20.03.2022 в 11:00

“It’s a shame that three years in the JHL flew by so fast” – Matvei Kokovin lost a bet to Alexei Shevchenko as the White Bears failed to qualify to the playoffs

Forward Matvei Kokovin was born in Chelyabinsk, but is a product of Moscow Region’s Atlant. Before his debut in the JHL he managed to play for Olympics again in the Moscow Region and tried his hand in three CSKA junior teams – U16, U17, and U18. In the 2019-2020 season, the forward made his JHL debut for Atlant, playing 63 games, in which he scored 28 (16+12) points – fifth among the team’s forwards. His first points were a double in a game against the Amur Tigers, and on Jan 22, 2020, the forward completed a poker game against the ORG Junior.

Kokovin finished the 2020/2021 season with Spartak where he played 43 games and scored 26 (15+11) points. Then he played all four playoff games for the Red-and-White against Krasnaya Armiya, when his goal helped Spartak win the first game. Kokovin scored in the second game as well, but that didn’t help. Spartak suffered three straight losses and the Army team moved on.

These games will remain Matvei’s only playoff games at the youth level, as his White Bears failed to make the playoffs in the 2021-2022 campaign. The forward moved back to his hometown before the start of the season and was the team’s top scorer. He had 44 (25+19) points in 61 games. The team from Chelyabinsk finished the regular season ahead of other teams in the East and was in the playoff zone, but at the last moment, they were overtaken by Loko-76. In the course of the season, Kokovin bet with Alexei Shevchenko, host of the JHL News program, that the Bears would make it to the Kharlamov Cup playoffs, and now owes the journalist an ice cream.

In an interview with the JHL website, Kokovin talked about its lost bet, his last season in the MHL, his two uniform numbers, and why he feels more Muscovite than from Chelyabinsk.

“All seasons are different from each other,” Kokovin starts his talk. “This year it was a little bit more difficult, because of the move. Even if it was to my hometown, but still. I was without my family, alone. It wasn’t an easy season. Plus the fact that we didn’t make the playoffs. Of course, I'm glad that I’m the team’s top scorer – it gives me more motivation and confidence in my abilities. In short, there were positives in some places and negatives in others.”

Despite being from Chelyabinsk, Kokovin’s family staid in Moscow. “When I was four years old we moved to Moscow,” he explains. “And now this unexpected return. To be honest, I feel more like a Muscovite. Chelyabinsk is not a foreign city to me, naturally, but it is not too familiar, because I don’t remember much, and I only have few relatives left here.”

Kokovin ended the season with 44 points – his best result in his JHL career. Last year, he produced 29 for Spartak and Atlant. “I could have scored a lot more if I hadn’t squandered so many chances,” he says. “But if you compare this season to the last one, everything was different. Different teams, different conferences, different hockey. If you take it individually, I’ve improved. Especially this is my senior year, and I’ve always wanted to be a leader. To score, to give assists, and to be useful to the team.”

Despite Kokovin’s success, the White Bears failed to make the playoffs. “We made mistakes everywhere,” the forward says. “At the beginning, we were losing a lot, losing points. In the middle of the season, we should have turned the situation around, but we didn’t have enough freshness in the front of the net. We played two key games against Loko-76 where we didn’t play well. And then we had to wait for our opponents. Not everything depended on us, and it’s a very difficult situation when your fate is not in your hands. If you can decide everything yourself, that’s much better.”

As the White Bears didn’t make it to the postseason, Kokovin lost his bet to Alexei Shevchenko. “I’m waiting for him to call and tell me which ice cream he likes best. When I get to Moscow, I’ll meet him and pay him back. Maybe we’ll record a new video with him. A new bet? Maybe next season.”

Kokovin currently plays with #72 on his uniform. “I have two game numbers,” he explains. “The #13 is related to the fact that I celebrate my birthday on March 13. I used to live on the 13th floor, I have a lot of connections to that number. However, my brother played under 72, and if you swap the numbers, you get 27 – my father’s number when he played. So, you could say it’s related to my family, a native number for me.”

This was Kokovin’s last season in the JHL – he’ll be too old next year to play in the league. However, it looks like he’s not completely decided on his future yet. “It’s hard to say right now what I’m doing next season” he explains. “I’m already a senior in the JHL, it’s a shame that three years flew by so quickly. It’s a little sad, but on the other hand it’s time to keep growing, to take the next step. I don’t know about the team yet. I will look into it in the near future.”