CSKA Moscow and Avangard Omsk met in the KHL final for the second time, as in 2019. Two years ago, Bob Hartley’s team, for their first season as coach in Russia, lost 4 matches to 0. But in the meantime, CSKA has lost its stars (in the first place Kirill Kaprizov). The Siberians, even exiles in the suburbs of Moscow, were able to continue their team building much better than the architects and project managers of their arena, which had become unusable.
The final was as close as expected between two teams who skate hard and never give up defensively, but without being at first as spectacular as the previous round between Omsk and Kazan. Game 4 took him to another dimension, even more thrilling. CSKA, which led 2 wins to 1, conceded 52 penalty minutes before their opponent took any jail. Moscow coach Igor Nikitin got angry with the referees during the break. All the decisions had only applied the rules. Andrei Loktionov had aimed at Kostin’s stick but his stick movement had reached the crotch of his opponent. Even accidental, this gesture was worth the locker room. Maksim Shalunov then charged Andrei Stas to the head in the neutral zone: sanction also indisputable, even without malicious intent.
These two five-minute penalties, almost chained, allowed the Avangard – previously led 0-2 – to start coming back into the game, even if he only scored one goal during this streak. When he regained the advantage 3-2, CSKA seemed ruined, deprived of its first crosses, but he equalized in the last second by Mat Robinson at 6 against 4. This goal seemed to save the Muscovites. revealed to be the kiss of death. Omsk won in overtime… on the shorthand, with a precise shot from Pavel Dedunov at 2 against 1.
The scandal erupted the next day when the disciplinary committee suspended Maksim Shalunov for a match. Shalunov being the top scorer in the play-offs, the KHL was sharply criticized for being too harsh with its stars instead of protecting them, which would not happen in NHL (equality before the law should not be a cardinal principle?). In his absence, the CSKA attack remained silent. Worse, for the second game in a row, the Muscovites conceded a goal while playing on the power play, and for the second time on a puck lost in the gang by Konstantin Okulov, the other hero of these play-offs which he was a better scorer. Reid Boucher took charge of the fatal counterattack for a beautiful goal.
Before Game 6, where Shalunov returns as his “victim” Stas, it is therefore the Avangard who has become the favorite. He can conclude “at home” in his ice rink-refuge in Balashikha. In this intense battle, the Siberians play more physical and give more body checks. At the tenth minute. Maksim Goncharov propels against the Andrei Svetlakov gang, whose head hits the edge of the railing in the worst place. The center player remains on the ground, concussed, and will not replay, but no foul is called. However, there will be no controversy tonight.
The match changes at the last minute of the first half. Faced with the very well-established block of CSKA, defender Oliwer Kaski – one of the astonishing Finnish world champions of 2019 – starts from his blue line, goes all around the offensive zone and, arriving back in the opposite circle, performs a transverse pass back for Sergei Tolchinsky whose one-timer at 12 meters, with a knee on the ice, deceives Lars Johansson flush with his plate, against his movement.
CSKA are very close to equalizing after two minutes of play in the second period. Maksim Sorkin – who has served as a substitute center for two games and still is with Svetlyakov’s injury – wins a face-off in the center circle for Mat Robinson who uses the board to dribble his vis-à-vis Kirill Gotovets and place a cross shot… which hits the opposite post! What is a final? The Muscovites will no longer have such a good opportunity. And yet, while no penalty has been whistled (except a surplus of CSKA) for 55 minutes, two Avangard players are sent to prison twelve seconds apart: Denis Zernov to trip, and Ville Pokka for high stock. As since the start of the play-offs, the Siberians are remarkable sacrifice, like Damir Sharipzianov who throws himself twice in front of the throws. Czech goalkeeper Simon Hrubec also signed two decisive saves, on a shot from Bogdan Kiselevich and especially on the rebound of Anton Slepyshev alone in the slot.
Finishing with two shutouts, Hrubec could have been crowned MVP of these play-offs, but the distinction goes to a Russian, the scorer of the day Sergei Tolchinsky. A very symbolic winner: he is a Muscovite trained at CSKA, where he was at the end of his contract last season. The Avangard had outbid the Moscow proposal by offering 50 million rubles, knowing that the CSKA would be bothered to pay such a sum with the establishment of the salary cap. This involved paying a transfer fee (there is talk of 85 million rubles), but no one in Omsk regrets this investment. The words of the president of CSKA Igor Esmantovich at the time (« He asked for a certain salary and we thought he was not worth it ») had upset Tolchinsky, and they perhaps gave him the strength of this winning one-timer.
Another symbol, the Gagarin Cup is lifted by two veterans, the replacement captain Ilya Kovalchuk but also the original captain Aleksei Emelin, hospitalized with a serious liver problem a few weeks ago in Kazan and returned to give a sign of life in this celebration with his teammates. There is indeed absolutely no question of social distancing, whether on the bench or in the gallery. It is a feast day in Balashikha… and 2,600 kilometers away, in Omsk, where people rejoice from a distance.
Post-match commentary :
Damir Sharipzianov (Omsk defender): “Pokka blocked shots, Emelin blocked shots, they blocked so many. I watched them and I knew how much they were helping, because the team that blocks the most shots wins the majority of the time. It is a very important component. Of course, not as much as the goals, but very important too. There will soon be a newcomer to the family, so I dedicate this victory to my future son. The Gagarin Cup, of course, heals all bruises. This 3 against 5 was a key episode of the match. Now you can say that I was playing injured. The fingers are broken, it hurts all over, but it’s OK. «
Sergei Tolchinsky (Omsk striker): “By signing my contract with Avangard, I dreamed of being in the final against CSKA. I can’t believe this dream has come true. I am very happy, these are unreal emotions. Two years ago I won the cup with CSKA but had hardly played, now the emotions are completely different. I had time to cry, to laugh and to rejoice. Now that’s just a big relief. I know everyone at CSKA, I have a lot of friends there. I even feel a little sorry for them. I did not know that I would be a better player in the play-offs. I had in mind the race with Okulov [au classement des marqueurs des play-offs], one point was not enough to overtake him, but the main thing is the Gagarin Cup. And Okulov is a great player, I’m glad he’s in front of me. «
Igor Nikitin (CSKA coach): “The strongest won. I am proud of my team, Omsk deserved his victory. Sergei Tolchinsky is no stranger to me, I worked with him, he deserves to win. I am very grateful to Omsk for everything they have done for me. My parents live there, it’s not a foreign city for me. I would like to thank CSKA for the opportunity to work in this club. Not enough stars in the lineup compared to the last final? I don’t see the point of talking about it. Hockey is a team sport. We had the opportunity to win with this squad. In the playoffs, all goalkeepers must play above their abilities. Like Hrubec, Lars Johansson also played very well, so we are in the final. «
Simon Hrubec (Omsk goalkeeper): “It’s an incredible feeling. I believed in myself that it could happen. When I was playing for Kulun, I told my wife that I would like to play for the Avangard someday. She asked me why? Because they have the best logo in the whole league! Then I became a player for the team and thought that was a good thing. I was told I would have my chance. But let’s not forget that if [le gardien titulaire initial] Igor Bobkov hadn’t played a great first round, we wouldn’t be there. «
Avangard Omsk – CSKA Moscow 1-0 (1-0, 0-0, 0-0)
Wednesday April 28, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. at the Balashikha Arena. 2488 spectators.
Arbitration by Viktor Gashilov and Denis Naumov assisted by Aleksandr Chernyshov and Nikita Shalagin.
Penalties: Omsk 4 ′ (0 ′, 0 ′, 4 ′), CSKA 2 ′ (0 ′, 2 ′, 0 ′).
Shots: Omsk 23 (10, 10, 3), CSKA 25 (11, 9, 5).
1-0 at 19’28: Tolchinsky assisted by Kaski
Reid Boucher – Corban Knight – Klim Kostin
Ilya Kovalchuk (C) – Denis Zernov (2 ′) – Ilya Kablukov
Sergei Tolchinsky (+1) – Kirill Semyonov (+1) – Aleksandr Khokhlachev (+1)
Pavel Dedunov – Andrei Stas (A) – Nikita Komarov
Damir Sharipzianov (A) – Pokka City (2 ′)
Oliwer Kaski (+1) – Aleksei Bereglazov (+1)
Kirill Gotovets – Maksim Goncharov
Semyon Chistyakov [une présence]
Substitutes: Igor Bobkov (L), Arseny Gritsyuk. Absent: Jiri Sekac (extra foreigner), Aleksei Emelin (injured), Maksim Chudinov (injured), Nail Yakupov (injured), Aleksei Potapov (injured), Egor Chinakhov.
CSKA Moscow (2 ′ for excess)
Pavel Karnaukhov – Sergei Andronov (C, -1) – Mario Kempe
Maksim Mamin – Maksim Shalunov – Konstantin Okulov
Brendan Leipsic – Andrei Loktionov – Anton Slepyshev
Ivan Telegin (-1) – Andrei Svetlakov – Maksim Sorkin (-1)
Klas Dahlbeck (-1) – Artyom Sergeev (-1)
Bogdan Kiselevich (A) – Egor Rykov
Artyom Blazhievsky – Mat Robinson (A)
Substitutes: Aleksandr Sharychenkov (L), Marsel Ibragimov, Egor Afanasiev. Absent: Dmitri Samorukov (shoulder), John Gilmour (supernumerary foreigner), Aleksandr Popov (supernumerary), Nikita Soshnikov (supernumerary).