We ran through the KHL Conference Quarterfinals a week ago, and we'll start updating North America about who is advancing from the KHL's Western Conference Semifinal tonight. Tomorrow, we'll look at the Eastern Conference, but we'll start in the west again where there were some intriguing match-ups.
This series, like the previous series for SKA Saint Petersburg, looked like a bit of a mismatch. SKA Saint Petersburg was the top team in the Western Conference with 115 points while Severstal Cherepovets qualified for as the fifth-seeded team with 86 points. SKA Saint Petersburg advanced with a 4-1 series win over Atlant Moscow Oblast, and Severstal Cherepovets advanced with a 4-2 series win over Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
GAME ONE: If defence wins championships, neither team appeared to be content with that statement. SKA's Mikhail Varnakov scored on the powerplay at 7:21. Severstal's Nikita Alexeyev evened the score at 19:12, but Viktor Tikhonov restored the one-goal lead just 22 seconds later! Patrick Thoresen scored on the powerplay 5:48 into the second period to put SKA Saint Petersburg up 3-1, but Severstal's Mikhail Anisin made it 3-2 just 1:02 later. 1:34 after that, Evgeny Ketov evened the score at 3-3 at the 28:26 mark, and then Severstal pulled ahead 1:52 later when Ketov scored a powerplay goal to make it a 4-3 game, chasing SKA goaltender Ivan Kasutin from the game! Tony Martensson would even the score for SKA at 15:49 of the second frame, setting up what looked like a wild third period. But it was not to be as SKA Saint Petersburg showed the form that carried them to the top of the Western Conference in scoring three times - Viktor Tikhonov twice and Maxim Afinogenov - to close out Game One by a 7-4 score. SKA SAINT PETERSBURG LEADS 1-0.
GAME TWO: The second game of this series looked more like how most expected this series to play out as SKA Saint Petersburg controlled the tempo of this game from start to finish. Viktor Tikhonov put SKA up 1-0 after one period with his powerplay marker, and he and Teemu Ramstedt has SKA up 3-0 after two periods. Severstal's Alexander Ryazantsev and SKA's Alexander Kucheryavenko traded goals in the third period, but SKA Saint Petersburg skated to a 4-1 victory to put the pressure on Severstal Cherepovets as the series shifted to Cherepovets. SKA SAINT PETERSBURG LEADS 2-0.
GAME THREE: Severstal looked to get back into this series in their home rink, but knocking off the top team would prove difficult. Especially when SKA Saint Petersburg smelled blood in the water. Three first-period goals - Teemu Ramstedt, Mikhail Varnakov, and Anton Burdasov - put the visitors up over Severstal in a big way. Ivan Nepryayev added a fourth goal for SKA Saint Petersburg at the 11:07 mark in the second period, and goaltender Ilya Ezhov did the rest as he turned in a 32-save shutout in the 4-0 SKA Saint Petersburg win. SKA SAINT PETERSBURG LEADS 3-0.
GAME FOUR: With Severstal on the brink of elimination, they would need a Herculean task in coming back against SKA Saint Petersburg in the series, and it would have to start in Game Four. It didn't start as planned as SKA's Dmitry Kalinin opened the scoring on the powerplay at 9:18, but Denis Kazionov tied the game up on the powerplay with 2:43 to play in the opening period. Mikhail Anisin had the crowd buzzing after his goal just 1:39 into the second period as Severstal jumped out to the 2-1 lead. SKA would respond at 4:13 as Yuri Alexandrov's shot found the back of the net to even the game at 2-2. Alexander Kucheryavenko put SKA up 3-2 at 11:18, and Evgeny Artyukhin made it 4-2 wit 4:01 to play in the second period. Goaltender Ivan Kasutin took care of the remaining period as both sides traded chances, but the final score would read 4-2. SKA SAINT PETERSBURG WINS 4-0.
CSKA Moscow was the top team in the Tarasov Division, earning them the second seed with 96 points. Dynamo Moscow finished behind SKA Saint Petersburg in the Bobrov Division with 101 points, earning them the third seed despite being the second-best team in the Western Conference. Despite CSKA Moscow's standing, it appeared that Dynamo Moscow may be the favorite in this series. CSKA Moscow advanced with a 4-0 series sweep of Lev Prague, and Dynamo Moscow advanced with a 4-0 series sweep of Slovan Bratislava.
GAME ONE: It took ten minutes for Dynamo Moscow to find a few cracks in the CSKA Moscow defence, and they would spend the final two periods putting on a display of defence. Alexei Sopin opened the scoring at 10:48, and Sergei Konkov made it a 2-0 lead for Dynamo Moscow just 2:02 later. With 3:39 left in the period, Konstantin Gorovikov made it 3-0, and it appeared the rout was on for Dynamo Moscow as CSKA replaced Rastislav Stana in their net with Ilya Proskuryakov. Proskuryakov was perfect in his 43:49 of play, making 17 saves, but Alexander Yeryomenko was just as good in the Dynamo Moscow net as he turned aside all 21 shots sent his way in leading Dynamo Moscow to the 3-0 win. DYNAMO MOSCOW LEADS 1-0.
GAME TWO: After coming out flat in Game One, CSKA got things started right in Game Two when Igor Grigorenko scored at 14:31 of the first period. Moscow would pull even with 1:06 to play on the opening frame as Andrei Mironov potted a goal. 5:19 into the second period saw CSKA regain the lead as Dmitry Kugryshev found some room to put CSKA up 2-1. After being pulled in Game One, Rastislav Stana took this game over, shutting down wave after wave of Dynamo Moscow attacks. While nothing else would get past Dynamo Moscow's Alexander Yeryomenko, the damage had been done as CSKA rebounds with a 2-1 win. SERIES TIED AT 1-1.
GAME THREE: With the series shifting to the Dynamo arena, the crowd was raucous as the two Moscow-based teams prepared for battle. Dynamo's Roman Derlyuk delighted the crowd just 1:41 in with his goal, but CSKA equalized with a Nikolai Prokhorkin marker at 12:12. Oleg Kvasha would put CSKA up 2-1 with 1:49 to play in the first, and this score would carry into the third period. 3:00 into the third period, Dynamo was able to even the score off Janne Jalasvaara's goal. After regulation time had counted down, it was next-goal-wins as the two teams went into overtime. 11:30 into the extra frame, we crowned a winner as Dynamo's Konstantin Gorovikov netted the winner! DYNAMO MOSCOW LEADS 2-1.
GAME FOUR: With defence and goaltending taking over in this series, Game Four was crucial to both teams for vastly different reasons. It started well for Dynamo Moscow as Sergei Soin netted his first of the playoffs to put Dynamo up 1-0 at 16:15 of the opening period. Just 1:57 into the second period, CSKA pulled even when Nikolai Prokhorkin's shot found the back of the net. Nearly 59 minutes later, we'd have a winner. Sergei Konkov wired a shot past Rastislav Stana just 38 seconds into overtime to give Dynamo Moscow the 2-1 overtime win. DYNAMO MOSCOW LEADS 3-1.
GAME FIVE: Knowing the importance of Game Five, both teams were doing all they could to secure victory. Dynamo Moscow could close out the series while CSKA Moscow needed a win to push them to a sixth game. It appeared both teams knew the importance of this game as they traded chances for 50 minutes, but no pucks were pushed across the goal lines. Filip Novak's first of the playoffs at 11:37 of the third period put Dynamo Moscow up 1-0, and the pressure was on for CSKA to tie the game. Alexander Yeryomenko stood tall in the Dynamo net, though, and with 25 seconds remaining, Jakub Petruzalek iced the game with his empty-net marker. Yeryomenko recorded 28 saves for the shutout in the 2-0 Dynamo Moscow win. DYNAMO MOSCOW WINS 4-0.
With the victories, the top-two teams in the Western Conference in terms of points will play one another for the right to compete for the Gagarin Cup. Both teams have been dominant thus far as they have similar 8-1 records thus far. Viktor Tikhonov appears to be asserting himself in his homeland with his dominant performance against Severstal, and Dynamo Moscow's defensive shell has yet to be cracked significantly. This should be a great series as these two teams battle for Western Conference supremacy!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!