The popular KHL World Games are back! On Dec. 3, Avangard and Ak Bars are off to the desert to play their regular season game in Dubai. It’s part of efforts to promote ice hockey in the UAE and also ties in with the on-going Expo 2020, which opens its doors after the pandemic. In previous seasons, the KHL has staged regular season games in Switzerland and Austria, but this trip represents the first time our teams will go to the Middle East.
With a 14-game winning streak, Metallurg Magnitogorsk set a club record in the KHL era. Ilya Vorobyov’s team started its run on Sep. 10, edging Admiral 4-3 in overtime. Along the way, victims included Ak Bars (twice), Avangard, CSKA and Dynamo Moscow. However, Salavat Yulaev ended the sequence on Oct. 17, winning 5-2 in Magnitogorsk. So far this season, Metallurg has lost only to Ufa — its previous defeat was a 2-7 reverse at home to the same opponent on Sep. 7.
Metallurg’s winning run was not enough to put the team clear in the KHL standings. Instead, the pace setter comes from Magnitogorsk’s near neighbor Chelyabinsk. Traktor starts this week two points clear of the rest after extending its own sequence to eight wins with a 5-3 success against Dynamo Moscow on Sunday.
Two new forwards got on the ice for SKA during the week — but the high profile signing of Nikita Gusev was somewhat overshadowed by a goalscoring debut for Valentin Zykov. The 26-year-old has spent the bulk of his career to date in North America and played his first minutes in the KHL on Sunday. He potted his first goal when he redirected an Emil Garipov shot into the Barys net. However, it was not enough to help SKA win the game, with the visitor taking the verdict in a shoot-out. Olympic champion Gusev, by far the higher profile signing, has featured in two games since rejoining the Army Men after two seasons in the NHL, but is awaiting his first points of his second spell in Petersburg.
Ak Bars and Barys, two clubs with snow leopards for mascots, continued their recent tradition of using their head-to-head meetings to promote the conservation of these beautiful but rare big cats. When the teams met last week in Nur-Sultan, both had special ‘We’re saving snow leopards’ patches on their uniforms and the two mascots came together to raise awareness of the cause.
Elsewhere, Dinamo Riga is also using a limited-edition jersey to support a good cause. October of Breast Cancer awareness month, and the Latvian club has temporarily ditched its traditional carmine red jersey for a pink model to join in the worldwide campaign. So far, the new look has helped Dinamo record back-to-back home wins and climb into the top eight in the West.
After a one-year break during the pandemic, the IIHF’s annual celebration of girls playing hockey returned — and four clubs from the Women’s Hockey League got involved. SKIF Nizhny Novgorod, which celebrates its 25th anniversary, marked the occasion with its own regular tournament involving its four hockey schools in the region. WHL newcomer Beliye Medveditsy Chelyabinsk put on a masterclass with girls at a local hockey school in the South Ural city, while Biryusa held a similar event in Krasnoyarsk, central Siberia. And Dynamo Neva went back to school, visiting a local figure-skating club and shooting a short promo clip with seven-year-old Marta Mikhailova as she learned some hockey skills from players at the club.