Throughout the season, Salavat Yulaev’s youngsters have made a positive impact. Today it was the turn of 21-year-old defenseman Alexander Alexeyev. He scored his team’s first two goals, setting up a convincing win that lifts Ufa to 40 points, tied with Avangard and Traktor in the chasing pack behind Ak Bars.
This is Alexeyev’s first season in the KHL. As a youngster, he had one full season in the Juniors with Serebryanye Lvy before crossing the Atlantic to join Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. Drafted by the Caps, he had his first taste of men’s hockey in the AHL last season and was loaned to Ufa to continue his development during the on-going hiatus in North American hockey.
Today, the youngster was elevated to the second defensive pairing and celebrated with his most productive game yet. He opened the scoring in the first minute, and then struck again to restore his team’s lead 30 seconds after Ildar Shiksatdarov brought Neftekhimik level. Sakari Manninen added a third, stretching his productive streak to six games, and Philip Larsen’s power play effort made it 4-1 on 11 minutes. That was the end of Evgeny Ivannikov’s evening in the visitor’s net; Konstantin Barulin came off the bench to try and calm things down.
For a time, that worked. Salavat stopped scoring and the only goal of the middle frame went to Pavel Poryadin as Neftekhimik pulled one back. But the outcome was never in doubt, and two goals in the third period sealed a big home victory. Teemu Hartikainen got one on the power play and in the last minute Alexeyev added an assist to his day’s work as Rodion Amirov completed the rout.
Metallurg’s recent problems — the team is stuck in sixth place in the East and lost three of its previous four games — prompted a significant change. On the morning of this game against table-topping Ak Bars, the club announced the return of Mike Pelino as assistant coach to Ilya Vorobyov. The pair were in tandem when Magnitka last won the Gagarin Cup in 2016, and the prospect of a return to familiar surroundings persuaded Pelino to return to Russia after leaving Lokomotiv at the end of last season.
The news inspired an improved performance from Metallurg. Up against an impressive Ak Bars team, the host battled all the way to take it to a shoot-out. However, Nigel Dawes proved too hot to handle in the extras, scoring with two attempts to give the visitor the verdict. Before that, though, there were at last some encouraging signs for Magnitka.
True, Kazan made the better start and deservedly led at the first intermission on a goal from Dawes. The opening stanza was also marked by a fight between Patrice Cormier and Artyom Minulin. Ak Bars then had a goal disallowed early in the second when Artyom Lukoyanov’s effort was cancelled for offside.
Almost immediately, a home power play saw Sergei Mozyakin tie the game. And after that, Metallurg began to seize the initiative, enjoying the better of the play for much of the second period. Midway through the third, the pressure paid off and Maxim Karpov led a 2-on-2 breakaway. The forward feinted to pass, then beat Timur Bilyalov with a surprise shot to give Magnitka the lead. Had the home power play been more effective, the game might have got away from Ak Bars. But Metallurg failed to convert three chances in the third period, and Mikhail Glukhov’s equalizer sent us to overtime. That could not separate the teams, but Dawes delivered the decisive blow for Ak Bars in the shoot-out.
A three-game winning streak ahead of Wednesday’s game lifted the mood around Sibir and Nikolai Zavarukhin’s team arrived in Latvia looking to put daylight between itself and the teams chasing a playoff spot. Two goals midway through the first period — Pekka Jormakka and Juuso Puustinen were the scorers — had the visitor well placed to make it four-in-a-row.
However, Dinamo’s recent signing Gleb Zyryanov is making a habit of getting goals against his former clubs. He scored twice to give the Latvians a 5-4 verdict against Kunlun Red Star, snapping a long losing streak in the process. Today, against the team where he made his KHL debut, the 28-year-old was on target again when he redirected Jordan Murray’s point shot past Harri Sateri.
Miks Indrasis is another Riga player returning to form. He had to wait until Nov. 16 for his first goal of the season, but today brought his fourth, a power play tally to tie the game early in the third period. However, it wasn’t enough to save Dinamo from defeat. Midway through the third period, Nikita Shashkov’s shot from the deep slot was good enough to beat Stanislav Galimov, helped by Nikita Korotkov’s screen in front of the goalie. That secured a fourth successive win for Sibir, while Dinamo remains at the foot of the KHL table.