At the Saint Petersburg Ice Palace, SKA hosted HC Kunlun Red Star for the first match of the 2018 Nikolai Puchkov memorial tournament. Head coach Ilya Vorobyov installed Magnus Hellberg between the pipes, while the leading line was made up of Andrei Kuzmenko, Alexei Byvaltsev and Oleg Li.
In an energetic start to proceedings, both sides had decent opportunities to open the scoring, but as time rolled on, Kunlun began to take the initiative and forced Magnus Hellberg into a few tough saves. Keeping the puck in the attacking zone, the Chinese moved the puck around well and caused problems when dumping it towards the crease, as the SKA defence struggled to keep them on the outside. Nevertheless, with the period drawing to a close, SKA struck gold with Evgeny Ketov backhanding in when clean through. Andrei Kuzmenko dished out a wonderful pass for the assist.
Unfortunately, Brandon Yip notched an equaliser for Kunlun early in the second, taking advantage of a slip in the SKA defence to beat Magnus Hellberg. However, SKA improved greatly after conceded that marker, creating a huge amount of clear goalscoring opportunities. Alexander Dergachyov, Nail Yakupov and Sergei Plotnikov all found themselves 1 on 1 on a number of occasions, but superb goaltending from Ivan Nalimov kept them out. Against the run of play, the visitors almost snatched the lead at the end of the frame, however Magnus Hellberg pulled off an impressive stop at point blank range.
Finally, after coming up against a brick wall in Ivan Nalimov, SKA broke the curse and took the lead on 43 minutes with Evgeny Ketov whipping a wrister top shelf. In complete control of proceedings, Nail Yakupov went five hole when clear of the Kunlun defence, before Artyom Zemchyonok made the win safe with an empty netter. Magnus Hellberg refused to let Kunlun back into the match, in turn seeing SKA through to an emphatic 4:1 triumph!
In a planned penalty shootout after the match reached its completion, Nail Yakupov, Alexei Kruchinin and Evgeny Ketov netted three beauties to make it 3:2 in SKA’s favour.
SKA – Kunlun Red Star – 4:1 (1:0, 0:1, 3:0)
1:0 Ketov (Rundblad, Kuzmenko), 16.20
1:1 Yip (Kundratek, Beck), 25.54
2:1 Ketov, 42.57
3:1 Yakupov (Khafizullin, Maltsev), 54.16
4:1 Zemchyonok (Li, Khafizullin), 58.28
Goalkeepers: Hellberg – Nalimov
Shots on target: 32 – 9
Faceoffs: 26 – 25
Hits: 17 – 10
Penalty minutes: 8 – 10
Referees: Schenyov, Vasiliev
23.08.2018. Ice Palace, Saint Petersburg.