There will be a full edition of news notes up tomorrow (and we do have a lot of them this time), but for now here’s a little look back at some Finals that ended last week, and some silverware that was awarded as a result. And I do not mean the series that we have already discussed here! So read on, as we briefly check in with how the VHL and MHL seasons came to an end.
The KHL was not the only league in Russia that handed out its championship trophy last week; in fact, both the VHL and MHL wrapped up their seasons within an hour or so of each other on Thursday. In the VHL, Russia’s second-highest professional league, it was Neftyanik Almetyevsk who took home the Bratina Cup in five games against Izhstal Izhevsk.
For Izhstal, it was the end of a tremendous playoff run; despite coming in ranked tenth among the sixteen post-season participants, they progressed all the way to the Final, eliminated regular-season champions THK Tver and second-seeded HK Ryazan along the way.
As for Neftyanik, the Tatar side won their first second-division championship since 2000, and goaltender Timur Bilyalov was voted playoff MVP. Bilyalov, a 21-year-old former Ak Bars Kazan prospect, posted an excellent .943 save percentage in 38 regular season games, but kicked it up a notch in the playoffs. He stopped post-season shots a .958 clip over 16 games, posting three shutouts along the way. Neftyanik came in as the fourth seed in the VHL, and
In the junior MHL, meanwhile, it was Loko Yaroslavl coming away with their first ever Kharlamov Cup thanks to a five-game Final victory over defending champs Chaika Nizhny Novgorod. Loko, whose affiliation with the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl you have probably already sussed out, were strong all season. In fact, they ranked best in the MHL in points percentage in the regular season (73.02%, from 92 points in 42 games). In the first three rounds of the playoffs, they lost only one game (and they lost only in the Final too, for a combined playoff record of 13-2).
Chaika, meanwhile, had a tougher time defending their 2014-15 title; they qualified for the playoffs in the Volga Division by only three points, then had their first two series go the full five games. Credit to them, though: they survived to make it to the Final.
As in the VHL playoffs, it was the goaltender for the champion team that took home the post-season MVP award on the junior circuit. Loko’s Anton Krasotkin, the little (5’11” and 176 lbs.) 18-year-old playing for his hometown team, posted a save percentage of .938 in 15 playoff games to earn himself that particular honour. It was a tremendous year for Krasotkin, as he made a most impressive KHL debut during the regular season. In three appearances (two starts) in the big league, he rang up a GAA of 1.24 and a save percentage of .942. We should see more of Krasotkin in the KHL next season, and there is an excellent chance that he will be representing Russia at the World Juniors as well.
Congratulations to both Loko and Neftyanik, and commiserations to their beaten Final opponents! As mentioned, there will be a full set of news notes along tomorrow, full of expansion tidings, international hockey, and that sort of thing. Thank you for reading!