The defending champion wrapped up its first-round series against Ak Bars in game six. Bob Hartley’s team goes on to face Metallurg in the Eastern Conference semi-finals next week.

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

(Avangard wins the series 4-2)

For the second season in a row, Avangard got past Ak Bars in the playoffs. Last time, the pair met in the Eastern Conference and victory sent the Hawks back to the Gagarin Cup final for the third time. This time, it was a first-round clash. Ak Bars fell 0-3 behind in the series, but twice earned a stay of execution to set up game six, while Avangard was looking to finish the job without recourse to a nerve-jangling decider in Kazan.

The first power play of the game brought the opening goal. Kirill Adamchuk sat for tripping and Avangard settled into the Ak Bars zone. Despite some resolute defense, the visitor could not clear its lines and was eventually undone when Corban Knight skated into open space on the slot. Sergei Tolchinsky spotted him before an opponent could get back to challenge, and he fizzed in a pass from the left-hand circle for Knight to convert at the back door.

The lead was deserved, with Avangard leading in all the key stats from the first period. In the second, though, Ak Bars looked to raise the tempo on offense. Suddenly, it was the visitor with the lion’s share of possession and the Hawks scrambling to block shots and protect that lead. Ak Bars was aided by an extended power play early in the period, which included a short spell of 5-on-3 play, but found it tough to really extend the home defense.

At the other end, Avangard was eager to counter attack, creating some of the clearer chances. The best of them fell to Sergei Telegin, who was released down the middle and got clear of the defense only for Timur Bilyalov to pouch the eventual wrist shot. However, there was a warning there for Ak Bars and in the last minute of the period, Telegin beat the goalie with a wrist shot from the blue line. Knight’s presence on the slot disturbed Bilyalov, who was unable to react in time.

The third period was all about the Avangard defensive effort as Simon Hrubec earned his second shut-out of the playoffs. Once again, the home team was not afraid to put bodies on the line – notably when Damir Sharipzyanov threw himself into the path of a dangerous effort from Dmitry Voronkov on the slot. That commitment to the cause was rewarded: while Ak Bars again had the bulk of possession, it was unable to pose Hrubec the kind of questions that might have the Czech international struggling to respond. The defensive work was all the more impressive considering that the roster has just five recognized defensemen following the departure of Finnish duo Ville Pokka and Oliwer Kaski: in the previous game, three blue liners completed more than 30 minutes on the ice in a gruelling encounter.

In the end, frustration hampered the visitor’s hopes. In the closing stages, penalties on Jordan Weal and Daniil Zhuravlyov saw Ak Bars finish the game with three men, dampening any last surge and ensuring that the team’s season ended meekly.

Avangard goes on to play top seed Metallurg in the Eastern semi-finals, with Traktor facing Salavat Yulaev in the other pairing. The action in the East resumes in Chelyabinsk on Thursday, with the first game in Magnitogorsk the following day.

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Related clubs

Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
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