scoring in the history of the Challenge Cup as the teams exchanged six goals. Team East went into the intermission with a 4-2 advantage and, indeed, never trailed in the game. Shaporev opened the scoring in the third minute, only for Goncharov to respond almost immediately. Within three minutes, the East was on the rise again thanks to a power play goal from Dmitry Sheshin and Ivan Savchik made it 3-1 midway through the opening session.
When the East ran into penalty trouble, Latvia’s Arvils Bergmanis pulled a goal back on the power play but Chinakhov restored the two-goal cushion with yet another goal on the PP in the 18th minute.
After all that action, the scoring slowed after the intermission. Respecting All-Star tradition, both teams swapped goalies midway through the game. For the West, Loko’s Vladislav Okoryak replaced Dmitry Nikolayev of SKA-1946, while the East swapped Artur Akhtyamov (Irbis) with Dmitry Braginsky (Tolpar). The incoming goalies had a quieter time of it, although Anisimov collected his second assist of the game as Ivan Bunov pulled a goal back for the West late in the middle frame.
The game remained very much alive until the last moments. Team West threw everything into its search for a tying goal but was caught out at the last when Savchik put his second of the night into an empty net to seal the Eastern victory.
All-Star events, of course, are not just about the game. The day was a chance to promote all that is good about Russia’s next generation of hockey stars. The KHL’s vice-president for the development of junior hockey, Alexei Morozov, was on hand to discuss the JHL’s progress with journalists, and the Ak Bars legend also took part in the symbolic face-off with team captains Ilya Nikolayev and Bulat Motygullin. That came after an impressive light show, reflecting on the history of the Challenge Cup’s first decade, and the unveiling of a new silver trophy to be presented to the winner each year.
The intermissions featured attractions for all ages: virtual reality hockey for the grown-ups, and a quiz on the history of the JHL designed for the various kids representing Moscow’s hockey schools. The youngsters had been invited along specially to be a part of this event; maybe in years to come, some will be invited back to play on this stage?
While the next generation of stars did their thing on the ice, some of the great names of the past shared their thoughts on today’s festivities.
Double Olympic champion Alexei Kasatonov was excited by what he saw. “It’s a great idea to give four players the chance to take part in the KHL All-Star Game next weekend,” he said. “It motivates the guys even more, gives them every opportunity to show off their best skills. And the league deserves a lot of credit for staging a successful event. There’s a good crowd here in Moscow, a lively atmosphere and some good hockey in an entertaining contest. For these kids, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to play in a brand new stadium here in Moscow in front of a crowd like this.”
Alexander Yakushev, another two-time Olympic Champion, added: “It’s a good, no-holds-barred kinds of game. Everybody wants to win, everybody wants to mature into good players, earn a spot at a KHL club and improve their skills. I’m pleased with what I’ve seen at today’s Challenge Cup. And Moscow, once again, has shown that it can stage events at the highest level.”