Russian Hockey News Notes: October 25th, 2015
This will be a slightly shorter edition of the news notes than usual, given that we last checked in with Russian hockey goings-on just on Tuesday. However, there have still been some interesting items in the last few days, and we’ll start out with trip to the Women’s Hockey League for a couple of big games there. Also included: a quick look at the VHL, updates on teams turning around bad seasons in the KHL, and some news about the gentleman pictured above. So read on!
The last few days in the Women’s Hockey League featured the season’s first two much-anticipated, top-of-the-table, meetings between Agidel Ufa and Tornado Moscow Oblast. Agidel came in holding a slim two-point lead in the standings, largely thanks to Tornado’s surprising loss to SKIF Nizhny Novgorod last week. For added spice, the league’s top two scorers were involved in this weekend’s games, Olga Sosina for the team from Ufa and Anna Shokhina for the Moscow Oblast side.
This pair of games were played in Ufa, and the first round went to the home team, and to Sosina. The 23-year-old from Tatarstan scored twice herself, and set up her team’s third, as Agidel won it 3-2 while holding Shokhina pointless. The result meant a five-point lead in the standings, but it was quickly back to two after Tornado counter-punched in the second encounter. Agidel took a 1-0 lead into the second period, but Shokhina scored to tie it, and six minutes later Yelena Dergachyova potted what would prove to be the winner in a 2-1 victory for Tornado (Alevtina Shtaryova, currently fourth in league scoring, earned assists on both of her team’s goals).
And so Agidel maintain their two-point cushion in the standings, while Tornado’s Shokhina remains atop the scoring charts, also by two points ahead of Sosina. All still to play for, and the two teams will meet again, this time at Tornado’s home rink in Dmitrov, in late February.
The Women’s Hockey League, in the meantime, takes a bit of a break at this point, with games resuming on November 14th.
Speaking of Dmitrov, a medium-sized ‘burg of approximately 60,000 people located 65 kilometres north of the capital, Tornado are not their only hockey-playing representatives. Zvezda-VDV joined the VHL, Russia’s second-highest men’s professional league, this season after a number of years in the amateur ranks.
Update: A note and link , courtesy of Alexander Agapov via Facebook — The Zvezda amateur club continues to play in the RTHL (they’re in Divizion Zolotoi — the “Golden Division” — of that league). Only two players from last year’s lineup joined the new professional outfit, so Zvezda VDV, whose players are drawn largely from various junior programs, are essentially an entirely new team. Many thanks to Mr. Agapov for the clarification!
Sadly, Zvezda’s-VDV’s first season in the professional ranks has not gone smoothly at all. They are rooted to the foot of the VHL table at the moment, with a ghastly 1-16 record and a “goals for and against” of 16-70. That works out to slightly less than one goals scored per game, and more than four given up. On the goal-scoring front, things may actually be getting worse for Zvezda-VDV; they have found the net only twice in their last seven games. While it would be ludicrous to discuss the 2015-16 playoffs at this point, here’s hoping that they can sort things out, start getting some results, and come into their second pro season next fall on firmer footing.
There is a heck of a battle going on at the other end of the VHL table right now. Yermak Angarsk, from central Siberia, currently have their nose in front with 33 points from 17 games. However, the next four teams in the standings are all on 32 points, and two of those — THK Tver and Izhstal Izhevsk — have games in hand on Yermak. If this continues through the season, it’s going to be great fun to follow!
Up in the KHL, meanwhile, it continues to the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl show. Their winning streak now stands at 13, going back to a 1-0 loss to Sibir Novosibirsk on the 23rd of September. Lokomotiv have given up only 31 goals, by far the best mark in the league (CSKA Moscow, in second in that category, have allowed 41). Even more daunting for the team’s opponents: Lokomotiv’s 67 goals scored ties them for the fifth-most in the KHL.
Dominant though they have been, Lokomotiv were made to work for today’s 3-2 win over Vityaz Moscow Oblast in Podolsk (highlights below!). Twice the league-leading visitors nosed in front thanks to a pair of goals from Jonas Enlund, but twice Vityaz answered to tie things up (Maxim Afinogenov and Mario Kempe did the honours). Things appeared to be headed for the uncertainty of extra time, when, with less than two minutes left on the third-period clock, Denis Mosalyov tallied to give Lokomotiv the lead once again. This time, Vityaz could find no answer, and the men from Yaroslavl can now look to extend their winning streak to 14 when they meet Traktor Chelyabinsk on the 27th.
An intriguing signing in the KHL this week, as Kirill Kabanov is back in Russia. The 23-year-old forward, a 2010 draft pick of the New York Islanders, last played in his homeland in 2009 for Spartak Moscow, and spent last season in Sweden as a member of Skellefteå AIK (43 gp, 11-18-29 was his scoring line). He has now signed with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, where he should provide some extra firepower somewhere in the middle six forwards.
There is some irony in Kabanov arriving in Ufa; it was Salavat Yulaev whom he rejected in 2009 in order to pursue his career in the North American junior ranks. The parting was hardly amicable, and in fact it soured relations between Kabanov and Russian hockey’s movers and shakers until, well, now. In the meantime, the 23-year-old has had a vagabond career; he has spent time in Moncton, Lewiston, and Shawinigan as a QMJHLer, in Bridgeport of the AHL, as a member of the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder, and most recently with MODO and Skellefteå in Sweden.
Kabanov has not yet suited up for Salavat Yulaev, but we should see him at some point this coming week.
When Kabanov does take to the ice for the team from Ufa, he will be joining a squad that is quickly turning this season’s awful start into nothing more than a vague unpleasant memory. Salavat Yulaev are winners of nine of their last ten, completely turning around a 6-8 start to the season. The surge has them up to fourth in the East Conference, just three points out of the top spot and with games in hand to boot.
At the heart of Salavat Yulaev’s recent success has been their offense; the team now leads the KHL with 72 goals, three more than second-place Dynamo Moscow. The defense in Ufa, however, remains something of a work in progress, tied for the fifth-most goals given up this season.
Speaking of turning things around, Lada Tolyatti are on a modestly nice run after finally breaking a ten-game losing streak back on October 7th. Lada have since gone 6-2 since then, enough to boost them off the foot of the standings in both the league and the East Conference. While not exactly crowding the final playoff spots just yet — they remain ten points back of eighth in the East — they are at least giving their fans something to cheer about, and are in the process of possibly rescuing a season that looked dead and buried less than a month ago.
Another interesting KHL player move this week, this one involving a name that may be familiar to Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes fans. Forward Alexandre Bolduc, who played 65 NHL games split between those two teams, has moved from the Traktor Chelyabinsk organization to Medveščak Zagreb. Bolduc played only three games for Traktor, scoring no points and getting himself sent down the VHL’s Chelmet Chelyabinsk. In six games there, he recorded four points before making the switch to Zagreb.
Time for the update on our little team of interesting players!
G Juha Metsola (Amur Khabarovsk): 24 gp, 1.78 GAA, .935 sv%. A mixed bag for Metsola this week, with a win and a loss. Amur are still hanging tough in the playoff race though, and their Finnish netminder is a big reason.
D Ziyat Paigin (HK Sochi): 10 gp, 0-2-2, +1, 2 PiM, 7:28 TOI/gm. Nothing to report here; Paigin was a scratch for Sochi in their games this week.
D Nikita Zaitsev (CSKA Moscow): 20 gp, 4-6-10, +12, 4 PiM, 20:57 TOI/gm. And not much more to report here either, as CSKA have played only a single game since Tuesday. They are back in action on Monday against Severstal Cherepovets.
F Nikolai Prokhorkin (Salavat Yulaev Ufa): 23 gp, 8-5-13, +6, 42 PiM, 16:16 TOI/gm. By contrast, it was a very nice week for Porkhorkin, who scored two goals and added an assist in two Salavat Yulaev victories. I’m very interested to see what effect Kabanov’s arrival has on Prokhorkin.
F Olli Palola (Vityaz Moscow Oblast): 16 gp, 1-2-3, -7, 4 PiM, 14:59 TOI/gm. Palola posted an assist for the second straight game earlier this week against HK Sochi — a welcome sign! Less welcome was that he missed Sunday’s game against Lokomotiv, for reasons unknown.
F Sergei Mozyakin (Metallurg Magnitogorsk): 24 gp, 17-13-30, +4, 0 PiM: 21:32 TOI/gm. Whoah. Mozyakin went pointless and -4 in two games this week, including a -3 in a 3-1 Metallurg loss to Dinamo Riga. On the bright side, he still maintains his four-point lead in the KHL scoring race.
That’s all for this week! At some point in the next few days, it will be time for another trip back to the early seasons of Soviet hockey, and there may be other things popping up here as well. As always, thank you for reading!