Andy Potts Andy Potts
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CSKA defeated SKA for the third time this season, winning 3-1 in Moscow in Sunday’s big game. The top clash in the East also brought a home victory as Avtomobilist topped Avangard by a 4-1 margin. Yury Mikhailis scored a hat-trick as Barys won 3-2 at home to Amur, Ak Bars stays out in front with a 2-0 success against Torpedo and Traktor won 4-0 against Lokomotiv. There were road wins for Dinamo Minsk and Sibir, who got shoot-out verdicts at Severstal and Dynamo Moscow respectively, while a Pavel Poryadin double saw Neftekhimik edge Dinamo Riga 3-2.

Peters wins battle of Canadian coaches

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 4 Avangard Omsk 1 (0-1, 1-0, 3-0)

Avtomobilist recorded its fourth straight victory after coming out on top in this clash of the Canadian coaches. Bill Peters got the better of Bob Hartley on this occasion, despite his team falling behind in the first period.

Photo: 17.01.21. KHL Championship 2020/2021. Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg) - Avangard (Omsk)

Avangard made changes after losing its two previous games. An injury to Jiri Sekac forced him out of the team, Andrei Stas replaced him. The top line was reshaped, with Reid Boucher joined by Klim Kostin and Corban Knight while Ilya Kovalchuk and Denis Zernov joined Nail Yakupov.

The new-look top line from the Hawks broke the deadlock in a cautious first period. Knight fired to the slot and Kostin reacted to slot home a one-timer. That was the only goal of the opening session and once in front Avangard played an even more defensive game. In the second period, Avtomobilist was limited to just five shots on target. However, the home team turned one of them into a goal: Peter Holland, who scored two in his previous game, rifled home the equalizer midway through the action. Both teams hit the piping in the latter stages of the frame, with Korbinian Holzer ringing the iron for Avto before Alexei Bereglazov followed suit at the other end.

Neither team took a penalty in the first 40 minutes, but right at the start of the third Kirill Semyonov was called for high sticking. Avangard managed to kill the penalty, but 13 seconds after receiving a fifth skater the visitor fell behind after failing to stop Alexander Protapovich on the slot. The forward, who played with Dinamo Riga last season, got his first goal for the Motormen.

It wasn’t long before Avto made it 3-1 when Anatoly Golyshev put away a rebound. And the final word went to Holzer. So close in the second period, the German defenseman got his first KHL goal in the third to seal an impressive win for the home team.

Mikhailis hits a hat-trick

Barys Nur-Sultan 3 Amur Khabarovsk 2 (0-0, 2-1, 1-1)

Nikita Mikhailis scored his first KHL hat-trick to shoot down Amur. In doing so, he halted the Tigers’ three-game hot streak, a run that began with a 5-1 win over Barys in Khabarovsk 11 days earlier.

The first period was goalless, but Mikhailis broke the deadlock at the start of the second, converting a Roman Starchenko assist. Almost immediately, Barys got a big boost when Alexander Polunin was ejected from the game following a high hit on the same Starchenko. Unaffected by that blow, Roman returned to the ice to set up another Mikhailis goal while Amur served that major penalty.

However, when the teams were back at full strength, the Tigers showed their teeth. Dmitry Lugin reduced the deficit late in the second period and Sergei Tereshchenko tied the scores in the 47th minute. However, Barys would not be denied. Just 90 seconds after Amur levelled, Mikhailis got his third of the game to seal the win for the host.

Impressive Traktor blanks Loko

Traktor Chelyabinsk 4 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 0 (2-0, 1-0, 1-0)

Returning home seems to be suiting Traktor. After a five-game losing streak, the Chelyabinsk team made it back-to-back successes on home ice with an impressive performance against Lokomotiv. The visitor had five wins from its previous six games but was never in contention here.

Traktor made a great start, opening the scoring in the second minute when Vyacheslav Osnovin emerged from behind the net to squeeze a shot past Eddie Pasquale. Lokomotiv tried to respond quickly, but Roman Will was alert to the danger while his team-mates harried and hassled the visitor all over the ice. That pressing got its reward when it forced a turnover in the Yaroslavl zone and Vitaly Kravtsov produced a fine pass to create a goal for Tomas Hyka. At the intermission, Traktor had two goals from three shots, and a 2-0 lead.

Given its first-period success, it was hardly surprising that Traktor was happy to continue focussing on the hard defensive work and Lokomotiv was kept to the outside for much of the middle session. Tempers began to rise, but neither team could find a power play goal. Late in the frame, though, Lawrence Pilut extended the home advantage. The third period was similarly dominated by home defense but, once again, Traktor also found the way to goal. This time it was Daniil Ilyin who finished off a well-worked passing move. Will posted his fourth shut-out of the season.

Minsk moves ahead with win in Cherepovets

Severstal Cherepovets 1 Dinamo Minsk 2 SO (0-1, 0-0, 1-0, 0-0, 0-1)

Dinamo snapped a three-game losing streak to move ahead of Severstal into sixth place in the Western Conference thanks to a shoot-out win in Cherepovets.

Severstal came into the game seeking an eighth successive home victory — a run all the more striking considering that it began when the Steelmen were ordered to play behind closed doors. However, Dinamo also had grounds for optimism, with the last five meetings between the teams ending in an away win.

The home team had the better of the first period but was unable to take its chances. Late in the frame, Dinamo punished that wastefulness, with Rob Klinkhammer’s shot dropping onto Shane Prince’s stick for the opening goal. Severstal kept plugging away but time was beginning to run out until a power play goal from Adam Liska salvaged a point.

There was no overtime winner, but in the shoot-out Alexander Kogalev and Pavel Varfolomeyev scored to give the verdict to Minsk.

Riga’s recovery comes up short

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 3 Dinamo Riga 2 (3-0, 0-1, 0-1)

It’s an all-too familiar story for Riga: a battling come back fell short and the Latvians slipped to a fifth successive loss. The game was a clash of the basement teams from each conference, but Neftekhimik’s win lifts it back in front of Kunlun Red Star in the east.

That success was built on a powerful first period. Bulat Shafigullin opened the scoring in the ninth minute, then Pavel Poryadin scored twice to consolidate the lead. Both of his goals were assisted by Brandon McMillan, once of Dinamo.

The visitor needed a fast start to the second period and got the goal it was seeking when a defensive error presented Andris Dzerins with a chance that he swiftly converted to make it 1-3. However, in the third period Dzerins was guilty of a high sticking offense that earned a double minor and Riga had to work hard to stay in the game. After killing that penalty, Dinamo got back to within a goal of the host thanks to Gennady Stolyarov but could not complete the comeback before the final siren.

Reideborn backstops another Ak Bars win

Ak Bars Kazan 2 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 0 (0-0, 0-0, 2-0)

Ak Bars, already assured of its playoff place, kept up its impressive form with a home win against Torpedo. Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team has lost just once in 14 games as it continues to dominate the Eastern Conference and leads the KHL standings.

However, after three high-scoring games with Torpedo this season — most recently a 7-5 barn-burner at the Tatneft Arena — this game was rather different. Instead of free-scoring attacking play, for much of the evening this was a goaltending duel. A cautious first period gave way to a livelier second session, with Nigel Dawes enjoying Ak Bars’ best chance while Torpedo twice failed on the power play.

The visitor then had a great chance to open the scoring at the start of the third, but Sergei Goncharuk was unable to beat Adam Reideborn from close range. Almost immediately, Ak Bars went to the other end and opened the scoring at last, with Kirill Petrov breaking the deadlock in the 44th minute.

Things remained tense, though, and the game was in the balance until the last seconds when Patrice Cormier’s empty-net goal put the outcome beyond doubt.

Sibir rallies to beat Dynamo

Dynamo Moscow 3 Sibir Novosibirsk 4 SO (1-1, 1-1, 1-1, 0-0, 0-1)

Sibir reignited its playoff hopes with a battling win at Dynamo Moscow. The visitor got its first victory in three attempts, shrugging off the disappointment of losing at home to Red Star last time out. However, it is still seven points adrift of eighth-placed Barys in the Eastern Conference table.

Yegor Milovzorov, a player who made little impact at Dynamo before becoming something of a cult hero at Sibir, opened the scoring for the visitor with a power play goal in the ninth minute. However, Sibir’s next chance to test its PP ended in failure, with Ivan Muranov grabbing a short-handed tally to tie the game.

In the next two periods, Dynamo twice went ahead and Sibir twice responded. In the middle frame, Vadim Shipachyov struck first, only for Alexander Sharov to tie it up. Then Dmitrij Jaskin’s power play goal midway through the third came close to winning it. Instead, Milovzorov set up Evgeny Chesalin to level the scores on 58:43.

Overtime was goalless, and Sharov scored twice in the shoot-out. However, that double was matched by Daniil Tarasov and it fell to Mikael Ruohomaa to strike the decisive blow.

CSKA gets its third win over SKA

CSKA Moscow 3 SKA St. Petersburg 1 (1-0, 1-0, 1-1)

The season’s fourth and final edition of the Army Derby went to CSKA, with the Muscovites getting a third victory over their Petersburg rivals. After twice going to overtime this season — most recently a week ago in the north, when CSKA won it on a Konstantin Okulov goal, this was a more decisive performance. The home was never behind in the game and set the tempo from the moment SKA took a first-minute penalty for too many men.

Photo: 17.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. CSKA (Moscow) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

True, SKA killed that bench minor. But the visitor could generate little offense of its own once back to full strength and it was no surprise when CSKA took the lead midway through the first period. Alexander Popov’s pass from behind the net went to Brendan Leipsic and he scored from a tight angle.

SKA got a power play chance of its own when Leipsic fouled, but could not convert and went into the intermission trailing 0-1 despite an improved performance after falling behind. However, the visitor could not sustain that momentum in the second and ultimately allowed a second goal when Okulov scored on the power play late in the frame.

Valery Bragin’s team pulled a goal back at the start of the third period when Joonas Kemppainen released Emil Galimov for a one-on-one encounter with Lars Johansson and the former Ak Bars forward finished with aplomb. But CSKA would not be denied and Sergei Andronov quickly restored a two-goal advantage when he converted Mat Robinson’s feed to the back door. Subsequently, the home team closed out the game. Igor Nikitin saw his team bounce back at once from a 0-3 loss at Lokomotiv, but SKA has a concerning sequence of just one victory in six games this year.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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