09.03.2017 в 12:56
Junior Hockey League continues its series of the 2017 Kharlamov Cup Playoffs matchups previews. In the opening round of the playoffs reigning champions Loko Yaroslavl will face their arch-rivals Almaz Cherepovets.

It’s more difficult to stay on top than to get to the top. Yaroslavl could attest to that in the first half of the regular season. Many players, who were vital to Loko’s success last year, got promoted to the big club and VHL. Loko began the season with a win at the 2016 Junior Club World Cup in Nizhnekamsk, Russia. Despite drastic roster changes they were still coming into the season as one of the top teams of the Western Conference.

At first they didn’t do as well as they thought they would – they lost the first game of the season to Chayka Nizhny Novgorod, which was followed by a road trip to St. Petersburg that brought no points and a very unexpected loss from Atlanty Moscow Region. However, midway through the fall Loko found their footing and one winning streak was followed by another. The pinnacle of it all was the winning streak that began in mid-December and lasted up till early February. Only SKA-1946 St. Petersburg, who ended up on top of the conference, managed to stop Loko in its tracks, snapping their 16-game winning streak.

Loko found their firepower this season in forward Pavel Kudryavtsev, who led the team in both goals and points – all in all he racked up 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists). Georgy Ivanov was second on the team in scoring as he was 12 points behind Kudryavtsev. Goaltender Anton Krasotkin spent most of the season in the VHL, even though he did get 11 Junior Hockey League games under his belt, including two shutout wins. Thus, Ilya Konovalov became Loko’s starting netminder.

In this series he’s going up against another Yaroslavl-native Alexei Artamkin, who plays for Almaz Cherepovets. The goaltending duel promises to be one of the key features of the series. Both netminders enjoyed seven shutout wins this season. They are tied for first in that department in the league. Moreover, Yaroslavl had the fewest goals allowed in the Western Conference – 103. They also tied Krasnaya Armiya Moscow for first in goals with 182.

Almaz lost all four games to Loko in the regular season but other than that Cherepovets had a decent run and fully deserved to be in the playoffs. As far as consistency goes, Evgeny Stavrovsky’s side looks just like Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk from the Eastern Conference. Stavrovsky replaced Evgeny Mikhalkevich as Almaz head-coach midway through the season. Cherepovets avoided long slumps, excluding a 3-game losing streak in December when the team lost to Chayka and HC MVD Balashikha with a combined score of 1-12. Almaz also had their moments this season. For example, four wins over MHC Spartak Moscow, or really solid games against Krylia Sovetov Moscow and MHC Dinamo St. Petersburg.

Aforementioned Alexei Artamkin used to play for Loko-Yunior in MHL-B. He made a name for himself this season on Almaz and is likely to be their starting goaltender this post-season. Vladimir Kalugin notched 20 assists this season to lead Almaz defensemen in scoring and got invited to compete for the 2017 MHL Challenge Cup. He was joined in Ufa, Russia by his teammate Nikita Loschenko, who led Almaz in points. In 55 regular season games the forward scored 27 goals and added 18 assists to that for a total of 45 points.
Cherepovets can also rely on several other forwards. Vyacheslav Skobelev, Igor Geraskin and Nikita Kolesnikov proved that Almaz can find keys to any defense.

Loko Yaroslavl

In the 2016-17 season: 56 games, 33 regulation wins, 3 shootout wins, 3 overtime wins, 14 regulation losses, 2 shootout losses, 1 overtime loss. 114 points, 3rd place in the Western Conference.
Goals For: 182
Goals Against: 103
Top-scorer: Pavel Kudryavtsev – 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists)
Top goal-scorer: Pavel Kudryavtsev – 17 goals
Top defenseman: Ivan Kovalyov – 20 points (3 goals, 17 assists), plus-20
Starting goaltender: Ilya Konovalov – 32 games, 17 wins, Goals Against Average – 1.90, Average Save Percentage - .920 per game.

Almaz Cherepovets

In the 2016-17 season: 56 games, 31 regulation wins, 2 overtime wins, 1 shootout win, 20 regulation losses, 2 shootout losses. 101 points, 6th place in the Western Conference.
Goals For: 135
Goals Against: 122
Top-scorer: Nikita Loschenko – 45 points (27 goals, 18 assists)
Top goal-scorer: Nikita Loschenko – 27 goals
Top defenseman: Vladimir Kalugin – 25 points (5 goals, 20 assists), plus-3
Starting goaltender: Alexei Artamkin – 32 games, 19 wins, Goals Against Average – 1.77, Average Save Percentage - .931 per game.

Season Series

October 27th, 2016, Cherepovets, Russia. Almaz - Loko – 1-3
October 28th, 2016, Cherepovets, Russia. Almaz - Loko - 0-2
February 1st, 2017, Yaroslavl, Russia. Loko – Almaz – 4-1
February 2nd, 2017, Yaroslavl, Russia. Loko – Almaz - 2-1