Published: April 2, 2014 (Issue # 1804)
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl advanced to the KHL Western Conference finals after dispatching SKA St. Petersburg with a 2-0 victory in Game 6 of their Western Conference semi-final series on home ice at Arena 2000 on Mar. 28.
Lokomotiv capitalized on SKA’s mistakes and scored two goals in the third period in what was otherwise a tight and closely-contested game. Yury Petrov scored with a one-timer from the slot early in the third period and forced SKA into playing catch-up in a must-win situation. Seven minutes later, Vitaly Vishnevsky set up an odd-man rush when he picked up the loose puck and got SKA goaltender Alexander Salak to come out of his goal. Salak failed to stop Vishnevsky, who patiently skated around the prone netminder and slipped the puck into the empty net.
Lokomotiv’s Curtis Sanford made 26 saves for the shutout and propelled his team into the next round of the playoffs.
“In tight games like this the first goal is usually decisive,” said SKA head coach Jukka Jalonen.
“They knocked Dynamo [Moscow] out and now they knocked us out, and I think that shows that they are a confident team with a good coaching staff. We are very disappointed with this result. We thought we could go to the conference finals and the Gagarin Cup finals, but we didn’t show our maximum potential in every game and that’s why we lost.”
Lokomotiv are the dark horse of this year’s playoffs.
“We feel like we have three series behind us,” said Lokomotiv head coach Dave King, explaining that his team had to win the last four games of the regular season to make the play-offs. “Then we had a difficult and great opponent Dynamo and now another fine opponent SKA. So we are a tired hockey team.”
The team’s success is even more surprising considering that the entire team and coaching staff were killed in a plane crash in 2011.
SKA president Alexander Medvedev suggested Jalonen’s future with the club is in doubt on the same day Russian Ice Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak called for KHL general managers to place more trust in Russian coaches instead of having a “preference for foreigners.”
“We have to analyze everything first but it’s obvious that the team played below its abilities,” Medvedev said.
Even with one of the highest payrolls and a star-studded roster, the team is yet to reach the Gagarin Cup finals.
Lokomotiv will face Lev Praha, which eliminated Donbass Donetsk in six games to advance to the Western Conference Finals. In the Eastern half of the KHL’s final four, top-seeded Metallurg Magnitogorsk will take on Salavat Yulaev Ufa, who advanced after edging Barys Astana 3-2 in the sixth game of their series on Mar. 29.