SKA Falls to Dinamo in Finals

SKA Falls to Dinamo in Finals

Published: April 3, 2013 (Issue # 1753)

Defending champions Dinamo Moscow advanced to this year’s Gagarin Cup Finals after dispatching SKA St. Petersburg 5-1 in Game 6 of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) Western Conference Finals, winning the series 4-2 Monday night.

Marek Kvapil scored a hat-trick and his Czech compatriot Jakub Petruzalek notched three assists as they led Dinamo to victory in what turned out to be the decisive game in front of 7,596 spectators at the Luzhniki Olympic Arena in Moscow.

With just over 11 minutes left in regulation time, Petruzalek fed the puck up to Kvapil, who broke into a one-on-one against SKA netminder Ilya Yezhov. Kvapil slapped the puck past Yezhov to complete his hat-trick, giving Dinamo a 4-1 lead that practically sealed the game and the series.

Three goals down and in total desperation, SKA head coach Jukka Jalonen pulled his goalie with more than seven minutes still to play. Jalonen’s risky gambit failed and Sergei Konkov’s empty-netter at 55:10 spelled the end for SKA and their dream of hoisting the Gagarin Cup this year.

It is the second year in a row that SKA entered the playoffs as favorites only to get knocked out by Dinamo in the conference finals. After losing the first three games 3-2, 4-2, and 4-2, SKA seemed poised to get swept 4-0 just like last year, but managed to fight back from the brink of elimination in Game 4 in Moscow, scoring six goals to trounce Dinamo 6-2 and take the series back to St. Petersburg for a fifth game. SKA edged out the Muscovites 2-1 in an epic Game 5 last Saturday when SKA forward Viktor Tikhonov heroically scored the game winner with just under two minutes remaining in double overtime, setting up Monday night’s decisive game.

Dinamo, which now advances to the Gagarin Cup Finals for the third year in a row, has a chance to win back-to-back titles and may even get a chance to avenge its 2010 loss to Ak Bars Kazan. Ak Bars currently leads Traktor Chelyabinsk 3-2 in the KHL Eastern Conference Finals. The Gagarin Cup Finals start April 7.

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