About the League
Forward Nikita Rtischev couldn’t compete for Kharlamov Cup in the 2018-19 season as Krasnaya Armiya got eliminated by Almaz from the playoffs. However, he spent the rest of the season with CSKA. In this interview to Junior Hockey League media relations department Rtischev talks about KHL Finals, compares winning Kharlamov Cup to winning Gagarin Cup and explains why one need special practice to drink champagne from the trophy.
“It was a special season for me. It was very eventful. I played in three leagues in the regular season and then went on to compete for three cups in the playoffs. It was great,” says Rtischev. “It just so happened that I played only one game in Kharlamov Cup Playoffs. I didn’t consider the trip to Krasnaya Armiya as a demotion. On the contrary, my goal was to help the guys prolong their season. Unfortunately, we lost that game to Almaz and got eliminated from the playoffs. There were a lot of guys in Kharlamov Cup games with KHL and VHL experience aside from me. For instance, Almaz had Igor Geraskin, who had even captained Severstal. The guys also need to prove themselves in the juniors to get to a higher level, so their appearance in JHL games elevates the level of competition. The experience those guys have enables them to play more relaxed and that makes hockey more exciting and interesting.”
- You finished the season with CSKA. How did you get called up?
- After Zvezda got eliminated from Petrov Cup Playoffs, I got a call from the club and was told that I was going to get a day off and then would have to join CSKA for the rest of the season. I had a few KHL regular season games under my belt but playoff hockey is a whole new experience. I played my firt shift only in Game 2 of the series against Avangard. I was a little nervous when I stepped onto the ice. After all, it was the finals so it was a very important moment. All in all, it was a decent shift. I even laid a hit.
Physically I was ready for KHL games. As for the tactics, I didn’t have much trouble with that either. All CSKA system teams stick to the more or less similar game model and same tactics. That’s why the coaches didn’t need to explain me anything personally.
- What were your emotions after a few shifts in Gagarin Cup Finals?
- It was very cool. I stepped into playoff atmosphere, it was great to be on the ice. Even though I played just a few shifts, it was a very important step for me. Either way I played in Gagarin Cup Finals, which means a lot in and of itself.
- You joined the team before the series against SKA St. Petersburg and played your first shift in the series against Avangard. How difficult it was to wait for your chance?
- Emotionally it was rather difficult because you’re under a constant pressure. But it wasn’t new to me. It’s a normal turn of events for a player of my age. I was just happy to be on the bench and be a part of such a great team. I’m very grateful to Igor Valerievitch Nikitin and everyone else on CSKA coaching staff for the opportunity to play playoff hockey at the highest level. My teammates always walked up to me and cheered me up. They told me that I had to be ready to step onto the ice at any moment because there is always a chance that someone may get injured or get a misconduct penalty. I also tried to cheer my teammates up, be part of the team and work hard even on the bench.
- What was the most intense moment in CSKA dressing-room during the playoffs?
- I think it was before Game 7 of the series against SKA. Everyone was preparing very seriously for the game. Game 7 is always special. Visually the tension wasn’t visible but you could tell how important the game was by how the guys and coaches behaved.
- Did you get to see the game-winning goal well?
- I had a perfect view of it. It was a passing play and you feel the goal coming. We were creating a lot of scoring chances in the offensive end so I was standing on my feet. When Mamin scored, I first felt like melting into the ground – it was a mix of weird feelings. But I realized in a second that we won the country’s main trophy.
- You played with Maxim Mamin, who scored the cup-clinching goal, in VHL this season, when he was down there helping Zvezda in Petrov Cup Playoffs.
- I knew well that he had played in the NHL just a few months ago. Maxim is a great hockey player. It’s great to play with him. You could tell that he was in a great mood during his time in VHL. He probably knew that he was sent down to Zvezda to adjust and get into shape.
- What was happening on the ice after Mamin scored?
- Everyone was super happy and jumping all over the place. CSKA couldn’t win the championship title in a long time - the team had lost twice in the finals – so we were very happy to have finally won the trophy. As per tradition, every team member got to hoist and kiss the cup. There wasn’t a strict line per se – we just handed the trophy to the next person regardless of their age and achievements. When I was hoisting Gagarin Cup, not only the emotions didn’t cool off but, on the contrary, they were flying high. I felt that I won the championship title with the team.
- In 2017 you won Kharlamov Cup with Krasnaya Armiya. Back then you also defeated Reaktor Nizhnekamsk in the finals 4-0.
- These finals are comparable. After all, I was very happy to win both trophies. Every team plays hard in the finals and gives everything its got, so the games turn out to be very interesting and exciting. I hanged my KHL gold medals along with the others – JHL gold medal and 2017 Junior Club World Cup gold medal.
- Is that true that champagne tastes different when drunk from the Gagarin Cup?
- I didn’t get to see the brand but the champagne actually tasted pretty good. As the matter of fact, it’s not easy to drink from the cup. It’s pretty heavy itself and it was filled to the top with 12 liters of champagne. But it was alright, we managed – we don’t go to gym for nothing! The whole team went on to celebrate the win. We just had a nice time, talked and rested. We also went to the church all together, which we had visited before the start of the playoffs.
- Next season you can still play in JHL and VHL. Is it going to be difficult to go back to regular season routine after such vivid emotions?
- Everything you achieved in the past is forgotten once the new season comes around. Gold medals are history now. Whichever league I will play in next season, I’m going to keep the bar high for myself and show everything I can. Everyone needs to prove his worth in sports everyday.