Saturday, 27 April 2013

Gagarin Cup Final

While I'm over a week late with this update, it still needs to be written as the other major professional hockey league finished its playoffs with an exciting final between two third-place seeds in their respective conference. Here is the recap of the Dynamo Moscow-Traktor Chelyabinsk Gagarin Cup Final.


Dynamo Moscow won the right to be the home team in this series with a better regular-season finish with 101 points. Moscow was 12-3 in the playoffs, knocking out Slovan Bratislava, CSKA Moscow, and SKA Saint Petersburg on their way to the Gagarin Cup Final. Traktor Chelyabinsk finished the season with 98 points in the Eastern Conference, and they dispatched Barys Astana, Avangard Omsk Oblast, and Ak Bars Kazan to advance to the Gagarin Cup Final while posting a 12-7 record in the playoffs. Both teams finished as the third seed in their respective conferences.

GAME ONE: Dynamo Moscow was looking to win their second consecutive championship, and opening at home in front of 8098 raucous fans was a good start. Like they had done throughout the playoffs, they gave those fans something to cheer about as Alexei Tsvetkov scored a shorthanded goal - his fifth goal of the playoffs - off a Denis Kokarev pass just 5:06 into the game while Sergei Soin sat off for roughing. Both goalies would hold strong until midway through the second period. Soin blasted home his second goal of the playoffs at 9:11 of the second period, and Dynamo Moscow went up 2-0. The Moscow fans were partying through the intermission, but things quieted down when Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his fifth goal of the playoffs to make Traktor's deficit a single goal. Moscow, though, like they have done all playoffs long, played extremely well defensively in limiting chances, especially second chances on rebounds, to help Alexander Yeryomenko out. The only shot to get by Yeryomenko was Kuznetsov's powerplay marker as Dynamo Moscow took Game One by a 2-1 score. DYNAMO MOSCOW LEADS 1-0.

GAME TWO: If Dynamo Moscow was ever going to be defeated, one team would have to prevent them from scoring early. Traktor didn't do that again in Game Two as Moscow's Jakub Petruzalek scored his seventh goal of the playoffs to put Moscow up 1-0 at 10:28. Traktor would even the game up after Dmitry Pestunov was sent off hooking. Jan Bulis scored his ninth goal of the playoffs at 17:08 to even the game at 1-1. Traktor pulled ahead midway through the second period when Andrei Kostitsyn snapped his second goal of the playoffs past Yeryomenko at 11:53 on the powerplay as Andrey Mironov sat off for slashing. Dynamo would respond 3:34 into the third period, though, as Marek Kvapil ripped home his seventh goal of the playoffs that Michael Garnett had little chance on. With 2:42 remaining in the game, Janne Jalasvaara's fourth goal would be the winner as Alexander Yeryomenko let nothing else past in leading Dynamo Moscow to the 3-2 win. DYNAMO MOSCOW LEADS 2-0.

GAME THREE: As I stated above, if some team could ever score first, it would force Dynamo Moscow to change their strategy. Traktor finally made the adjustments, and they netted the first goal of the game into the second period. Maxim Karpov's fourth goal 3:13 into the middle frame put Traktor Chelyabinsk up 1-0. They made it a two-goal lead at 14:31 when Deron Quint's shot eluded Yeryomenko, and Traktor would carry the 2-0 lead into the intermission. Yegor Dugin's third goal of the playoffs would make it 3-0 for Traktor at the 3:43 mark of the third period. Michael Garnett's shutout would be broken at 5:01 of the third period when Denis Kokarev's first goal of the playoffs got past him, but nothing else would hit twine for the remainder of the game as Traktor earned their first win in the 3-1 victory. DYNAMO MOSCOW LEADS 2-1.

GAME FOUR: Traktor looked to send this series back to Moscow tied at 2-2 while Dynamo needed a win to put a stranglehold on the series. Neither team, though, came out flying as both teams seemed to be waiting for a mistake to capitalize. It took 38:30 for the opening goal to be scored. Dynamo Moscow's Jakub Petruzalek netted his eighth goal past Garnett to give his team the 1-0 lead with one period and 1:30 to play. Again, both teams seemed to play without desperation until the final few minutes, but Alexander Yeryomenko stood tall against all 25 shots he faced in earning the 1-0 shutout in Game Four. DYNAMO MOSCOW LEADS 3-1.

GAME FIVE: Traktor needed a three-game win streak to win the Gagarin Cup, and Moscow had only lost four games over four series thus far. The challenge was laid out as the teams returned to Moscow, and Traktor began work early in this game. Stanislav Chistov scored his second goal at 3:37 into the first period, Anton Glinkin doubled the lead 3:07 later with his third goal, and Vladimir Antipov gave Traktor a 3-0 lead just 2:05 after that. Needless to say, Dynamo getting shelled early on in a home game wasn't what they had in mind. They would start the comeback at 7:36 of the second period when Marek Kvapil poked home a powerplay goal to make it 3-1. The celebration was barely over when Jakub Petruzalek scored 51 seconds later, and suddenly the game was 3-2 in Traktor's favor. At 14:51, Sergei Soin made things very interesting with his third goal as he pulled Dynamo Moscow even at 3-3. After this goal, the game tightened up. It wasn't until Andrei Kostitsyn scored his third goal of the playoffs with 4:58 left in the game that the dynamics changed. However, Michael Garnett would stop all shots from that point on, and Traktor Chelyabinsk would escape Moscow with a 4-3 win. DYNAMO MOSCOW LEADS 3-2.

GAME SIX: Traktor once again had their backs against the wall, needing a win on home ice to force Game Seven. Dynamo Moscow was taking a second opportunity to win their second consecutive championship. Like the previous game, though, Traktor scored first to put the pressure on Dynamo. Maxim Yakutsenya's sixth playoff goal at 14:29 put Traktor up 1-0. Sergei Soin, who became one of this series' key performers, tied the game up at 11:36 of the second period, and then Dmitry Pestunov gave Dynamo Moscow the lead just 2:32 later with his first goal of the playoffs. As the game moved into the third period, the crowd was buzzing in anticipation of the celebration. Petri Kontiola, though, had other ideas as he beat Yemyomenko at 9:58 for his tenth goal to tie the game 2-2. Nothing would be solved in the final ten minutes, so we'd need overtime to complete Game Six. I'll let the video do the rest on this one.
Alexei Tsvetkov's sixth goal of the playoffs, coming at 5:57 of overtime, is your Gagarin Cup-winning goal! Shortly after the game, Alexander Yeryomenko was named as the Gagarin Cup Playoff MVP as he led his team to a 16-5 record in the playoffs while posting a GAA of 1.74 over those 21 games. The defensive play of Dynamo Moscow was good, but Yeryomenko was fantastic as the last line of defence! Congratulations to both Dynamo Moscow for their championship, and to Alexander Yeryomenko for his MVP performance in the playoffs!

Dynamo Moscow earned their second consecutive KHL championship, equaling them with Ak Bars Kazan in terms of total championships won in the five seasons that the KHL has been in existence. Since merging with HC MVD, a team from Balashikha and owned by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Moscow Dynamo has won two championships. Clearly, the merger worked out well as the team has been improving since the merger, culminating in two league championships.

Congratulations to the 2012-13 KHL Gagarin Cup Champions, Dynamo Moscow!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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