Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Ak Bars made it two wins from two at the Champions Cup, while Jokerit began its summer campaign with victory over Jukurit. Dinamo Minsk suffered its first defeat of the pre-season, going down against Belarusian champion Yunost.

TANECO Champions Cup

SKA power play makes the difference

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 2 SKA St. Petersburg 4 (1-1, 0-2, 1-1)

SKA bounced back from an opening day loss against Ak Bars, recovering to beat Salavat Yulaev thanks to a strong performance from its special teams. Two of SKA’s four goals came on the power play and another was a short-handed effort that killed off hopes of a recovery from the Ufa team.

Photo: 20.08.20. TANECO Champions Cup. Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

The tournament here in Kazan has a packed schedule. SKA rested two forwards, Vladimir Tkachyov and Vasily Podkolzin, as the team embarked on its second game in less than 24 hours. There was also a debut for young defenseman Arseny Brinkman, who previously played under Valery Bragin on international duty. However, the Army Men made a bright start and went in front in the eighth minute when Miro Aaltonen placed his shot beyond Vladislav Sukhachyov, who was screened by players from both teams. Salavat responded quickly, though, with Markus Granlund tying the scores.

Both those goals came at equal strength; the second period saw SKA’s PP come to the fore. A pair of quick penalties left Salavat Yulaev facing a 3-on-5 situation and the men in green paid the full tariff. Vasily Tokranov restored SKA’s lead, then Emil Galimov made it 3-1 just 22 seconds later. Under pressure, Salavat gave up two more penalties but managed to hold on until the intermission.

The Bashkirs got their chance with a power play late in the frame, and early in the third period, Sakari Manninen converted the opportunity with aplomb to throw the game wide open once again. But a later Ufa PP went awry when Joonas Kemppainen stole the puck and beat Sukhachyov in a one-on-one to put the game beyond reach.

SKA head coach Valery Bragin said after the game: “This was hard from a physical point of view. We played last night and didn’t get much time to rest. So we saw how the team coped with that. At times we played well and I’m happy with the result. Our new players did OK.”

His opposite number, Tomi Lamsa, found some positives despite his team’s second loss in the tournament.

“We were ready for today’s game and we made a good start,” he said, contrasting with a poor first period in Wednesday’s game against Metallurg. Our defense didn’t look bad. We came close to tying the game in the third period but couldn’t score on four minutes of power play. I’m disappointed with the result, but I’m happy with our level of play. We’re moving in the right direction.

“In the second period we took too many penalties and that’s very dangerous against a team like SKA. Worse, we were fouling players a long way from our net, there’s no excuse for penalties like that. SKA took advantage and we need to learn from it.”

Faith in youth rewards Ak Bars

Ak Bars Kazan 3 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 1 (2-0, 1-1, 0-0)

Ak Bars picked up its second win of the Champions’ Cup thanks to three goals from its youngsters. And, with a perfect record thus far, the tournament host is already assured of a place in Sunday’s gold medal game, where it will face the winner of Saturday’s clash between SKA and Metallurg.

Photo: 20.08.20. TANECO Champions Cup. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

The home team got off to a perfect start with Nikita Dynyak opening the scoring from the game’s first meaningful attack. Kirill Petrov intercepted the puck in center ice and sent Dynyak, 23, into the Metallurg zone. The youngster picked a wrister that left Vasily Koshechkin with no chance.

Late in the opening frame, Ak Bars doubled its lead and, once again, it was a youngster on the scoresheet. Admittedly, 19-year-old forward Dmitry Voronkov was looking for experience forward Danis Zaripov when he fired the puck towards the far post. However, Bogdan Potekhin’s attempt to intercept went wrong and the Magnitka man merely steered the disc into his own net.

In the second period, Artyom Galimov added another goal to boost his fast-growing reputation. Earlier this week on, our columnist Pavel Lisenkov suggested that this 20-year-old could be the next center for Team Russia. Today, he gave weight to that conclusion when he potted his second goal of the tournament, beating Koshechkin at the second attempt.

Belatedly, Metallurg got back into the game. Nikolai Prokhorkin scored on Adam Reideborn to reduce the arrears, but as his team looked to grasp that lifeline, the forward took a penalty that shattered Magnitka’s momentum as the period drew to an end.

The final session saw Ak Bars close out the win effectively, with Metallurg unable to find a way to threaten Reideborn.

Dmitry Kvartalnov was satisfied with the result, but still identified things to work on. “Today’s game was livelier than yesterday’s,” he said. “We scored on the power play, even though we were quite weak in this part of our game. We had a lot of turnovers in center ice, there are lots of things for us to work on, we’re far from perfect.”

His opposite number, Ilya Vorobyov, added: “Against Ak Bars, you can’t afford to make mistakes. We gave away the goals ourselves, making too many loose passes. So, we’ll keep working. It’s pre-season, but this game was a real battle.”

Bauer Games

Winning start for Jokerit

Jokerit Helsinki 2 Jukurit 1 (0-0, 1-1, 1-0)

Jokerit played its first pre-season game of the summer in Imatra, where the Finns are taking part in the Bauer Games tournament. The first opponent was Jukurit, a Liiga team from Mikkeli.

The first period of the game produced no goals, although Jokerit ensured that Sami Rajaniemi was the busier of the two goalies. And that pressure paid off in the middle frame when Niklas Jensen opened the scoring at the midway stage, assisted by Henrik Haapala and Saku Maenalanen.

However, the lead was short-lived. Barely a minute later, Mikael Saha tied the game and the scores remained level going into the third. Rajaniemi continued to confound the Jokerit offense for much of that final stanza, holding out until the last five minutes. But then Mikko Lehtonen, a free-scoring defenseman who was so impressive last term, popped up with his devilish wrister and potted the winning goal.

Jokerit plays again tomorrow against another Liiga team, Assat.

Warm-up game

First loss for Dinamo Minsk

Dinamo Minsk 1 Yunost Minsk 2 (0-1, 1-1, 0-0)

Dinamo suffered its first loss of the season after going down to Belarusian champion Yunost. The Bison iced a young roster, giving several older players a chance to rest. However, there was still plenty of top-level experience on display, with a first line of Shane Prince, Yegor Sharangovich and Francis Pare, plus goalie Danny Taylor.

This was the third time Dinamo had played an opponent from the Belarusian championship and in both previous games the KHL team came from behind to win 3-2. Here, once again, Dinamo fell behind, with former forward Evgeny Kovyrshin opening the scoring in the 15th minute. Alexander Pavlovich tied the scores in the second, but there was no fightback this time. Instead, Evgeny Nogachev quickly restored Yunost’s lead and Dinamo was unable to find another goal.

“After losing a game there’s not much to be happy with,” admitted Dinamo coach Mikhail Grabovsky. “Yunost is a good opponent, the champion of Belarus, that’s why we wanted to play them. For us, it was a chance to look at our younger guys and see where we need to work. This is our preparatory stage. But soon we’ll be back for the Salei Cup, and we’ll be looking to get revenge on Yunost there.”

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Dinamo (Minsk) Dinamo (Minsk)
Jokerit (Helsinki) Jokerit (Helsinki)
Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
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