This Saturday, September 2nd, Junior Hockey League season kicked off with the game between past two champions. Reigning Kharlamov Cup champions Krasnaya Armiya Moscow hosted 2016 champions Loko Yaroslavl. ‘Railway men’ established a comfy lead in the opening period of play as they scored three goals in the first seven minutes. They went on to win the game 4-2.
A great opening ceremony took place before the puckdrop. Jumbotron at CSKA Ice Palace displayed a video about Krasnaya Armiya winning the 2017 Junior Club World Cup and introduced the roster for the season. Moscow team had won the trophy just a couple of days ago. Before the opening face-off Junior Hockey League managing director Alexei Morozov congratulated the fans with the beginning of the new JHL season. Legendary Soviet hockey player Valery Kharlamov’s son – Alexander Kharlamov – performed the ceremonial puckdrop.
Yaroslavl converted on their very first powerplay of the afternoon. They set camp in the offensive end, calmly passed the puck around and then Igor Zenchikov fired it in, thus becoming the first goal-scorer of the season. Loko continued having the momentum on their side and exploited another mistake made by the home team. Bad clearing attempt led to a snipe by veteran Daniil Yurtaikin, who made it 2-0. Loko improved their lead to 3-0 moments later – this time Ivan Romanov scored off Kirill Slepets’ assist, forcing Rinat Khasanov to call time-out to calm down his troops. Maxim Afanasyev left Loko killing a minor penalty and Krasnaya Armiya seemed to have converted on it. The officials had to review the play but ruled it a good goal – Ruslan Iskhakov netted his first career JHL goal. Late in the period both teams had great scoring chances. Yaroslavl couldn’t convert on Nikita Gromov’s penalty, while home team gave Yakovlev a lot of work to do.
Loko began second period shorthanded but they managed to kill it off and once again began peppering Artyom Korepanov, who had to make a few huge saves. Nikolai Kovalenko’s shot looked destined for the twine but Krasnaya Armiya netminder did the splits and made a great save. TV cameras caught Nikolai’s father in the stands after that episode – Andrei Kovalenko is the head of KHL players and coaches’ union. The fans weren’t treated to any goals in the period but they saw a lot of physical battles, while the goaltenders didn’t have much to do comparing to the opening frame.
Krasnaya Armiya came out hard for the third stanza forcing Yaroslavl to take a few penalties. Midway through the period the teams hit each other’s goal-posts. First Moscow hit the iron on a powerplay, and then Yaroslavl knocked some paint of the Korepanov’s post on a counter-attack. Nevertheless, one of Loko’s late offensive rushes led to another goal. Daniil Glovatsky scored off Maxim Afanasyev’s feed. It looked like he had set the final score but Krasnaya Armiya still had the last word in this one – Semyon Krasheninnikov scored with just 19 seconds remaining till the final buzzer.
Krasnaya Armiya (Moscow) – Loko (Yaroslavl) – 2-4 (1-3, 0-0, 1-1)
0-1 – Zenchikov (Dyadyenkin, Zhukov) – 02-18 PPG
0-2 – Yurtaikin (Tsyganov, Belyayev) – 06-07
0-3 – Romanov (Slepets) – 06-24
1-3 – Iskhakov (Unassisted) – 09-09 PPG
1-4 – Glovatsky (Afanasyev) – 59-29
2-4 – Krasheninnikov (Filin) – 59-41
Goaltenders: Korepanov - Yakovlev
Shots on goal: 29-40
Penalty Minutes: 8-10
“Our coaches told us to come out hard for the first period,” said Loko forward Georgy Ivanov. “We had to start strong so it would be easier to play later. Besides, it was the season-opener. We had to win and we did just that. Second Kharlamov Cup? You always have to play to win. Today we had some unnecessary penalties. We could avoid them but mistakes happen. We really liked our opponent today – Junior Club World Cup champions. They have a good team. Although, any JHL team is a serious adversary. We have to keep the right mindset coming into every game. We have a really tough competition in Lokomotiv Academy. There are a lot of alumni who try to get a spot on the roster.”
“Scoring first JHL goal was nice but team result is the most important thing and we lost today,” said Krasnaya Armiya forward Ruslan Iskhakov. “We’ll try to get our revenge on September 4th. Early in the game we were clumsy on the defense and allowed three goals. We spent enough time on a powerplay and created many scoring chances to tie the game up but we couldn’t capitalize on it. The goal was a funny one. I though I scored and began celebrating. Then I turned around and saw that the game was still on. In the pause, our captain skated to the referees and asked them to take another look at it. In the end, the goal counted. I was sure I’d scored. I didn’t get the puck right away because the game was still on. Yegor Filin asked the ref later to give him the puck. I’m going to keep it as a memory.”