SKA travelled to Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, to play HC Ak Bars in the KHL Opening Cup battle. Head coach Ilya Vorobyov selected the strongest line-up possible, slotting Pavel Datsyuk, Nikita Gusev and Nail Yakupov in the first line together. Magnus Hellberg and Emil Garipov were the starting netminders.
Inside a packed Tatneft Arena full of anticipation, Ak Bars made a strong start, pinning SKA’s players in their own zone and testing Magnus Hellberg with a couple of dangerous slap shots. However, with the first opportunity of the match, Patrik Herlsey launched a trademark one timer beyond the stranded Emil Garipov to gift SKA the lead. For the majority of the period, our team managed to keep Ak Bars on the outside, calmly killing a penalty after Andrei Zubarev was penalised for interference.
Unfortunately, the Kazan outfit promptly got on level terms in the second stanza, as Albert Yarullin pounced on the loose puck and rifled it past Magnus Hellberg. The Tatneft Arena’s roof was taken off with that goal, but instead of caving under the pressure, SKA dug deep and scored a stunning second on the powerplay as Nikita Gusev went five hole on Emil Garipov with a fantastic low wrister. In the box seat, Viktor Tikhonov then doubled SKA’s money, rifling the puck high into the left corner immediately after a faceoff draw.
Our forward Ilya Kablukov practically put the match out of sight early in the third period, whacking a powerful wrister in – initially, the puck bounced out of the net and required a video review, however it was eventually ruled a clean marker. Unwilling to give Ak Bars hope of a dramatic comeback, Nikolai Prokhorkin and Nail Yakupov completed the rout with perfect shots under Emil Garipov’s glove, in turn sealing an emphatic 6:1 win in Kazan and claiming the KHL Opening Cup for the second consecutive year!
Ak Bars – SKA – 1:6 (0:1, 1:2, 0:3)
0:1 Hersley (Gusev, Datsyuk), 03.50
1:1 Yarullin (Klinkhammer, Kara), 27.24
1:2 Gusev (Datsyuk), 29.54
1:3 Tikhonov (Kablukov), 33.41
1:4 Kablukov (Tokranov, Tikhonov), 44.38
1:5 Prokhorkin (Barabanov), 53.13
1:6 Yakupov (Hersley), 57.03
Goalkeepers: Garipov – Hellberg
Shots on target: 13 – 21
Faceoffs: 29 – 39
Hits: 21 – 10
Penalty minutes: 16 – 2
Referees: Gofman, Olenin
01.09.2018. Tatneft Arena, Kazan.