Sibir leads the series 2-0
Life in the playoffs is going well for Sibir goalie Harri Sateri. The Finn continued his unbeaten streak with a second successive shut-out victory and has now gone 133 minutes of post season without allowing a goal. It’s a big contrast with his previous playoff campaign, back in 2017 with Vityaz, where he lost all four of his games and finished with an unhappy GAA of 5.52 after a tough series against SKA.
Today he built on the 37 saves he made in Monday’s opening game, stopping a further 48 shots to win this goaltending duel against Jakub Kovar. And, if there was an element of fortune about Monday’s shut-out, with Avtomobilist hitting both posts and ringing the crossbar, today’s game brought greater defensive assurance from both teams.
The first period, in particular, was cautious. Neither team was eager to take risks early in the game and, unusually, there was more menace when the teams were at equal strength than when either team got on the power play. Both sides produced careful, disciplined defense on the PK to limit the opportunities at either end of the ice.
In the second, chances started to flow. Nikita Korotkov tested Kovar in a one-on-one break, the Motormen responded with several well-worked combinations, each let down by the final shot. Midway through the frame both goalies were busy. Korotkov made another solo raid but Kovar stopped that effort and launched an immediate counter attack. Sateri snuffed out that chance and Sibir took the puck back down the ice before flashing an effort across the face of Kovar’s net.
As the game progressed, Avtomobilist had a noticeable edge in terms of shots on goal, but the closest attempt came from Sibir’s Danil Romantsev. His backhand shot hit the post but, once again, neither team could find the net. The third period, with both teams aware that the first goal was likely to be the last, brought a return to the more cautious hockey of the opening frame. Avtomobilist showed great desire to hunt the puck anywhere on the ice; Sibir defended deep and let its opponent tire itself with all that skating, but almost abandoned any attempt to create chances of its own.
Sateri remained masterful, taking control of the action in front of his net and finding the answer to dangerous shots from further afield. And, as the game went into overtime, Sibir began to create more. Juuso Puustinen tested Kovar in the first minute of the extras, Romantsev got on the end of an odd man rush but could not beat the Czech. The deadlock was broken at last in the 74th minute when Kovar blocked a Jukka Peltola shot with his pads and Mikael Ruohomaa pounced on the rebound to give Sibir a 2-0 lead in the series as the action heads to Novosibirsk on Friday.
Ak Bars leads the series 2-0
Ak Bars heads to Nizhnekamsk in a powerful position in this Eastern Conference quarter-final series. Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team recorded a second convincing victory of the series, and Matthew Frattin scored his third goal in two games to lead his team.
However, the Eastern Conference leader from regular season did not have it all its own way. Neftekhimik grabbed an early lead in this game when Pavel Kulikov reacted fastest to a rebound in front of Timur Bilyalov and stuffed the puck home. It was just the start the visitor needed after its 1-4 loss in game one, but there was little chance for Vyacheslav Butsayev’s team to build on that foundation.
Instead, Ak Bars roared onto the attack and began piling up the pressure on Alexander Sharychenkov’s net. Six minutes in, the pressure paid off with Artyom Lukoyanov squeezing home a shot from a tight angle to tie the game. Then came Dmitry Voronkov, the 19-year-old forward, scrambling home his first playoff goal as legs and sticks tumbled across the Neftekhimik crease. A bench challenge found no goalie interference; true, Viktor Tikhonov collided with Sharychenkov, but he was pushed onto the paint by Zack Mitchell. Barely a minute later, the visitor made the mistake of backing off Frattin as he advanced on goal and the Canadian needed no second invitation to shoot. His wrister from between the hash marks was too good for Sharychenkov and Ak Bars had a comfortable 3-1 lead.
As the first period drew to its end, Kulikov was back in the spotlight – but for less happy reasons. He found himself on the receiving end of a mighty hit from Roman Rukavishnikov and was sent sprawling onto the Ak Bars bench.
In the middle session, Ak Bars deployed an active forecheck that halted Neftekhimik’s attempts to set up its offense. And the home time continued to pose a serious threat on the counter attack. Stanislav Galiyev added a fourth with a powerful one-timer before Justin Azevedo potted the prettiest goal of the night when he tormented Sharychenkov to make it 5-1. That was the goalie’s last action of the night, and the last scoring of the game. Ak Bars went one better than its previous 4-1 victory in this series and can look forward to the short trip across Tatarstan buoyed by a 2-0 lead over its neighbor.