Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Ak Bars won 3-1 at home to Avangard and, in doing so, secured its place in the KHL playoffs for the 13th successive year. Jokerit also had a 3-1 verdict, on the road at Spartak, and extends the gap over its eighth-placed opponent. Elsewhere in Moscow, Dynamo won 5-3 at home to Torpedo. Avtomobilist took its hot streak to three games with a 2-1 win in Minsk and Severstal boosted its playoff prospects with a 3-2 victory over Dinamo Riga.

Ak Bars clinches playoff spot

Ak Bars Kazan 3 Avangard Omsk 1 (1-1, 1-0, 1-0)

Ak Bars is the first team in the 2021 Gagarin Cup playoffs after it avoided defeat against Avangard. One point was good enough for Dmitry Kvartalnov’s table-toppers going into Friday’s game, and the host delivered that with a 3-1 win at home to Chernyshev Division leader Avangard.

Photo: 15.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Avangard (Omsk)

However, the home team had to come from behind after an early goal from Alexei Bereglazov gave Avangard the advantage in the fifth minute. Bereglazov, who scored his first of the season in his previous game, finished off a move that involved Ilya Kovalchuk and Denis Zernov.

Not long afterwards, former Ak Bars forward Jiri Sekac left the ice after sustaining a serious cut after a big hit from Stephane Da Costa. It happened on the Czech’s fourth shift of the game and he did not return to action.

In his absence, Ak Bars turned it around. Stanislav Galiyev’s power play goal tied it up midway through the first period and the home team continued to create chances without finding a go-ahead goal in the opening stanza. Midway through the second, though, that goal arrived. Da Costa won a faceoff in the neutral zone and Andrei Pedan surged forward to fire over the glove of Simon Hrubec.

On paper, the game was still very much alive with Avangard needing just one goal to tie it up. On the ice, though, Ak Bars was in dominant mood and that carried on into the third period. For all the visitor tried to get its offense on top, the host kept peppering Hrubec with efforts and made it hard for the Hawks to generate any kind of pressure. Artyom Lukoyanov added a third goal in the 52nd minute to give some breathing space and it wasn’t until a couple of late penalties on Ak Bars that Avangard was able to unleash something of a storm on Adam Reideborn’s net. The Swede held firm, however, and Kazan could begin its post-season preparations after maintaining its record of reaching every playoff in the KHL era.

Holland’s double sinks Dinamo

Dinamo Minsk 1 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 2 (0-0, 0-2, 1-0)

Two goals from Peter Holland lifted Avtomobilist to a third successive victory, but Dinamo lost for the third time in a row.

Both teams could make a claim for having the better of the first period. Dinamo had far more time on the attack but struggled to turn that territorial advantage into big chances. Avtomobilist played a counter-attacking game and kept pace on the shot count without finding a way past Danny Taylor.

That all changed at the start of the second when the visitor got its first power play of the night. Holland duly converted the chance and went on to extend Avto’s lead midway through the session. German defenseman Korbinian Holzer recorded his first assist in the KHL.

Stepan Falkovsky got Dinamo back in the game at the start of the third period and the home team ramped up the pressure in those closing stages but could not force a tying goal. At the other end, Holland thought he had a hat-trick in the last minute but a long video review eventually concluded the he strayed offside at the start of the play and the goal was ruled out. However, the reprieve came too late for Dinamo, which slipped to a 2-1 defeat.

Severstal consolidates in top eight

Severstal Cherepovets 3 Dinamo Riga 2 (1-1, 1-0, 1-1)

Severstal climbed to sixth in the Western Conference with a victory at home to Dinamo Riga. The Steelmen recorded a second successive victory, while the Latvians remain rooted to the foot of the table after four straight losses.

The home team dominated from the start but fell behind in unexpected fashion in the seventh minute when JC Lipon got a short-handed goal for Riga. It took just 10 seconds of the PK for the Canadian to score, streaking up the ice to beat Vladislav Podyapolsky at the second attempt. However, Dinamo was limited to just three shots on goal in the opening frame and Severstal’s pressure eventually paid off when Alexander Petunin tied the game.

Dinamo’s offense was even quieter in the middle frame, with just two shots for Podyapolsky to field. At the other end, Severstal got in front through Maxim Kazakov five minutes before the intermission. Jacob Berglund extended that lead early in the third, but Dinamo kept the game alive thanks to a power play goal from Reece Scarlett. However, despite a livelier show from the visiting forwards in the closing stages, Severstal held on for the win.

Juntilla’s first goal brings victory to Jokerit

Spartak Moscow 1 Jokerit Helsinki 3 (1-1, 0-1, 0-1)

Jokerit pulled away from Spartak in the battle for a playoff place. This victory in Moscow puts the fifth-placed Finns three points ahead of the Red-and-Whites, and the visitor still has four games in hand over Oleg Znarok’s team.

Photo: 15.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Spartak (Moscow) - Jokerit (Helsinki)

Jokerit got in front midway through the first period when Jesse Joensuu converted the team’s second power play of the night. However, Spartak needed just 14 seconds to tie it up, with Robin Hanzl pouncing on the rebound after a Lukas Radil shot was blocked. It stayed level until the first intermission.

If Jokerit deserved its opening goal, the game continued to be even after Spartak levelled. But Spartak’s first power play of the game, at the start of the middle frame, changed all that — and not in the manner the home team was hoping for. As Jesse Joensuu sat in the box, Jokerit got a two-on-two break and Julius Junttila did the job. That was the 29-year-old’s first KHL goal: apart from featuring for Jokerit this season he also had five appearances with Sibir back in 2018-2019. The visitor almost ended the frame with another shorthanded goal after Brian O’Neill thought he made it 3-1. However, Znarok challenged the decision and the review upheld the coach’s complaint about interference on the goalie.

That reprieve lifted Spartak and the home team dominated the third period. So complete was the Red-and-Whites’ control that Jokerit was limited to just one shot on goal. However, it was the only shot in the session that found the target, with Peter Regin converting an Alex Grant feed to make the game safe.

Dynamo rallies to defeat Torpedo

Dynamo Moscow 5 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 3 (0-1, 4-2, 1-0)

Dynamo recorded a third straight win after coming from behind to beat Torpedo. The Blue-and-Whites remain fourth in the West, while Torpedo loses ground on fifth-placed Avtomobilist in the Eastern Conference.

Photo: 15.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Dynamo (Moscow) - Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod)

The visitor got the opening goal in this game, breaking the deadlock in the 10th minute thanks to a power play goal from Ivan Chekhovich. However, Dynamo put plenty of pressure on Pyotr Kochetkov’s net without being able to tie the scores before the intermission.

The action really picked up in the second period, with the teams sharing six goals. First, Dynamo turned the game around to jump into a 3-1 lead. Ilya Kruglov tied it up, then Vadim Shipachyov produced two assists as goals from Dmitry Kagarlitsky and Michal Cajkovsky seemed to have the home team in complete control.

But Torpedo responded with two goals in the 35th minute. Andy Miele pulled one back, then Jordan Szwarz tied it up on 34:39. Daniil Tarasov restored the home lead before the intermission and, at the end of a tense final session, Artyom Volkov made it safe with an empty-net goal for the home team.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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