About the League
“I didn’t even think I scored a historic goal”
Loko-76 played their first game in franchise history against Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk. ‘Railway men’ ended up losing it 6-3.
“The quality of the game was at a high level today. The boys did everything I asked them for,” said after the game Yaroslavl head-coach Konstantin Kasatkin. “Today was all about the little details. The level of skill is high in Junior Hockey League so if you make a mistake the opposition makes you pay for it quickly. We played with calm and didn’t feel nervous at all. Prior to the game I put the emphasis on the fact that it was the first game in franchise history but I didn’t tighten up my players. I just pointed out to them that we begin the season on home ice and in front of our fans. We had to get off to a decent start in the regular season.”
As many as 15 Junior Hockey League rookies were on Loko-76’s roster for the first game of the season. The core was made up of the players who had competed for Loko-Yunior in NJHL last season and won Region Cup – the main trophy of the league.
“We played a lot of exhibition games against Junior Hockey League teams this pre-season, so all of the rookie already had an idea of the new level. Besides, we have developed some great chemistry with this group. Last season I coached all of these players in NJHL. So this year I put together a roster with the lines I had created last season in mind,” added Loko-76 head-coach.
Alexei Kozhevnikov scored Loko-76’s first goal in Junior Hockey League. Yaroslavl were down 2-0 when the forward threw it past Ilya Nabokov. Kozhevnikov is one of Loko-76’s most experienced players. He spent the previous two seasons in Junior Hockey League with Loko Yaroslavl.
“We were on a power play when I scored. Our setup play worked out. I was happy we scored. It allowed us to get back into the game but I didn’t even think that I scored a historic goal. We played decent today. We gave them a run for their money but we need to improve our special teams,” said Kozhevnikov.
Captain Mikhail Kurkin and alternate captain Dmitry Yabelov scored the other two goals for Loko-76. Thus both players enjoyed their first career Junior Hockey League markers.
“I have mixed feelings about this. We played well but we didn’t capitalize on our chances and lost. I didn’t feel nervous about making my Junior Hockey League debut. I was confident in myself and my teammates. I didn’t think I would score today but I’m happy to get my first career Junior Hockey League goal,” said Mikhail Kurkin after the game.
“I saw our KHL team head-coach in the stands,” said Kasatkin. “We were in close contact with Loko’s coaching staff during the pre-season. We’re planning to have a meeting between all coaches within club system, including KHL, to discuss our teams and players.”
“We belong to a system where everyone is scouted under a microscope. They constantly look for new talents. So we just have to go out there and prove our worth,” added Mikhail Kurkin.
“It’s exciting and there are a lot of upsides in this decision,” believes Loko-76 head-coach Konstantin Kasatkin. “Certainly, it’s not really comfortable to travel to Eastern cities but we’re developing players for our KHL team and there’s a lot of travelling in that league as well. It’s something the boys are just going to have to get used to. The biggest downside is that we won’t face our rivals Loko. On the other hand, it would give us extra motivation to make it to Kharlamov Cup Finals to meet them there!”.
“Playing against Eastern Conference teams gives us a lot of opportunities,” shared with Junior Hockey League media relations department Lokomotiv Yaroslavl sports director Alexander Ardashev. “We’re going to scout all of Russian young players and we’re going to have a better understanding what opposition we may come across in the playoffs. I wouldn’t say that Eastern Conference is weaker than Western. There are a lot of really good teams in the East. So it’s not going to be easier for Loko-76. In Yaroslavl we run a club with a goal. When you have a goal, it accelerates the players’ development because they aspire to achieve it. Our priority for the first Junior Hockey League season is to make Kharlamov Cup Playoffs.”