“Ideal team balance is what makes every coach happy!”. Rinat Khasanov shared secrets behind Krasnaya Armiya’s great start of the season

Interview
22.09.2021 в 13:30
“Ideal team balance is what makes every coach happy!”. Rinat Khasanov shared secrets behind Krasnaya Armiya’s great start of the season
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Krasnaya Armiya Moscow currently tops the Western Conference

Krasnaya Armiya Moscow got off to a great start of Parimatch Junior Hockey League regular season with six consecutive wins and climbed on top of the Western Conference standings. Only reigning Kharlamov Cup champions JHC Dynamo Moscow were able to stop the ‘army men’ as they came back from behind and won 4-2. Nevertheless, Rinat Khasanov’s men keep pushing forward. They bounced back and between Dynamo in the second game of the back-to-back. They are full of energy and feel confident they can strengthen their position on top of the conference.

We sat down with Krasnaya Armiya head-coach Rinat Khasanov to talk about his team’s first loss of the season, Kirill Dolzhenkov’s mistake and whether or not he’s envious of Alexander Ardashev.

“Sometimes you have to do the same thing over and over again to make something happen”

- Krasnaya Armiya Moscow won six consecutive games but then fell to JHC Dynamo Moscow. Are satisfied with your team’s start?
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It’s always great to get off to a great start. When you get positive outcomes, the boys grow more confident in their abilities. Obviously, it’s more important to do well in the spring. Starting from the pre-season we had a good understanding in what direction we need to work. There’s a thing called ‘perspective planning’. We have a tight plan, which we follow. Our priority is to develop talented and promising players. Their job is to make progress. Besides, the boys who just joined our team from junior hockey school need time to get their feet wet and adapt to the level of play in Junior Hockey League. It’s something we gradually work on. We improve all aspects simultaneously.

- Are you able to play the brand of hockey you demand from your group?
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All in all, I really enjoyed that we played as unit in the first few games of the season. We’re a family where everyone helps our everyone else and every member follows our instructions. So in that sense I’m rather satisfied. However, our coaching staff, obviously, always notices little nuances that have to be improved, which could be a huge help for us down the road. On top of that, the boys adapt to the level of play after pre-season. And we always expect more out of them.

- The loss to Dynamo – would you say it was logical? After all, you took the lead and then Dynamo turned the game around.
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That’s junior hockey for you. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Dynamo outplayed us. It’s just that they capitalized on their scoring chances while we couldn’t do that. The team that makes the least number of mistakes and better capitalizes on its scoring chances is going to win. We missed out on both of these components. We made mistakes in our defensive zone and didn’t capitalize on our scoring chances. If you take a closer look at the statistics, we were able to keep up with Dynamo in terms of shots on net and scoring chances. Sometimes our boys just need to be more coolheaded in dealing with their scoring chances. Young players are prone to giving in to their emotions. We were able to create good scoring chances but we didn’t convert on them well… You know, sometimes you just have to keep doing the same thing over and over again to make something happen.

- Kirill Dolzhenkov had a chance to score in that game but he got a 5-minute major and the goal that came as a result of it proved to be deciding. What did you tell the forward after the game? What’s your take on his actions in that situation?
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I wouldn’t say that it was strictly that penalty that proved to be the difference in the game. It was a hockey play and it was a hard hit. I didn’t see the intention of injuring the opponent on that play. In the previous moment our player was checked when he didn’t have the puck. He also got a minor injury but the opponent didn’t even get a minor penalty for that. We shouldn’t talk about referees and the decisions they make. As for Dolzhenkov, he was acting in accordance with what the play dictated. He tries hard and plays with passion. We trust him and he proves he deserves to be trusted.

- Goaltender Kirill Samsonov is having a great season. He is one of the best in Junior Hockey League at save percentage. This is his third season in the league, even though he’s just 19 years old. Is Kirill ready to make a step forward and get called up to Kontinental Hockey League?
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It’s difficult for me to say how goaltending line is going to be put together in our club vertical. There are special people who are responsible for that. Indeed, Kirill enjoys a very good start of the regular season. He made several huge saves and gave us a chance to win every night. It was especially evident in the game against Russkie Vityazi [Moscow Region]. The opposition created a lot of really good scoring chances in that game. They had a chance to turn it around. I don’t really like to talk about the future. The fact that he looked solid in those game is great. If Samsonov is going to keep up playing like that and make further progress, I’m all in for that. That would mean that the work we have done wasn’t in vain and that we have done everything right.

- What players do you expect to have a breakthrough season this year? Would it be Yegor Kuzminov, Danila Karpov, Matvei Vasin and Artyom Barabosha?
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We have a pretty even roster this season. There is no huge age gap between rookies and more experienced players. In most cases it’s just one year. Every boy we have in CSKA system is great. At what pace they can develop is going to depend on our work. I don’t know who is going to have a breakthrough season. Junior hockey is rather unpredictable. One day you have one guy making strides and the next day it’s another guy. This coaching staff trusts all of our players. We expect everyone to deliver and make progress.

“Even when we were kids every loss was a tragedy”

- As a coach do you keep imposing the original CSKA brand of hockey – offensive-minded, passing game - on the young generation? Or is it impossible in today’s world?
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Why would you say it’s impossible? Quite the contrary. It is possible. I’m a CSKA junior hockey school alumni myself. It’s something we were taught ever since we were little kids. We don’t have any other goal but to win. Even when we were kids every loss was a tragedy. You have to step on the ice and play to win in every game. Only everyday work leads you to something great. We aspire to achieve the highest possible goals and it doesn’t matter whether we face off against a strong or weak opponent. In that sense we keep up with CSKA eternal traditions.

Obviously, I love the passing game, offensive-minded hockey, which is very enjoyable to watch. But I also really like when the boys play the right way in the defensive zone. Everything is interconnected in hockey. I love to see my defensemen timely join offensive rushes. I love to see my forwards backcheck hard. Ideal team balance is what makes every coach happy!

- Has the sudden coaching changes at CSKA Moscow in Kontinental Hockey League when Sergei Fedorov was appointed the head-coach affect you in any way? Have you been able to establish a positive interaction with him?
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To be honest with you, I believe he has a lot going on right now and the junior team is the least of his troubles. However, prior to being appointed the new head-coach of CSKA, Fedorov would come to Krasnaya Armiya games. He even visited the boys in junior hockey school. He would come to practices and give advice. Once Sergei was the general manager of CSKA he would often come and watch our games. He would give advice and get involved in other ways with our junior team.

- Krasnaya Armiya currently tops the Western Conference. Loko-76 Yaroslavl is unexpectedly on top of the Eastern Conference. It’s a team no one believed in. How would you explain that such a young team was able to achieve such heights?
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I can explain it. I keep an eye on the Eastern Conference. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl have a very good junior hockey school. They have two teams competing against each other. They produce good players every year. There simple were too many good players for one major junior team – and it has been the case for several years already. Obviously, they needed a second team or a farm team because their junior hockey school system is just way too good. They have done some great scouting. They have brought a lot of great players from other regions. They did have a team in NJHL but it was obvious that many of their players were simply too good for that level. That’s why the needed to have another team competing in Junior Hockey League.

As for the fact that the team has been successful early in the regular season, hockey is a little different in the Eastern Conference. They have a quick, lively, young and ambitious team. Perhaps, they were lucky with the schedule, too. We’ll see how they will fare further into the season. Having said that, their junior hockey school and reserve are truly great. So it’s really not that surprising.

- Do you envy Lokomotiv Yaroslavl sports director Alexander Ardashev in a good way?
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We have just as many talented players at CSKA. We also choose the strongest but a lot of our players join other teams. If we had two teams, it’s likely we would have been just as good as them. Our junior hockey school works well and that’s what matters.


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