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After their short Christmas break Jokerit returned to the ice to face the reigning champion Avangard. The teams had competed once before in this season as back in September in Omsk Jokerit were better with score 3–2.

Jokerit got their losing-streak cut in their last game against Dinamo Minsk as the Helsinki team took the points in an overtime victory. Before that Jokerit had lost three consecutive games. At the moment Jokerit were on the third spot of the tight western conference.

Avangard were on the fifth spot in the eastern conference before Sunday’s game. The team had won three of their five most recent games, lastly defeating Metallurg 4–2.

For a while it seemed that the game was about to be a very tight match-up all the way. Afterall, the visitor Avangard showed some real efficiency and took the two points from the game with a clear victory by score 5–1.

”This wasn’t a successful effort by us. Something lacked after the Chrismas break. The opponnt was very good as they won some loose pucks and blocked shots. Scoring is still tough for us and if you allow five goals in a game like this, it’s going to be difficult. On the time-out we talked that the goals are coming too easy against us and we shouldn’t give up. Our line-up has changed a lot and some guys have been out. We got a goal just before intermission, but stumbled it almost right away”, said Jokerit head coach Lauri Marjamäki.

Good things happen at the net

Jokerit started the game with better skating and thus got the puck into the offensive zone. Henri Ikonen created a few chances, but Avangard defended tightly. Finnish defenceman Oliwer Kaski showed some example by blocking shots.

The game shifted from side to side and both both Simon Hrubec at Avangard net and Janne Juvonen between Jokerit pipes got to keep their focus in the game all the time in order to prevent sudden pucks surpricing them. Once there was a big hassle at the visitor’s net, but the puck just barely didn’t go in from the rumble.

However, it was Avangard that got first on the scoreboard. Nikolai Prokhorkin went to the net and former NHL 1st pick Nail Yakupov gave him a sweet pass. Juvonen couldn’t stop the skilled forward from scooping the puck into the net.

Both teams were trying to get into the opponent’s net with a lot of aggression. Such play caused the game’s first time on special forces as Jokerit received their first power play in the end of the first period. The man-advantage continued for a moment in the second period, but still the home team couldn’t capitalize.

Avangard scored beautiful goals

Once both teams were back on full strenght again, it was equally difficult for them to create offensive game. The puck ran loose in the neutral zone and neither team really took the control of the events on the ice in the first iminutes of the second period.

Avangard got to two-goal lead, when Alexander Dergachyov delivered the puck from the blue line to the net. The puck bounced to the side and Vladimir Bryukvin was the first player there. The forward had a relatively easy tast to finish the play, as there were Jokerit players nowhere near to be found. Niklas Friman was sent to the penalty box shortly after Avangard’s second goal.

After a while Prokhorkin came to a coast-to-coast counter-attack and surfed through Jokerit defence. Even the puck got away for a second, defenceman Alexei Bereglazov was the first man to the puck and he got to shoot Avangard up three goals. Jokerit coaching staff took a time-out after the setback.

Jokerit got a great chance to get on the scoreboard, but Nicklas Jensen couldn’t capitalize from the netfront, even though Jordan Schroeder gave a good pass to the Danishman. The second period concluded with the physical game rising. Jokerit were about to get on power play, when Petteri Lindbohm dropped the gloves with the veteran Alexei Yemelin, who was the playing being penalized. The Helsinki team was able to score in terms of the man-advantage as a man who just renewed his contract, David Sklenicka was successful in the second game in a row.

Jokerit couldn’t catch the score

Head coach Marjamäki had mixed up the lines for the third period and that gave Jokerit some energy to chase the score. That didn’t help the home team much, when Corban Knight got to an attack and forced the puck to the net. Juvonen managed to take care of the first puck, but when Dmitri Shevchenko put the puck in from the rebound.

Jokerit got the puck past Hrubec, but the referees called it off due to the fact that the whistle had been heard already. Jokerit didn’t have a chance to challenge the decision anymore. However, the home team got a chance on power play on the next shift after the disallowed goal. There was even a minute of five against three players.

Avangard were able to keep Jokerit off the best scoring chances. Only the most skilled forwards like Jensen were able to shoot the puck towards Hrubec. On the most critical minutes Avangard just threw the puck off their own zone and thus kept the home team away from potential opportunities.

Once Veli-Matti Savinainen received a minor penalty for tripping, it came clear that Jokerit wouldn’t get any points out of Sunday’s game. Prokhorkin scored his second goal and made the final score 5–1 in favor of the visitors.

”The start was all ok. Just the rest wasn’t what we aimed for. The price for a goals that we allow is too high right now. That gives us a bit of frustration. We need to get some energy to our thing. We tried to pressure them and get the puck aggressively to the net and it worked from time to time. We need to show more hunger.”, Jokerit team captain Marko Anttila said after the game.

Avangard scored from the netfront

Jokerit was trailing in score for most of the night and the Helsinki team couldn’t find the way to get to the net. Avangard did the job better than the Helsinki team.

The next game for Jokerit will be in two days on Wednesday, when Kunlun Red Star comes for a visit to Hartwall Arena.

"There was no question, which one of the teams was better tonight. We need to learn from this and keep going. It’s a safety first thing, when it comes to the audience. Ice hockey is a joyful thing and we need to find the cheerful things about it. In this game we weren’t able to utilize the support of the crowd.”, Marjamäki mentioned.

In the next home game Jokerit won’t get their fans inside the Hartwall Arena as the covid restrictions got more strict once again. The team knows that they now need to find the spirit within themselves.

”We’ll find it from that we get to play together. We practiced that last year already. Now we just enjoy playing ice hockey, which is the reason everybody is in here. I feel like we’ve had a handbreak on for a while now.”, Anttila concluded.

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Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Jokerit (Helsinki) Jokerit (Helsinki)
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