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Hockey is back! July 29 saw the first pre-season games for KHL teams, albeit played behind closed doors. Sochi quickly found its scoring form, but Vityaz found things tougher against VHL opposition.

HC Sochi 6 Russia U20 B 2 (0-1, 4-0, 2-1)

The first pre-season action of the summer ended in a decisive victory for the Leopards at Sochi’s Bolshoy Ice Dome. The teams met for the first of two warm-up games ahead of next week’s Sochi Hockey Open, with the national team’s juniors continuing their summer camp in the Black Sea resort.

The host, meanwhile, went into the game without its imports — four summer acquisitions who impressed in Sweden and Finland last season will have to wait for their first action with their new clubs — and found itself on the receiving end in the first period. Team Russia made a lively start and, despite one scare in the early exchanges, was good value for a 1-0 lead at the intermission. Yegor Afanasyev, a Predators prospect, got the goal; the 19-year-old is linking up with the national team for the first time since his solitary appearance in last year’s Junior Summit Series.

The middle frame changed everything, though. Sochi raised its game and scored four unanswered goals on Vsevolod Skotnikov. The Sergei Shmelyov-Nikita Tochitsky partnership got back in business, with the latter setting up the tying goal for his team-mate. Then Dmitry Kolgotin, a summer signing from Belarusian champion Yunost Minsk, opened his account for the Leopards to give Sochi the lead. Shmelyov and Tochitsky created the third goal, scored by defenseman Yury Alexandrov. Triallist goalie Ivan Kulbakov, a Belarusian looking to step up from VHL outfit Nefteyanik, came into the game for the second half of the action and he soon saw Konstantin Klimontov make it 4-1 on the power play.

With the outcome more or less decided, the third period was played at a lower tempo. Maxim Mineyev, a 23-year-old defenseman looking for some stability after representing four KHL clubs in the past two seasons, extended Sochi’s lead midway through the session. There was still time for a final flurry: Rodion Amirov, a hotly-tipped prospect from Salavat Yulaev, pulled a goal back for Russia in the 59th minute but Ivan Kazakov, a Sochi prospect looking to step up from JHL outfit Kapitan Stupino, had the final say to make the scoreline 6-2.


Vityaz Moscow Region 0 Sokol Krasnoyarsk 1 (0-0, 0-0, 0-1)

The second game of the day — and, indeed, of the summer — took place in Podolsk, where Vityaz entertained Sokol Krasnoyarsk of the VHL. Like Sochi, Vityaz rested its imports and iced an experimental roster with several youngsters given a chance to impress head coach Mikhail Kravets.

However, unlike Sochi, Vityaz struggled to create scoring chances. Svyatoslav Grebenshchikov went close in the first period, defensemen Artyom Borodkin and Yegor Voronkov tested visiting goalie Andrei Litvinov, but Vityaz could not get the puck in the net.

At the other end, the main offensive threat came from the Streltsov twins, players with extensive KHL experience at Admiral, Lada and Avtomobilist. Eventually, they contrived the game’s only goal midway through the third period. Vasily led a 2-on-1 rush and set up his brother Alexander, who scored on Anton Todykov to win the game for Sokol.

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