Andy Potts Andy Potts
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The 2020 Gagarin Cup campaign got underway on Sunday with convincing victories for Barys and Avangard. The two seeded teams in action had little difficulty on home ice, defeating Metallurg and Salavat Yulaev respectively.

Pasquale blanks Magnitka

Barys Nur-Sultan 4 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 0 (1-0, 1-0, 2-0)

Barys leads the series 1-0

Barys threw down a marker at the start of its playoff campaign with a comfortable home victory against two-time champion Metallurg. Andrei Skabelka’s team enjoyed four goals from its imports while Eddie Pasquale impressed between the piping as the Kazakhs got the 2020 Gagarin Cup off to a flying start.

Photo: 01.03.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Playoffs. Barys (Nur-Sultan) - Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

For Metallurg, meanwhile, this game posed more questions than answers. Throughout the season, the Steelmen have been uneven. While the roster is stacked with potential game-winners, it has struggled to generate consistent results. Sunday’s heavy loss in Kazakhstan did not offer much cause for optimism, but Magnitka can at least reflect that only one of the goals came with the teams at equal strength; in 5-on-5 hockey, Ilya Vorobyov’s team more or less held its own.

The breakthrough came midway through the first period when Barys got the first power play of the game. Magnitka was caught on a too many men call and Curtis Valk completed the punishment when he slotted home the rebound after Vasily Koshechkin padded away a Nikita Mikhailis effort.

Metallurg was close to a tying goal early in the second period when Artyom Minulin’s speculative effort bounced back off the boards, took a deflection on the slot and was stopped on the goalline by Pasquale’s glove. The video review confirmed that the puck did not cross the line, and a couple of minutes later Magnitka’s task was all the harder when Atte Ohtamaa took a pass from Viktor Svedberg and fired home the second goal.

Barys then kept the opposition at arm’s length for much of the remainder of the game. Pasquale produced a couple of big saves to deny Bogdan Potekhin but, for much of the time, Metallurg struggled to create big opportunities. A late gamble saw Koshechkin benched with two to play, but Iiro Pakarinen found the empty net to put the result beyond doubt. And a late power play chance saw Darren Dietz wrap up the scoring with a deflected slap shot in the last minute to add some gloss to the final scoreline.

Strong second period sets Avangard on its way

Avangard Omsk 5 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 2 (1-1, 4-1, 0-0)

Avangard leads the series 1-0

Last year’s beaten finalist Avangard made a strong start to the 2020 playoff campaign, putting away Salavat Yulaev with a dominant second period showing. The teams met last year in the Eastern Conference final, Omsk prevailing in six, and both went into this game with some questions to answer.

Photo: 01.03.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Playoffs. Avangard (Omsk) - Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)

For Avangard, it was a case of how Bob Hartley’s team would respond to a sluggish end to the regular season, with three straight losses costing the Hawks top spot in the Chernyshev Division. In Ufa, meanwhile, there were worries that Nikolai Tsulygin’s talented roster was adding up to less than the sum of its parts across an uneven regular season that left the team down in sixth.

In the early exchanges it was not clear that either team had found an answer. Avangard enjoyed the better of the play, but fell behind to a Linus Omark goal in the 15th minute. Ufa, meanwhile, was unable to build on that lead and got stung by a power play marker from Sergei Shumakov within a couple of minutes. So far, so inconclusive.

But the middle frame saw Avangard take a grip on proceedings, while Salavat Yulaev twice saw coach’s challenges overruled by the video review. Kirill Semyonov put the Hawks in front in the 24th minute then a rare goal from Andrei Stas increased the lead midway through the game. Stas scored just once in 62 regular season games, but opened his playoff account at the first available opportunity. The center reacted after Pavel Dedunov’s shot was saved and he stuffed the puck home at the second attempt. The visitor’s bench protested, claiming goalie interference, but the video ruled the play clean.

Then came a flurry of goals late in the period as Avangard put the outcome beyond reach. It started with Teemu Hartikainen getting one back for Salavat after Omark orchestrated play from behind the net. But it finished with a quickfire double as Semyonov got his second of the game and Valentin Pyanov stretched that advantage. Semyonov’s effort, a deflection off his skate from a Slava Voynov shot, was subject to a challenge over a possible offside; there was no doubt about Pyanov’s finish after he collected Yegor Martynov’s long pass and bore down on Juha Metsola’s net.

Metsola did not return for the third period, his place taken by Andrei Kareyev. The new goalie kept Avangard at bay but was unable to lift his team to a revival. Ufa had more of the play than in the earlier stages but, with Avangard happy to run down the clock, there were few big chances for Salavat Yulaev to get back into contention.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Related clubs

Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Barys (Nur-Sultan) Barys (Nur-Sultan)
Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
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