Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Avangard won Thursday’s big game, defeating Metallurg 4-2 despite two fine goals from Nikolai Goldobin. The day’s top scorer was Dynamo Moscow, which thumped Avtomobilist 7-1. Birthday boy Vitaly Kravtsov inspired Traktor to a 6-1 win over Severstal. Ak Bars hit five in a battling win over Barys, while Neftekhimik edged a nine-goal thriller at Amur. Not everyone was in scoring form, though, with Lokomotiv blanking Admiral before Torpedo’s Alexei Murygin denied Kunlun Red Star.

Neftekhimik rallies from 1-4 to win in overtime

Amur Khabarovsk 4 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 5 OT (1-1, 3-0, 0-3, 0-1)

After going down to a 3-1 defeat at home to Neftekhimik yesterday, Amur was out for revenge on Thursday. Apart from proving a point to the opposition, there was also the small matter of keeping pace in the race for the playoffs, with Neftekhimik moving two points clear yesterday.

Initially, Mikhail Kravets’ much-changed line-up seemed to be on the right path. David Tomasek gave the Tigers the lead with an early power play goal before Slava Leshchenko tied it up midway through the first period. That’s Leshchenko second goal in two games since joining Neftekhimik. After that, though, Amur took control with three unanswered goals in the second session. There was a strong Czech accent to this success, with a goal and an assist from Radan Lenc before Tomasek potted his second of the evening.

Tomasek, though, was not the only player to score a double. In the third period, Mikhail Sidorov struck twice for the visitor as Neftekhimik hit back. Two power plays early in the frame helped, with Sidorov and Eduard Gimatov on target. It all added up to overtime, and Dan Sexton got the winner off Ronald Knot’s third helper of the game as Neftekhimik moved into the playoff places.

Isayev shuts out in-form Sailors

Admiral Vladivostok 0 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3 (0-0, 0-2, 0-1)

Admiral had every cause for optimism coming into this game. Leonids Tambijevs’ team enjoyed three successive wins and was settling in for a nine-game home stand that will run until mid-January. But Lokomotiv steamed to the win thanks to Daniil Isayev’s first shut-out of the season. Isayev stopped 32 shots to frustrate the home team in only his seventh appearance of the campaign.

The visitor came to the Far East looking to improve on some patchy recent form and claimed a victory that lifts it to fifth in the West. It took some time to break down the home defense, with the opening goal arriving midway through the action on Loko’s third power play of the night. Rushan Rafikov made the breakthrough, assisted by Denis Barantsev, and Barantsev also had a hand in the second goal when he released Reid Boucher for a successful counter attack close to the second intermission.

Boucher picked up his second point of the game in the third period, assisting on Denis Alexeyev’s power play goal. Alexeyev, a former Sailor, made the final score 3-0 before Isayev withstood a late storm from the home team.

Photo: 23.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Admiral (Vladivostok) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

Happy birthday for Kravtsov

Traktor Chelyabinsk 6 Severstal Cherepovets 1 (1-0, 4-1, 1-0)

Vitaly Kravtsov had a birthday to remember as Traktor crushed Severstal on home ice. The home team bounced back from a 1-5 loss to Ak Bars on Tuesday with an impressive performance against the Western Conference’s surprise package and Kravtsov led the way with three points.

The home-grown talent, back on loan to Chelyabinsk from the Rangers, celebrated his 22nd birthday by opening the scoring in the 12th minute. However, his impressive rush from center ice to Vladislav Podyapolsky’s net was something of an outlier in a first period that Severstal dominated. The visitor outshot Traktor 15-8 and deservedly tied the scores at the start of the middle frame when Kirill Pilipenko scored on the power play.

However, the second period turned out very differently. Although the teams had an even share of the chances, Traktor went on to score four unanswered goals and put the game beyond Severstal’s reach. It took less than a minute for Nikita Tertyshny to find the top corner with a wrister and restore the home lead, then Kravtsov combined well with Vitaly Abramov to set up Vladimir Tkachyov midway through the session. When Teemu Pulkkinen added a power play goal in the 34th minute, he chased Podyapolsky from the net. Late in the second period, Severstal got a power play chance and called new goalie Dmitry Shugayev back to the bench with hopes of sparking something in 6-on-4 play. However, after losing possession, the visitor gave up an empty net goal to Tomas Hyka, who fired home from center ice.

Severstal kept looking for a way back into the game, but the task was too great and Traktor was able to play out time comfortably enough. Late in the day, Kravtsov set up Igor Isayev for a thunderous point shot to make it 6-1 and record the defenseman’s first goal of the season.

Photo: 23.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Traktor (Chelyabinsk) - Severstal (Cherepovets)

Goldobin’s classy double can’t save Magnitka

Avangard Omsk 4 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2 (1-1, 1-0, 2-1)

Thursday’s top clash saw defending champion Avangard entertain current KHL leader Metallurg — and the two heavyweights served up an entertaining encounter in Balashikha. The verdict went to the home team, but the visitor’s Nikolai Goldobin served up two fine markers in a losing cause.

The visitor made the better start to the game and took the lead in the seventh minute thanks to a moment of brilliance from Goldobin. The forward surged forward, leaving two defensemen in his wake, and delivered an audacious finish, flicking the puck between his own legs to beat Simon Hrubec in the Avangard net. However, that prompted an immediate response from Avangard, with Peter Cehlarik going behind Juho Olkinuora’s net and setting up Nikolai Prokhorkin for a goal against his former club.

Prokhorkin’s arrival at Avangard was accompanied by Denis Zernov heading in the opposite direction. Today, the Hawks had the better of that exchange. While Prokhorkin found the net, Zernov found himself in the box as the home team went in front on Nikita Soshnikov’s wrister midway through the second period.

In the third, Avangard killed a penalty then launched a counter attack. Vladimir Bryukvin stepped out of the box and almost immediately got the puck. He burst into the O-zone and fired in a low shot, which Olkinuora could only push onto Cehlarik’s stick. That 3-1 lead looked like it might be enough, but with five minutes to play Goldobin struck again. Maybe the extra space during a passage of 4-on-4 affected the home defense, but the goalscorer found it surprisingly easy to take Brendan Leipsic’s pass around the back of the net before scoring on the wraparound.

That inspired a late surge from Metallurg in search of a tying goal. However, when Olkinuora vacated his net, Avangard made the points safe thanks to Arseny Gritsyuk’s empty net effort.

Photo: 23.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Avangard (Omsk) - Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

Ak Bars battles back

Ak Bars Kazan 5 Barys Nur-Sultan 3 (1-2, 1-1, 3-0)

A strong third period performance from Ak Bars turned this game around and put Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team clear in third place in the East. For Barys, still in the thick of a battle for a playoff place, this was a setback after winning four of the last five but Nikita Mikhailis and his men remain in eighth place.

The opening frame saw Ak Bars have more of the play, but some clinical finishing from Barys gave the visitor the edge at the first intermission. The Kazakhs managed just five shots on target in the first period, but Jacob Berglund opened the scoring when he converted the rebound after Yegor Petukhov’s attempted lacrosse goal was stopped by Timur Bilyalov. Artyom Lukoyanov tied the scores, but late in the first period Jordan Weal’s penalty gave the visitor a rare spell of possession and just as he returned to the ice Cody Kunyk restored the lead.

Midway through the second, Ak Bars levelled again when Kirill Panyukov scored a power play goal on his former club. Within two minutes, though, Petukhov made it 3-2 and Barys held that advantage until the second intermission.

In the final frame, though, the Ak Bars offense finally got the goals it had threatened throughout the evening. Dmitry Yudin tied it up on the power play, then Weal gave the host the lead for the first time on 51:45. Lukoyanov’s second of the game came in the closing seconds to complete the win for the home team.

Dynamo routs Avtomobilist

Dynamo Moscow 7 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 1 (3-1, 2-0, 2-0)

Neither team was in great form coming into this game with each losing three of its previous four games. For Dynamo, this felt like an uncomfortable reprise of an earlier stage of the season: after starting the campaign with just one loss in 12, the Blue-and-Whites managed three wins from the next nine. Now, a run of nine wins from 10 is in danger of being followed by another protracted slump.

Avtomobilist, meanwhile, enjoyed back-to-back wins after dismissing Bill Peters at the end of November. Since then, though, Nikolai Zavarukhin has seen his team revert to its earlier pattern of struggling to put wins together.

When confidence is brittle, the opening goal is often crucial. This time, it went to Dynamo, but Rob Klinkhammer’s power play effort was cancelled out almost immediately by Sergei Zborovsky. However, the Blue-and-Whites quickly restored their lead. Slava Voynov collected two assists as Bogdan Yakimov and Anton Wedin took the home advantage to 3-1. For Yakimov, that’s two goals in two games.

Early in the second period, Andrei Sergeyev extended Dynamo’s lead on the power play then, midway through the session Vadim Shipachyov scored the fifth. That’s 22 goals this season for the Dynamo captain who today ended a three-game blank spell — his worst sequence of another hugely productive season.

The visitor’s day did not get any better in the third period. Dynamo extended its lead when Oscar Lindberg scored on a 5-on-3 power play, then another PP tally from Stas Galiyev took the score to 7-1. Avtomobilist drops out of the top eight on the back of this loss.

Photo: 23.12.21.KHL Championship 2021-2022. Dynamo (Moscow) - Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg)

Three points for Zhafyarov, three points for Murygin

Kunlun Red Star 0 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 4 (0-0, 0-3, 0-1)

Torpedo moved into the top eight with victory at basement-dwelling Red Star, edging ahead of Dinamo Minsk by virtue of more wins in regulation time.

The visitor was the clear pre-game favorite against a Kunlun team on a six-game skid, although the home team could point to overtime losses in its last two games as evidence that things are improving slightly. Indeed, the Dragons got to the first intermission without giving up a goal, although that owed a huge amount to Jeremy Smith. He stopped 21 shots as Torpedo dominating the opening frame. Red Star managed just two shots at Alexei Murygin at the other end, and blocked 13 efforts from a rampant Torpedo offense.

After all that pressure, Torpedo took control in the second. The visitor opened the scoring early in the middle stanza thanks to Damir Zhafyarov and extended its advantage on Mikhail Orlov’s strike in the 34th minute. In between, Red Star wasted a penalty shot. Alex Riche was hooked back by Artyom Mikheyev when he was through on goal. However, when he returned to take his shot at Murygin, the goalie’s experience left nowhere to go and the effort went wide of the target. Late in the session, Andy Miele claimed his 12th goal of the season as Torpedo added a third. However, the forward’s shot from between the hash marks pinballed around in front of Jeremy Smith’s net before deflecting into the net off a home defenseman. Zhafyarov finished the period with a hand in all three goals.

That effectively settled the outcome of this game, but late in the third period Sergei Goncharuk completed the scoring with a fourth Torpedo goal. Murygin, who made only his fifth start of the season, stopped 16 shots for his first shut-out of the campaign.

Vityaz grabs OT verdict

Vityaz Moscow Region 3 HC Sochi 2 OT (1-1, 0-1, 1-0, 1-0)

Vityaz picked up a third win in four games with this overtime success over Sochi. The home team never led in regulation, but needed less than a minute of the extras to claim the points.

Leopards captain Nikita Tochitsky, who scored twice as Sochi battled back from 0-2 to win at Dynamo last time out, was on target again here midway through the first period to open the scoring. Vityaz hit back late in the frame when Fyodor Malykhin tied it up.

Early in the second period, Sochi went back in front through Kirill Petkov. This time, the visitor held the advantage until the second intermission. However, Vityaz tied the scores for a second time when Ilya Arkalov struck midway through the third stanza. That took the game into the extras and Vitaly Popov’s second goal of the season decided the outcome in favor of the home team.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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