Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Monday’s big game saw two Eastern Conference powerhouses clash in Kazan and once again Ak Bars had the better of Avangard. Elsewhere, Kunlun Red Star snapped an eight-game losing streak with victory at Neftekhimik, and Vityaz moved off the foot of the Eastern Conference with a surprise win in Chelyabinsk.

Ojamaki leads Vityaz to victory

Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 Vityaz Moscow Region 4 (1-0, 0-2, 1-2)

Vityaz pulled off an unexpected win at high-flying Traktor, breaking a three-game skid thanks to Niko Ojamaki’s three-point game in Chelyabinsk. The visitor left it late to get the win, which moves it back in front of Sochi at the foot of the Western Conference.

In the early stages Vityaz looked sharp, but it took time for the visiting forwards to find their range and Traktor took advantage to grab the lead on just its third effort of the game. Lukas Sedlak won his puck battle in front of the net and duly found the target, only to find that Vityaz continued to press as before and Roman Will continued to repulse their best efforts.

That changed in the middle session. Both teams began to take penalties, but it was Vityaz that made the most of its power play chances. True, the tying goal arrived two second after Alexei Byvaltsev returned to the ice, but Mikhail Smolin’s effort was a power play marker in all but name. Byvaltsev was back in the box late in the second period and once again his indiscretion proved costly. This time, Ojamaki got the power play goal off a feed from fellow Finn Miro Aaltonen.

At the start of the third, Vityaz ran into penalty trouble of its own with Kirill Lyamin and then Ildar Shiksatdarov going to the sin bin. The latter was a major penalty and Vitaly Abramov converted it to level the scores. Vladimir Tkachyov then hit the piping as Traktor looked to move in front and the home team seemed to be taking control of the game. However, neither team could grab a third goal until the closing moments when the visiting power play struck again. This time Daniel Audette scored off Ojamaki’s assist and, in the closing moments, the Finn Intercepted Will’s wayward clearance to set up Aaltonen for a fourth goal to seal the win.

Ak Bars wins battle of the East again

Ak Bars Kazan 2 Avangard Omsk 1 (1-0, 0-0, 1-1)

For the second time in 10 days, Ak Bars overcame the team that defeated it in last year’s Eastern Conference final. After a 3-2 win over Avangard on Oct. 22, today Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team took a 2-1 verdict to consolidate its grip on a top-four position.

The home team suffered a chastening 0-5 loss at Traktor in its previous game and that lackluster display prompted changes. Creative forward Jordan Weal returned to action, while Dmitry Yudin and Roman Rukavishnikov were drafted into the defense in place of the underperforming Nikita Lyamkin. Avangard was without Ivan Telegin and Arseny Gritsyuk, with Francis Pare and Yaroslav Kosov coming in. On defense, Semyon Chistyakov replaced Kirill Gotovets.

However the two coaches hoped their teams would start this game, it’s unlikely that they anticipated sharing four penalties in barely three minutes — particularly when most of them were rather unnecessary. The upshot was a 4-on-3 power play for the home team which enabled Artyom Galimov and Danis Zaripov to combine for Steven Kampfer to open the scoring. Once back at full strength, Avangard skated better but struggled to generate an end product and finished the opening frame with just two shots on goal to its name.

Photo: 01.11.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Avangard (Omsk)


The visiting offense continued to misfire in the middle frame, with even a four-minute penalty on Yudin for head butting failing to give the Hawks the chance to take off. It was a credit to Ak Bars’ tactical nous that the home team managed to stifle one of the league’s stronger power plays so effectively.

Despite an offense that rarely sparkled, Avangard nonetheless eked out a tying goal in the third — albeit with an element of good fortune. Ville Pokka’s shot took a deflection of Kristian Khenkel on its way past Timur Bilyalov. That gave the visitor a lift as the game moved into its closing stages, but Ak Bars continued to defend calmly. The home team wasted a power play chance, but back at equal strength grabbed the winner with another well-worked goal: Weal and Kirill Petrov provided the set-up, Daniil Tarasov was presented with the simplest of finishes and the home fans could relax once again. Dmitry Kagarlitsky could have wrapped it up, but Vasily Demchenko denied him on an odd man rush and Ak Bars was forced to kill one last penalty in the closing minutes. Hartley set up his team for a 6-on-4 surge, but could not force a tying goal.

Dragons bounce back

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 3 Kunlun Red Star 5 (1-1, 2-1, 0-3)

Kunlun finally found its scoring touch to snap an eight-game losing streak and deliver a strong response to Saturday’s club record loss at Avtomobilist. Two goals from captain Brandon Yip and two more from triallist Mikhail Abramov set up a morale-boosting victory in Tatarstan for the KHL’s basement dweller, which claimed its first victory since October 9.

Initially, though, this game was dominated by the Neftekhimik power play. The home team converted three opportunities in the opening half of the game, with Evgeny Mityakin, Pavel Poryadin and Yegor Popov putting the host in front on three separate occasions. In between, Yip celebrated his return to the first line with a tying goal and Abramov, playing the third and final game of his try-out contract, potted his first in the KHL.

Late in the middle frame, though, Red Star changed the pattern of play. Successfully killing a 3-on-5 penalty, the visitor visibly gained in confidence. In the final frame, the Dragons stayed out of the box and turned the game around as Neftekhimik’s discipline foundered. Spencer Foo’s laser of a shot tied the scores on the power play in the 47th minute, then Yip got his second of the game on a delayed penalty soon after. That gave Kunlun the lead for the first time in this game, and the first time in any action since Oct. 19. Abramov’s second of the game put the result beyond the home team, sparking big celebrations among the visiting contingent.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Related clubs

Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Vityaz (Moscow Region) Vityaz (Moscow Region)
Kunlun Red Star (Beijing) Kunlun Red Star (Beijing)
Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk) Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)
Traktor (Chelyabinsk) Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
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