Game 1 of the 2018 Kharlamov Cup Finals took place on April 4th in Yaroslavl as Loko played hosts to SKA-1946 St. Petersburg. Both teams made the finals for the second time in their franchises history and it was the home side that won it, even though it turned out to be one of the most intense games of these playoffs.
Junior Hockey League’s main trophy, Kharlamov Cup, arrived to Yaroslavl the day before. The cup did a little sightseeing tour and made its way to Arena-2000 where the puck dropped for Game 1.
There weren’t much surprises in either team’s roster. ‘Railway men’ started as expected with Ilya Konovalov in goal, while St. Petersburg delegated Konstantin Volkov to the task. As the home team, Yaroslavl began the game with a few offensive rushes and no other but Volkov had to make his first save on a long shot. Home team got the first powerplay of the game as well – Alexei Ozhgikhin got a 2-minute minor for tripping. St. Petersburg survived the penalty, even though Loko took a few very dangerous shots, including the one by Grigory Denisenko, who almost picked top corner. The visitors went on to kill off another penalty as Daniil Ogirchuk also picked up a minor. However, this time Volkov had a lot more work to do – Pavel Kudryavtsev had the best chance, but SKA-1946 netminder shut the door in front of him. Ilya Konovalov had to stretch from time to time to keep himself warm as he was rarely called to action.
Daniil Yurtaikin created a great scoring chance but he got the puck too close to Volkov but he didn’t have much room to take a shot. Right after that Yurtaikin picked up a penalty out of frustration and was sent off for a deuce. SKA-1946 gave up the puck on the ensuing powerplay and Nikolai Kovalenko could score on a breakaway but he was stopped by Volkov, who picked a penalty on the play as well, rendering the game to be played out in a 4-on-4 format. First period of play ended with a scoreless tie, although Yaroslavl outshot the opposition four times to one.
Loko players kept the pressure on in the 2nd frame as well. Vladislav Rybakov got hurt in one episode in the slot – the forward even lost his mouthguard because of the hit but the officials didn’t call any penalties. Yaroslavl had another great scoring chance on a 3-on-2 rush, and then Denisenko had another one as he one-timed it on net from a great shooting position but Volkov was up for the job. Nikita Anokhovsky wasted another chance as he failed to convert on a 2-on-1 rush. Ever-present pressure forced SKA-1946 head-coach Mikhail Milyokhin call time-out because his players began simply chipping the puck out of the zone and skating for line change. Time-out did SKA-1946 good as they returned to action with more focus and were able to shift the game to Konovalov’s end for a while.
‘Railway men’ began the 3rd stanza shorthanded as Nikolai Kovalenko picked up a minor late in the previous period. St. Petersburg used the powerplay to grab the momentum and Konovalov had a lot of work to deal with. Kirill Petkov wasted the best scoring chance as he hit the post from a face-off circle. Evgeny Tsaryuk also could have opened the scoring but Konovalov was impeccable. With four minutes remaining to play in regulation Yurtaikin pulled off yet another splendid solo dash, beat his defenseman but failed to get it past Volkov on a breakaway. There were no penalties up till the final minute of the 3rd period as Yaroslavl got caught on a bad line change and were called for too many men on the ice. Nevertheless, Loko managed to survive until the horn went off.
Yaroslavl had to begin extra period of play in a 4-on-3 format but they killed off the remainder of the penalty as well. A little later Vladislav Syomin picked up a minor and the puck miraculously stayed out Volkov’s net – the goaltender stopped several shots himself and then Yaroslavl forwards wasted a few chances themselves.
Kirill Petkov and Artyom Nikolayev scored for SKA-1946 in the shootout, while Nikita Anokhovsky and Grigory Denisenko answered for Yaroslavl. It all boiled down to the fifth round. Alexei Polodyan failed on his attempt but Nikolai Kovalenko beat Volkov and got Loko the first win of the final series.
2018 Kharlamov Cup Finals. Game 1. Yaroslavl, Arena-2000
Loko (Yaroslavl) – SКА-1946 (St. Petersburg) – 1-0 (0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 1-0)
1-0 – Kovalenko – 70-00 SOW
Goaltenders: Konovalov – Volkov
Shots on goal: 49-29
Penalty Minutes: 6-12
Loko Yaroslavl lead the series 1-0