After a four-year wait, Avangard is back in Omsk. The Hawks played at their new home, the 12,000-seater G-Drive Arena, for the first time on Saturday. To mark the occasion, local rival Sibir was the visitor in front of a capacity crowd. There were some signs of nerves from Dmitry Ryabykin’s team as the big occasion led to a slow start. Sibir led in the first period, with Trevor Murphy getting the first goal on the freshly-laid ice. But power play goals in the second and third sessions saw Alexei Bereglazov and Reid Boucher bring a 2-1 verdict for the home team.
Avangard’s attendance was not the biggest of the week, however. Dinamo Minsk attracted just over 15,000 fans to its game against SKA on Saturday. Most of them left disappointed, however, as Craig Woodcroft’s team suffered a 1-5 loss against Roman Rotenberg’s league leader. That’s the biggest crowd of the season so far.
Four is becoming the new three. Last week saw Sibir’s Alexander Sharov become the 21st player ever to score four in a KHL game. This week, Dynamo’s Eric O’Dell joined him on that illustrious list after shooting down Amur. Visiting head coach Vadim Yepanchintsev described the game as ‘a theatre with one actor’ after O’Dell inspired Dynamo’s 5-0 win.
The first month of the season is done, and four players were chosen as the best of the opening weeks. Dynamo goalie Ilya Konovalov got the nod after winning six of his nine games and stopping 94.51% of the shots he faced for a GAA of 1.44. Konovalov also had two shut-outs. SKA’s young defenseman Alexander Nikishin is already justifying the big trade for him in the summer. He has 9 (2+7) points from 12 games, blocked 16 shots and made 17 hits in September.
Two forwards also featured. Avtomobilist’s Sergei Shirokov scored his 200th KHL goal during the month and his fast start as part of the KHL’s top scoring team saw him nominated as best forward. And Torpedo’s Vasily Atanasov was named best rookie after opening his account in the league. September brought 6 (4+2) points for the youngster, who celebrated his 20th birthday last Sunday.
For the second time this season, defending champion CSKA suffered a shock defeat at Kunlun Red Star. On Saturday, the Dragons sensationally rallied from 1-4 to win in a shoot-out. It was a game of KHL firsts for the the home team: goalie Matt Jurusik got his first win in the league, Brett Pollock and Devin Brosseau got their first goals. But the star of the show was 18-year-old forward Alexander Perevalov. He recently joined Red Star on loan from Lokomotiv, having impressed in junior hockey last season. On Saturday, he grabbed his first goals in the big league, with two snipes in the last five minutes to tie the game. Then he went on to convert the decisive effort in the shoot-out.
Neftekhimik was the last team in the KHL to record a victory this season. Now, though, it has won three in a row. Victories over Sibir, Metallurg and Traktor have changed the mood on Oleg Leontyev’s team following a sweeping change in personnel over the past week. Last week, the club released four players, including Slovak import Samuel Bucek, and began its rebuild with two new goalies, Emil Garipov and Andrei Tikhomirov. Garipov was between the piping for all three wins, including a particularly satisfying success in Chelyabinsk against his former club.
Week two of the Women’s Hockey League season saw defending champion KRS Shenzhen play its first games. However, it was not an impressive start from the Dragons. An all-new roster, stripped of its imports, saw its preparations disrupted by an outbreak of COVID just before the start of the season. And, on the ice, new head coach Scott Spencer saw his team suffer four straight losses, allowing 20 goals in its opening pair of games against table-topping Biryusa Krasnoyarsk. Things improved a little at the weekend, with two games against Torpedo ending in 0-2 and 0-4 defeats, but there is clearly much work to do if KRS is to make a defense of its title.