Before I begin… one picture says it all…
The Russian classic was held today (5 am our time) in the 5F temperatures of Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, the first professional outdoor game in Russian history. Thanks to Russia’s channel R2, I got to watch (albeit several hours later. I haven’t got attendance data but I’d guesstimate that around 15,000 came to Central Stadium for the game, a great boost not only for the surviving families of the plane crash for whom the gate receipts go, but also for the city of Krasnoyarsk, who is angling for a move up to the KHL. I’d have to say that the modified jerseys looked snug and warm, although I’d never seen “turtleneck” hockey uniforms before.
The Falcon were the aggressors early on. A minute and a half in, Nikita Lozhkin made a terrific stop, but the rebound came out and the Falcon shooter put it square into the right post. Lokomotiv was somewhat hamstrung by penalties, and Lozhkin made another series of brilliant saves during one of the power plays around the 5 minute mark. Two minutes later, he dove after a puck and about got run over by teammate Igor Martyov. About halfway through the first period, Alexi Kruchinin got the first good chance of the day for us on a long slap shot, and things began to even out a bit. On a 3-on-2 rush, Emil Galimov came rocketing down the right side, feeding a hard pass right across the front of the net and goalie Emil Safin. Safin had to be careful because Vladimir Kartayev was right in front, but he let it go on through to Maxim Zyuzyakin, who hammered it past Safin for his 7th goal and a 1-0 lead.
Shortly after that, Lokomotiv just missed a chance at a similar play when Kartayev slipped and fell. This happened a lot in the first period. Coach Vorobiev talked about the hazards of outdoor play. “The ice is harder, the puck is like a stone, and breathing is difficult.” That hard ice made cuts more difficult, and the cold made the plexiglass sideboards somewhat less than transparent.
The second period seemed a more even battle, but Lokomotiv was occupied much of the first half of the period fighting off two more power plays. Right after the second penalty, Falcon’s Pavel Kurdyakov made a great attempt but was stoned again by Lozhkin. Then at 13:50, Kruchinin (who like Galimov seemed to be everywhere) stole the puck from Alexander Kryukov, made three lightning-fast dekes, and blasted a shot past Safin for his 5th and a 2-0 lead. Less than 2 minutes later, Daniil Apal’kov came open on the left and buried the puck on Safin’s stick side to make it 3-0.
The score held there, although during a power play chance in the last 2 minutes of the period Kruchinin’s long shot glanced off another post. The game became much more physical after the last goal, and it carried into the final stanza. At 4:16 of the third a scuffle along the right side resulted in the puck coming free to Falcon’s Dmitry Tikhonov, who beat Lozhkin to make it 3-1. About 4 minutes later, Dmitri Pasenko had Lozhkin beat but put his shot off the post as well. At the 13-minute mark, a scramble out front of Lozhkin turned into a dangerous shoving match between Loko’s Pavel Lukin and Falcon’s Igor Vasilev, but Nikita hung onto the puck and everyone hung onto Lukin and Vasilev. Falcon kept pressing, and at about the 5 minutes left mark, Lozhkin stopped Sergei Kotchekov on a hard rush at the net. Right after that, Lukin drew a penalty, and Lozhkin barely held Falcon off.
Right after the penalty kill, though, Pavel Voroshinin took a hard shot at the right side that Lozhkin barely stopped. But Voroshinin got the rebound around behind the net to Kotchekov, who threw it out front to Vitaly Bogdashkin whose goal cut the score to 3-2 with 2:29 left.
But just when things were looking up for the home team, Falcon’s Sergey Sevastyanov got whistled for interference at 2:02 remaining, leaving them defending against Lokomotiv’s power play the rest of the game. Apal’kov almost got the PP goal with 18 ticks left, but Safin robbed him. Still, Falcon couldn’t manage a shorthanded rush, and the visitors had a 3-2 win.
The win clinched a playoff spot for Lokomotiv at 12-4-3. Falcon dropped to 13-29-7, 13 points out of the last playoff spot in their conference with just 4 games left. Lokomotiv’s remaining schedule has a game Wednesday against VMF St. Petersburg (VMF translates to “Military Maritime Fleet”, or Navy; thus google translate renders the team name “Holding the Navy”). Then c0mes a Friday the 24th matchup with HC Sarov; a week from Monday against Sputnik Nizhny Tagil; and the season ender on the last day of the month against Taurus of Neftekamsk.
Oh, and look what I just ordered:
Supposedly I’ll have it just in time for the playoffs.