The fourth KHL season takes to the ice in less than three weeks’time. SKA St. Petersburg will once again be among the favorites, with hopes to finally claim the Gagarin Cup under new coach Milos Riha.
The success of any team begins and ends with the head coach. This is something of a sore point for the Armymen from Russia’s northern capital of St. Petersburg.
In 2010 alone, SKA’s star-studded squad was led by three head coaches. Despite those revamping efforts by the team’s board throughout the season, the Armymen still lost in the conference semi-finals against Atlant from the Moscow region. Ironically, it is Atlant’s head coach, Milos Riha, who is now at the helm of the St. Petersburg team.
“SKA had previously played great every season, occupying top spots in the Conference and in the League. And then some problems emerged, apparently. We’ll work on it step by step and make sure the team will give its best in every game. We will build on that, to pick up and move ahead in the regular championship, without beating the drum and proclaiming that we are Number One, or Number Two – we will simply work on it,” Milos Riha said.
SKA will start the new season without star players like Aleksey Yashin Petr Cajanek, Evgeny Nabokov and Maksim Sushinsky.
However, their presence will hardly be missed as the new coach has attracted Gagarin Cup winners Patrick Thoresen and Kirill Koltsov among other quite capable players with major play-off experience.
SKA began their preparations in the Czech Republic, where the squad concentrated mainly on gaining strength.
That stint was followed by a brief training camp at the team’s home base in St. Petersburg, where the head coach has laid down strategy and tactics for the remainder of the pre-season.
“It has been a tough training so far, everybody is working on gaining shape and a good team has always something to work on, so we are doing it right now,” Fyodor Fyodorov, SKA St. Petersburg’s forward, said.
SKA’s first friendly match in St. Petersburg showed that this side is ready to reach new heights in the KHL.
And that sentiment echoed with the fans as well as the team delighted supporters with a 3-2 win over another KHL side, Torpedo, from Nizhniy Novgorod.
SKA St. Petersburg have always been one of the top sides during the KHL’s regular season.
However, once the play-offs dawned, the team’s efforts deflated and soon it was out of contention for the Gagarin Cup.