Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Gagarin Cup Final

I'm still expecting a few more entries, but the list of people is impressive. You guys have really come through in this year's edition of the HBIC Playoff Pool, and I want to thank each and every one of you. However, I'll save that for the end of the pool when I hand out all the prizes. I am currently building the list of competitors from your entries, and those names will appear on the right-hand side. The list will be long, but everyone who entered will have their names and point totals posted starting on Wednesday night.

Tonight, I want to take a quick look at the KHL's Gagarin Cup Final as there are two teams remaining in the competition for the Kontinental League's top prize. There were four teams remaining in the semi-finals: second-ranked HC MVD was up against fifth-ranked Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in the Western Conference Final, while top-ranked Salavat Yulaev Ufa battled third-ranked Ak Bars Kazan in the Eastern Conference Final.

Game One of the Western Conference Final saw HC MVD score the 3-2 overtime win over Lokomotiv. Alexei Tsvetkov's fourth goal of the playoffs in overtime was the winner for HC MVD.

Game Two saw Lokomotiv rally for a 2-1 overtime win to even the series at 1-1. Konstantin Rudenko's fifth goal of the playoffs at 19:32 of the overtime period gave Lokomotiv the victory.

April 4 saw HC MVD take the 2-1 series lead as they earned a hard-fought 6-4 victory in Game Three. Evgeny Fedorov had a pair of goals and Konstatin Rudenko had a pair of assists for HC MVD. Lokomotiv's Alexander Galimov had a goal and an assist in a losing effort.

Lokomotiv responded the following night with a 6-1 blowout over HC MVD to even the series at 2-2. Richard Zednik recorded two goals, Josef Vasicek had three assists, and Zbynek Irgl had a pair of assists for Lokomotiv in the victory.

On April 7, Lokomotiv took control of the series with their 4-0 shutout win over HC MVD. Alexander Galimov scored his eighth goal and added his seventh assist in the victory, and it put Yaroslavl Lokomotiv one win away from the Gagarin Cup Final.

April 9 saw HC MVD make the series a best-of-one series with their 3-1 win in Game Six. Defenceman Maxim Solovyev scored the game-winning goal, his second of the playoffs, at 3:06 of the third period as the series went back to Balashikha, Moscow for Game Seven.

Sunday, April 11 had Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in Moscow to play HC MVD. HC MVD's Alexei Tsvetkov scored his fifth goal of the playoffs just 35 seconds into the second period to open the scoring in this game. Lokomotiv's Ivan Tkachenko tied the game at the 12:53 mark with his third goal of the season. However, 1:09 later, Denis Kokarev's fifth goal of the playoffs put HC MVD back up by a goal as they jumped out to a 2-1 lead.

The two goaltenders would prevent any other goals from being scored, and HC MVD rallied from being down 3-2 in the series to win 4-3. Filip Novak recorded two assists in the Game Seven 2-1 win for HC MVD, and the Moscow-based team would advance to the Gagarin Cup Final.

In the Eastern Conference Final, Ak Bars Kazan looked to defend their KHL Championship by knocking off top-ranked Salavat Yulaev Ufa. Game One is played on Friday, April 2, and Kazan secures a 4-3 victory on Alexei Tereshchenko's game-winning goal. Tereshchenko's second goal of the playoffs came at 5:13 of the third period, and Kazan held strong to secure the win and the series lead.

Game Two the following night saw Kazan increase its lead in the series to 2-0 as they defeated Ufa by a 2-1 score in overtime. Hannes Hyvonen's fourth goal of the playoffs 4:23 into the overtime period gave Kazan the victory, and a large series lead over the top team in the Eastern Conference this season.

Monday, April 5 had the two teams back in action, and the result was all too familiar as Kazan defeated Ufa by a 3-2 score in overtime. Viktor Kozlov scored both of Ufa's goals at 14:22 of the first period and 6:08 of the second period, and it appeared that Ufa was in control. However, Kazan's Alexei Yemelin and Ilya Nikulin responded for Kazan to send the game into the extra frame. At 8:51 of overtime, Nikita Alexeyev gave Kazan the 3-0 series lead with his second goal of the playoffs as Ak Bars Kazan recorded the 3-2 overtime victory.

With their backs against the wall on the very next night, Ufa pulled out an all-important victory as they defeated Kazan by a 4-2 score. Ufa's Alexander Radulov had a pair of goals to give him six goals in this year's playoffs, and Igor Grigorenko had a pair of assists to keep Ufa alive. They might be down 3-1, but the series wasn't over.

Thursday, April 8 had the two teams back in action, and Ufa avoided elimination again as they defeated Kazan by a 2-1 score. Alexander Radulov scored the game-winner with 1:12 remaining in the game for Ufa, and added an assist on Ufa's game-tying goal at 10:09 of the third period. Patrick Thoresen recorded assists on both goals, giving him nine helpers this post-season. Ufa would live to see another day with the series now 3-2.

Saturday night, Kazan looked to stop the bleeding while Ufa had to play desperate hockey again. 11:24 into the game, Kazan was on the board as Janne Pesonen scored his first of the playoffs, and Kazan was out to the 1-0 lead. Alexander Radulov pulled Ufa even at 18:13 of the second period as he scored his eighth goal of the playoffs, and the game was knotted at 1-1. However, with 4:53 to play in the game, Kazan's Ilya Nikulin scored his fourth goal of the playoffs, and Kazan rode Petri Vehanen's goaltending the rest of the way as they secured the 2-1 series-clinching victory.

While Ufa put a scare into Kazan with their two wins after falling behind by three games in the series, Ak Bars Kazan will have a shot at defending their KHL Championship as they advance to the Gagarin Cup Championship.

The Gagarin Cup Final starts Thursday with HC MVD visiting Ak Bars Kazan. Alexander Radulov, who led the KHL Playoffs in goals (8), assists (11), and points (19) won't have a chance to add to his totals as Ufa will watch from home. The top-scoring player who is still in the playoffs would be HC MVD's Alexei Tsvetkov who has 14 points. HC MVD's Alexei Ugarov has the most goals in terms of active players with seven.

There's your update since I missed it on the weekend. If you get a chance to tune into the game (if you can find it on the Internet), I recommend doing so as the games themselves are quite competitive!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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