Weekly Russian Hockey News Notes: November 9th, 2015
As mentioned in yesterday’s short post, Sergei Fedorov was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, and above is a short video of some of his career highlights. Once again, an amazing player and a worthy choice for the Hall. Fedorov’s induction to the HHoF was not the only reason he was in the headlines this weekend, though; on Saturday night, Alexander Ovechkin scored his 483rd NHL goal to tie Fedorov for most markers by a Soviet or Russian player. Ovechkin appeared to have taken the lead with number 484 later on in that same game, but the goal was called back for interference.
What else was going on in the world of Russian hockey this past week? Well, there was a bucketful of international games, some interesting transfer activity, and a few other bits and pieces! Read on.
It was a week full of international hockey, with six different Russian national teams in action in various tournaments! The senior men’s team was in Finland taking part in the four-team Karjala Cup tournament, the first leg of the Euro Hockey Tour. Results were mixed for the Russians; they lost 2-1 to the hosts, posted an impressive 6-3 victory over Sweden, and lost out on penalty shots to the Czech Republic by a 4-3 score. The result: a third-place finish in the tournament (Sweden and Finland, respectively, claimed the top two spots, with the Czech Republic bringing up the rear). Yevgeny Dadonov, who played on a line with SKA St. Petersburg team-mate Vadim Shipachyov and Metallurg Magnitogorsk’s Sergei Mozyakin, had a good week, tying for the tournament lead with four points.
The second leg of the Euro Hockey Tour takes place in Moscow in mid-December.
Russia’s junior men’s team, the U20s, were also in Finland taking part in a parallel tournament against the same three opponents as the senior side. After an opening-game 3-2 overtime victory over Sweden (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s Yegor Korshkov scored the winner), the young Russians were shut out 2-0 by Finland, and dropped their last game to the Czechs by a 3-2 score. Disappointing, no doubt, but there is some consolation to be taken from the fact that this was far from a complete U20 team. Some of the players who will be on the Russian for the World Juniors in December are currently in Canada for the CHL Canada Russia Series (formerly the Subway Super Series) against representative teams of the three Canadian junior leagues, and so were unavailable for the tournament in Finland.
Moving along — the U17 boys’ team was in northern British Columbia, Canada, for the World Under-17 Hockey Classic tournament, which also featured three teams from Canada and the national squads of the United States, Finland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. Russia took home the silver medal this year, losing 6-2 to Canada White in the final. Of note, young Lokomotiv prospect goalie Maxim Zhukov had a good tournament, making 50 saves plus another six in the shootout to get Russia past Canada Red in the semi-finals.
And it was a distinctly odd week for the U16 team, which headed to Belarus for games against that country’s youngsters as well as those of Latvia and Slovakia. The Russians were surprisingly beaten by Latvia (3-2 in a shootout) and Belarus (3-2 in overtime), but hammered Slovakia 7-0 in between those two defeats. The result was a third-place finish in the tournament, which was won by Latvia.
If fortunes were a bit mixed for the men’s teams, the two Russian women’s teams in action enjoyed a highly successful week in their tournaments. The senior squad went undefeated at a five-nation tournament in the Czech Republic, enjoying fairly routine victories over Switzerland (4-1), Slovakia (6-0), and Germany (4-1). The Russians’ match against the host nation, however, was a different matter; the Czech team held a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes, before Olga Sosina reduced the arrears just a minute into the final frame. That 3-1 score held up until literally the final seconds of the game, at which point things went a bit crazy. Valeriya Pavlova pounced on a rebound at 19:42 of the third to give Russia a flicker of hope, and 14 seconds later, with only four ticks of the clock remaining, a shot from Anna Shibanova found its way through to send the game miraculously to extras. Sosina subsequently won it in the shootout, and you can watch those incredible final moments of the third period right here (thanks to Denis Osipchuk for the heads-up on that video!).
Pavlova, who plays her club hockey for Biryusa Krasnoyarsk, had a particularly fine tournament, recording four goals and four assists in the four games.
The women’s U18 team, meanwhile, was playing host to Germany, Sweden, and Finland at a tournament in Dmitrov. The Russian team swept its three games, outscoring the opposition 13-4 over that span, to finish in first place. Nina Pirogova, whose also plays her club hockey in Dmitrov for Tornado, was voted the tournament’s best defender, while Artik Universitet Ukhta’s Fanuza Kadirova was top scorer with five points (two goals, three assists).
So, what was the KHL up to while the various national teams were doing their things? Well, there were a few news items from the league this past week, but the biggest one probably had to do with finances. Four teams — Sibir Novosibirsk Oblast, Admiral Vladivostok, Slovan Bratislava, and Medveščak Zagreb — have been banned indefinitely from signing new players, as a result of lingering wage arrears from last season. For the moment, we wait for further details on this, and on what steps those four teams are taking to rectify the situation.
One thing we can say: the announcement of the punishment serves to illustrate the growing effectiveness of the KHL Players’ Union, under the leadership of former NHL forward Andrei Kovalenko. The organization has become very diligent about pushing teams to keep up with payment of wages, and about pursuing remedies through the KHL’s Disciplinary Board when players are not getting paid.
Of note: both Sibir and Slovan recently announced major signings, with Andrej Meszároš going to the former and the latter picking up Ľubomír Višňovský. Those acquisitions are not effected by the ban; they were completed before the end of October, and the KHL’s ruling took effect on November 1st.
The transfer bans aside, there was some player movement during the KHL off-week, and probably the most intriguing acquisition was that made by Amur Khabarovsk. The far-eastern team has signed 26-year-old forward Akim Aliu to a contract until the end of the season. Aliu was born in Nigeria, spent his early childhood in Ukraine when it was still part of the U.S.S.R., and then immigrated to Canada with his family. He was a second-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007, but has never managed to establish himself in the NHL, and has spent most of the last few seasons kicking around the North American minor leagues.
Aliu’s career, both in junior and as a professional, has been dogged by controversy, not all of it of his own making, so Amur for him represent something of a chance to get things back on track (many thanks to Patricia Teter for passing along that link). He can certainly help a team out; Aliu is a talented scorer, at times was ranked as high as fifth in his NHL draft class. It will be most interesting to see how he gets along in Khabarovsk!
Some other player moves of note from the past few days: former Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson has signed to bolster the Ak Bars Kazan defense as the Tatar team looks to recover from an unusually mediocre start to their season. Former NHL first-round draft picks Nikolai Zherdev (HK Sochi) and Alexei Mikhnov (Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk) have had their contracts terminated, and are now free agents. Both players can certainly be of use to a team’s forward corps, so they should turn up somewhere before too much longer.
File this one under “Things to Keep an Eye On.” Russian Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretyak has put forward the idea of reducing the size of the country’s rinks. Russian rinks — most of them, anyway — are of the international dimensions, four metres wider than those in use in North America. It is still very early days for this particular discussion, and we will doubtless see more about it in the coming weeks. Tretyak also suggested reducing the size of goaltenders’ equipment, which both proposed changes being made in the hopes of increased scoring.
Update on our players of particular interest this season! With KHL arenas dark this week, not too much was happening for several of the players on the list, but some did see international action.
G Juha Metsola (Amur Khabarovsk): 27 gp, 1.84 GAA, .933 sv%. Played in two games for Finland at the Karjala Cup: the 2-1 victory over Russia and a 3-2 loss to Sweden.
D Ziyat Paigin (HK Sochi): 11 gp, 0-3-3, +2, 2 PiM, 7:55 TOI/gm. Poor kid — his lone goal of the season so far has now been taken away from him, and changed to an assist.
D Nikita Zaitsev (CSKA Moscow): 22 gp, 4-9-13, +13, 4 PiM, 21:00 TOI/gm. Played all three Karjala Cup games for Russia, but failed to record a point and was -1.
F Nikolai Prokhorkin (Salavat Yulaev Ufa): 26 gp, 9-7-16, +7, 44 PiM, 16:31 TOI/gm. Like Zaitsev, he played all three games at the Karjala, scoring a goal in the win over Sweden.
F Olli Palola (Vityaz Moscow Oblast): 17 gp, 1-2-3, -5, 6 PiM, 14:49 TOI/gm. His poor start to the season likely cost him, as Palola did not make Team Finland for this past week’s tournament.
F Sergei Mozyakin (Metallurg Magnitogorsk): 27 gp, 19-15-34, +3, 0 PiM: 21:17 TOI/gm. Had a productive week internationally, with a goal and two assists at the Karjala Cup.
That’s about it for this week! The KHL goes back into action on Tuesday, and the Women’s League on November 14th. As noted above, the CHL Canada Russia Series is also on the menu, and doubtless there will be other things to discuss as well! The news notes will be back next Sunday, and there will likely be some other material here in the meantime. Thank you for reading!