SKIF Nizhny Novgorod 2 KRS Vanke Rays 3 (1-1, 1-1, 0-1)
(Vanke Rays lead the series 2-0)
KRS Vanke Rays twice came from behind in Nizhny Novgorod before claiming victory in game two of the Russian WHL final. Noora Raty made 34 saves to backstop the Dragons before Michela Cava snatched the winner on 58:00.
After losing out in game one of this series, SKIF stepped up a level in the second meeting, giving the Vanke Rays a much tougher time of things. Indeed, the first period battle was so intense that none of the visiting players were available for a flash interview at the first intermission.
There were a few things to dampen the KRS mood. First, Michelle Karvinen missed this game after picking up an injury in yesterday’s 3-1 win. Then, for the first time in the series, the Lady Dragons had to come from behind. Midway through the first period, SKIF’s power play opened the scoring with Landysh Falyakhova setting up Olga Prokopenko at the back door for a well-worked goal.
The Rays managed to tie the game before the intermission thanks to a fine solo effort from Susanna Tapani, but after largely silencing the SKIF offense for long periods in yesterday’s game the visitor found itself spending an unwelcome amount of time in its own zone today.
That pattern repeated in the second stanza, with SKIF enjoying an even greater share of the attacking play. The home side outshot KRS 15-6 in the frame and went in front for a second time thanks to Ekaterina Likhachyova in the 26th minute. Again, though, the lead was short-lived, with Emma Nordin tying the game four minutes later. Nordin’s seventh goal of the playoffs extends her lead in the goalscoring race, but it was striking that both KRS markers were unassisted — a far cry from the effective combination play usually dictated by leading playoff scorer Cava in the last couple of months.
However, it was Cava who came up with the winning goal two minutes before the hooter. The third period was a far closer battle than the second, with neither team able to establish itself on the play. SKIF had a good chance midway through the session when it got on the power play — on the second in a well-behaved game — but Raty was solid and Falyakhova fluffed her lines when Alyona Starovoitova carved out a big chance at the back door.
The Dragons survived and, just as thoughts were turning to overtime, grabbed a second victory in this series. Starovoitova was looking to bring the puck out of her zone, but was caught by Tapani who managed to win possession in center ice. Her pass sent Cava back into the zone for a one-on-one with Valeria Tarakanova and, despite Prokopenko’s desperate diving attempt to interfere with her shot, the Canadian forward claimed her sixth goal and 16th point of post season.
That was enough to win it, and Brian Idalski’s team can wrap up the best-of-five series on April 26 when the teams contest game three in Mytishchi.