Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Wednesday saw the start of the summer’s big new tournament — a four-team clash of the titans in Kazan featuring Ak Bars, SKA, Metallurg and Salavat Yulaev. Those teams have eight of the 11 Gagarin Cups won to date, fully justifying the name ‘Champions Cup’. Elsewhere, Dynamo Moscow defeated Vityaz in a warm-up game, while Nail Yakupov made his Amur debut against Avangard but finished on the losing side.

TANECO Champions Cup

Ufa fightback falls just short

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 5 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 4 (2-0, 2-1, 1-3)

Metallurg won the opening game of the all-new TANECO Champions Cup — but the Steelmen led 3-0 and 4-1 before squeaking over the line on a late power play goal from Taylor Beck.

Photo: 19.08.20. TANECO Champions Cup. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)

It was a tight finish, set up by a brave Salavat Yulaev comeback, but early in the game everything seemed so easy for Magnitka. Metallurg jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period with Sergei Plotnikov opening the scoring before assisting on a Bogdan Potekhin tally. The first goal came on the power play, continuing the team’s run of success with a man advantage: in each game of last week’s Romazan Memorial tournament, Metallurg had at least one power play goal. Yegor Martynov added another on PP early in the third before Salavat started to respond. Alexander Kadeikin reduced the arrears but Maxim Karpov made it 4-1 before the second intermission.

Ufa head coach Tomi Lamsa admitted that his team wasn’t up to speed in the early stages. “We made a really bad start,” he told RIA Novosti. Maybe we were a bit unlucky with the first two goals but, even so, we were playing badly. It was only the third period when we started playing the kind of hockey we’re capable of.

“It’s hard to say why we started so badly. We weren’t prepared for such an intense battle from the first minute, we didn’t have the right spirit. It’s clear that my task is to get the team up for that.”

In the third period, though, Lamsa’s team started to play its game. A Sakari Manninen power play effort in the first minute set the tone, then Teemu Hartikainen scored twice to tie it up at 4-4. It took a little over 12 minutes for Salavat to recover a three-goal deficit. However, with 90 seconds left, Metallurg found a winner thanks to Beck’s power play tally. The first game of the Champions Cup produced a true heavyweight bout, and Beck delivered the knock-out blow.

Metallurg head coach Ilya Vorobyov had this summary: “We looked good in 5-on-5 play, but in the third period we took too many penalties and let Salavat Yulaev back into the game. Luckily we scored again and won the game.” Vorobyov also confirmed that Sergei Mozyakin and Nikolai Kulemin would not play in Kazan this week; the two forwards are following individual training regimes back home.

Kazan power play impresses

Ak Bars Kazan 5 SKA St. Petersburg 2 (1-2, 1-0, 3-0)

Ak Bars began with a win at its high-profile summer tournament, recovering from a slow start to shoot down SKA. The home team saw its power play on top form, claiming three of its four goals while enjoying a man advantage. And that was achieved without Justin Azevedo, the most prominent of the Ak Bars players to sit this one out.

Photo: 19.08.20. TANECO Champions Cup. Ak Bars (Kazan) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

However, it wasn’t always plain sailing for the host. SKA had the better of the first period, taking an early lead when Miro Aaltonen converted the first PP of the game. The Finn drew the penalty in the first place, then fired home a one-timer off Andrei Kuzmenko’s feed.

It wasn’t long before SKA was on the PK, though. Young Ivan Morozov took a game misconduct call for spearing in the fifth minute and Ak Bars quickly tied the scores through Artyom Galimov. That was the first of four points on the night for the 20-year-old forward, who went on to add three assists — earning rave reviews from head coach Dmitry Kvartalnov.

“Artyom is becoming one of our leaders,” Kvartalnov said after the game. “It’s not a surprise any more to see him scoring and giving assists. He’s on our power play. When you trust someone, and it leads to goals, that’s a big plus — he proved it today. But he still has work to do. There were times today when his defensive play wasn’t quite right, but he wasn’t the only one.”

However, the major penalty did not bring any further reward and once SKA returned to full strength it soon converted another power play of its own. This time young Kirill Marchenko was the scorer, redirecting a Vasily Tokranov effort, and the Army Men led at the first intermission.

The middle stanza brought just one goal, with Dmitry Yudin tying the game when he beat Magnus Hellberg at the second attempt. But when SKA ran into penalty trouble in the third, Ak Bars took advantage. With 10 to play, Dmitry Voronkov stuffed home the game-winner, winning his battle on the slot as the host converted its second PP of the night. Soon afterwards, Ak Bars got a 5-on-3 advantage and, once again, made it count. Alexander Burmistrov was the scorer, converting a Galimov pass after Danis Zaripov’s shot failed to find the target.

“For the first two periods, SKA was technically better than us,” Kvartalnov added. “That’s down to more game time for them. We hadn’t played for a long time and we were a little bit off the pace. In the second period they starting rolling their lines, pinning us back, but Adam [Reideborn] kept us in the game.”

Valery Bragin demanded one last surge from his team, but once Hellberg was called back to the bench, SKA lost possession on the blue line and Mikhail Fisenko applied the finishing touch into an empty net.

The visiting head coach pointed to fatigue as the reason for his team’s defeat. “We came here after a heavy workload at camp and you could see that the guys were tired,” he said. “This was a good game for us, played in a competitive spirit. We expected that from Ak Bars.”

Warm-up games

Lindberg’s line leads the way

Dynamo Moscow 3 Vityaz Moscow Region 1 (1-0, 1-0, 1-1)

Dynamo continues to test its depth during pre-season, going into this game without a senior goaltender and resting five leading forwards. However, the understudies stated their case for a bigger role in the coming season, seeing off Vityaz with something to spare.

In the absence of the Shipachyov line, the burgeoning partnership between Teemu Pulkkinen and Oscar Lindberg is coming to the fore: the two combined for the Finn to score the opener in the ninth minute, and Lindberg got a second helper when Vladimir Bryukvin’s power play goal doubled the lead midway through the game.

Up to that point, every Dynamo goal this summer came from the same line. Bryukvin himself was at a loss to explain where the scoring power came from. “I don’t even know what to tell you about how good it is playing with Lindberg,” he said. We’re working together, we’re trying to get to know each other, and it seems to be paying off. I can chat with our imports OK, my English isn’t too bad. I played a year in Canada, so we can talk and understand each other.

“I don’t expect to dislodge a line as good as Shipachyov’s, but it doesn’t matter to us whether we’re the first line or the second. I hope the guys will be back in practice soon and we can work on our team game. They’re already back in training with the group.”

Vityaz’ Swedish forward Matias Tedenby got his team back in contention, halving the deficit with six minutes left to play, but when young Oleg Zaitsev shot into an empty net the game was safe for Dynamo.

Despite his goal, Tedenby was frustrated with his team’s failings on offense. “I think we played a good game when we were 5-on-5 but we didn’t take the chances we created around their net,” he told the club’s official website. “So we have plenty to work on at practice. In my opinion, we need to score more when we’re at equal strength. And, of course, our power play could be better.”

Yakupov beaten on Amur debut

Avangard Omsk 2 Amur Khabarovsk 1 OT (1-0, 1-0, 0-0, 0-1)

Nail Yakupov made his long-awaited Amur debut — but the former NHL #1 draft pick could not save the Tigers from defeat against Avangard.

Photo: 19.08.20. Friendly match. Avangard (Omsk) - Amur (Khabarovsk)

Yakupov arrived in the Far East after leaving SKA, but didn’t feature in earlier pre-season games. Today he made his debut, but finished on the wrong end of a defeat from an Avangard team that is about to travel to St. Petersburg for the annual Puchkov tournament next week.

Avangard has looked sharp in pre-season, despite problems with illness in the camp. With fewer players available, young Yegor Chinakhov has seen his status rise. He opened the scoring here, making it 5 (3+2) points in three pre-season games so far. Chinakhov will be familiar to fans of the All-Star Game: he was one of the Junior Hockey League players invited to join the KHL stars for January’s big show in Moscow.

Midway through the game, Sergei Shumakov doubled Avangard’s lead and it stayed at 2-0 until the final hooter. Shumakov’s goal was created by a fine assist from 19-year-old defenseman Semyon Chistyakov; the forward hailed his team-mate as “a young Fetisov” for that play.

The game was done in regulation. However, by prior agreement, the teams added a five-minute spell of 3-on-3 overtime and Amur grabbed a consolation goal from Vyacheslav Ushenin.

Avangard head coach Bob Hartley believes that the time has now come to trim the roster as pre-season goes into its final stages. “We have three games left ahead of the season start,” he told RIA Novosti. “Before we go to Petersburg, we need to reduce the numbers. Moving players is a normal thing. Right now we have a superfluity of players so we have to make some decisions soon.”

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Related clubs

Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Amur (Khabarovsk) Amur (Khabarovsk)
Vityaz (Moscow Region) Vityaz (Moscow Region)
Dynamo (Moscow) Dynamo (Moscow)
Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
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