Andy Potts Andy Potts
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It was a day dominated by new arrivals. Bill Peters, Avtomobilist’s new head coach, made a winning start in the KHL away to Traktor. Markus Granlund, the big addition for Salavat Yulaev, had a hand in all three goals as his new team won at Torpedo. Reid Boucher finally ended some stubborn Sibir resistance to give Avangard the verdict in Balashikha. There were high-scoring encounters in Cherepovets, where Severstal got the better of a 10-goal game against Amur, and Yaroslavl, where Spartak crumbled against an impressive Lokomotiv. Barys also made a winning start, holding on to defeat Dinamo Riga 3-2.

Winning start for Bill Peters

Traktor Chelyabinsk 1 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 (0-1, 1-0, 0-2)

It was supposed to be a big day for Traktor. Anvar Gatiyatulin was back with the team and there was optimism in the air. The summer trades looked promising, hometown hero Vitaly Kravtsov was back to get some game time while North America rests and the talk was of an improved team that would cancel out the memories of last season’s failure to reach the playoffs.

But Avtomobilist had not read that script. The visitor, led by Bill Peters in his first competitive game as a KHL head coach, weathered an early storm before taking the win thanks to two goals from its new signings.

The first sign of trouble for Traktor came before the game, with news that Gatiyatulin unable to be behind the bench as he recovers from illness. Assistant Ravil Gusmanov took his place, with the head coach in constant audio contact. And the first period left many in the arena fearing that it would ‘one of those days’ as the home team outshot Avto 9-2 but allowed the only goal of the frame when debutant Sergei Zborovsky fired home from the blue line.

Traktor responded with a power play goal in the middle frame, new captain Sergei Kalinin — one of many players to leave last season’s leaders due to the salary cap — repaid the first instalment of Traktor’s investment by tying the scores. However, despite the home team continuing to apply most of the pressure, the Motormen responded with two breakaway goals in the third stanza. Alexei Makeyev, back at his first club after seven seasons at Vityaz, restored the lead before Dan Sexton wrapped it up with a shorthanded goal.

Mikhailis scores, Mikhailis wins

Dinamo Riga 2 Barys Nur-Sultan 3 (0-3, 1-0, 1-0)

Barys began its campaign with victory on the road in Riga — and it was a big day for the Mikhailis family.

Father Yury took charge of Barys over the summer, promoted from his role behind the bench at Nomad, the Kazakh club’s farm team. He included his son, Nikita Mikhailis, a 25-year-old forward who is playing an ever-more important role for club and country. That family connection paid off: after Curtis Valk opened the scoring in the ninth minute, Mikhailis junior doubled the lead on the power play. Darren Dietz added a third at the end of the first period and everything looked good for the visitor.

Dinamo, though, showed plenty of character as it tried to recover the situation. A goal from Pavel Chernov late in the second period started the revival and the same player was close to making it a one-goal game when he steered the puck towards an open net only to see it bounce off the post to safety. Late in the game the home team had a double power play and withdrew the goalie to play 6-on-3. The extra men made the difference, with Denis Parshin scoring on his Riga debut. However, with just 25 seconds left there was no time to force the extras and Barys left with a narrow win in regulation.

This game was officiated by referees from the Latvian Championship. One of the party of KHL officials who travelled to Riga tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the game, meaning the whole group had to isolate.

Loko steamrollers Spartak, Korshkov nets twice

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 7 Spartak Moscow 2 (2-0, 1-1, 4-1)

Home teams haven’t found life easy in the KHL so far this season, but Lokomotiv struck a blow for hosts with a comfortable win over Spartak.

Photo: 03.09.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) - Spartak (Moscow)

The Railwaymen started on time and went ahead after just three minutes. Vladimir Tkachyov burst into the Spartak zone and despatched a wrister from between the hash marks. Late in the frame, Yegor Averin doubled the lead, shooting home from a similar position off a pass from Georgy Ivanov.

Loko threatened to extend that lead early in the second period, with Pavel Kudryavtsev ringing the iron before Atte Ohtamaa had a goal disallowed. Eventually, though, the pressure paid off and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson converted a power play as the midway point approached.

Finally, Spartak began to generate offense of its own. Ilya Konovalov produced a fine save to deny Lukas Radil a goalscoring start to the season, then summer signing Martin Bakos rattled in a one-timer to cut the deficit.

However, that proved to be a false dawn for the Red-and-Whites. Loko stepped up its game in the third, firing in four more goals to record the biggest win of the season so far. Artur Kayumov and Pavel Kraskovsky scored twice in 26 seconds to bring Pavel Khomchenko to the Spartak crease. Yegor Korshkov made it 6-1, completing a flurry of three goals in 90 seconds at the start of the third. The forward, returning home on loan from Toronto, added his second of the game before Anatoly Nikontsev got a late consolation marker for Spartak.

10-goal thriller in Cherepovets

Severstal Cherepovets 6 Amur Khabarovsk 4 (2-2, 1-2, 3-0)

This clash between two teams that failed to reach last season’s playoffs wasn’t most people’s pick for the game of the day. But it served up a hugely entertaining encounter in Cherepovets.

Both teams wasted little time, trading three goals in the first four minutes. The host grabbed two of them, with Denis Vikharev and Alexander Petunin finding the target either side of an Alexander Kuznetsov effort for Amur. Last season, Kuznetsov managed just two goals in 32 games; today he matched that tally after 18 minutes of play, tying the scores for a second time before the intermission.

In the summer, Amur was one of the most active teams and Denis Golubev contributed a good number of points. Today he continued that form into the regular season, giving his team a 29th-minute lead with a short-handed tally. Vladimir Butuzov made it 4-2 late in the frame, bringing Dmitry Shugayev to the home crease in the first goalie switch of the season. The gambit got an immediate reward when Daniil Vovchenko reduced the arrears in the last minute of the session.

That turned out to be the start of a big revival. Vadim Kudako made it 4-4 early in the third, and Severstal never looked back. Anton Sizov put the host back in front midway through the final stanza, his goal allowed after a bench challenge from Amur. Then, with five to play, it was back to the screens to verify a Vladislav Kodola goal, with Sizov among the assists this time.

Granlund dominates on debut

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3 (0-2, 1-0, 1-1)

Markus Granlund is at pains to point out that he is not a direct replacement for Ufa favorite Linus Omark. But if he continues in the way he started today, few at Salavat Yulaev will be unhappy with the new Finnish forward.

Granlund marked his KHL debut with a goal in the second minute. Torpedo took an early penalty, Salavat set up in the offensive third and Nikita Soshnikov’s pass gave Granlund a gaping net to aim at. Normally, though, Granlund links up with an all-Finnish line alongside Sakari Manninen and Teemu Hartikainen. That combination also strutted its stuff, adding a second goal just before the first break, with Granlund having too much for Brady Austin before setting up Hartikainen for a one-timer.

Torpedo head coach David Nemirovsky believes his team is stronger this season, but the first period did not reflect his confidence. After the intermission, though, we began to see more from the host. Andy Miele scored on the power play and after Ufa dominated the opening session, Torpedo seized the initiative in this one. Salavat Yulaev took a string of penalties — four in a row at one stage — but the home team struggled to turn its numerical advantage into goals and went into the second interval down 1-2.

In the third, Salavat tightened up. No more needless fouls, far fewer shots at either net. And as the pressure grew, it was Torpedo that started visiting the sin bin. That set up a third goal, and a third Finnish scorer. Granlund was involved again, firing in a wrist shot that Manninen deflected into the net. The shot went off Manninen’s skate, but replays confirmed that there was no deliberate kick at the puck and the goal stood. Three goals for Ufa, three Finns on the scoresheet, and three points for Granlund on his debut — a thoroughly satisfactory start for Tomi Lamsa as head coach of Salavat Yulaev.

Torpedo wasn’t quite done. Last season, this team had a reputation for rescuing impossible situations and a late power play goal from summer signing Jordan Szwarz gave home fans hope of another dramatic recovery. But Ufa closed out the game to give Lamsa the win on day one.

Boucher delivers debut winner

Avangard Omsk 1 Sibir Novosibirsk 0 (0-0, 0-0, 1-0)

Avangard made a winning start to the season at Balashikha Arena, but only after a brave goaltending performance from Anton Krasotkin threatened to thwart the home offense.

Photo: 03.09.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Avangard (Omsk) - Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)

Sibir’s preparations were hampered by the absence of Finnish forwards Mikael Ruohomaa and Juuso Puustinen, the team’s leading scorers last season. Nikolai Zavarukhin called up four players from the juniors, 19-year-old defenseman Ilya Pastukhov and forwards Dmitry Ovchinnikov (18), Sergei Dubakin and Nikita Potapov (both 20).

All four of them got a reasonable amount of game time. Ovchinnikov even had one of his team’s best chances, pouncing on an Avangard error and surging forward, only to be halted by experienced D-man Alexei Emelin. For the most part, though, Sibir dug in to frustrate a home team hoping for a big season this year. If the first period was fairly even, the second saw the Hawks take flight, dominating the play and outshooting Sibir 22-8. However, Bob Hartley’s team could not find a way past Anton Krasotkin in the visitor’s net. Whether it was Maxim Chudinov’s thunderbolts or the interplay between Kirill Semyonov and Sergei Shumakov, the goalie always had an answer.

That ended with 10 minutes to play when Reid Boucher, one of the big summer signings, made his move. The former Devils and Canucks front man was a late arrival to Balashikha due to the coronavirus situation, but he broke the deadlock on his debut with a power play goal. Avangard set up camp in front of Krasotkin’s net and when Corban Knight set up Boucher for a one-timer, there was only one winner.

It wasn’t quite the end: Sibir had two power plays in the closing stages, but Avangard held on. Emil Garipov secured the first shut-out of the season with 20 saves, two of the best coming on that final PK.

Dinamo Minsk vs Jokerit Helsinki — Walkover for Dinamo Minsk

Thursday’s game in Minsk did not take place after Jokerit declined to fly to the Belarusian capital. As a result, the KHL awards a walkover victory to the home team.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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