Yunost Minsk celebrates the win of the 2018 IIHF Continental Cup. Photo: Alisa Keptyukha
Minsk team claims Continental Cup
For the third time after 2007 and 2011 Belarusian club Yunost Minsk won the IIHF Continental Cup after beating Nomad Astana 5-2 in the deciding game.
Yunost got the winners’ plate back after seven years and like last time the club won on home ice in Minsk as host of the final tournament.
Like the recent Continental Cup winners Yunost Minsk will earn a wild card to next season’s Champions Hockey League pending formal approval by the CHL board. Yunost is currently also the leader back home in the Belarusian Extraliga.
Despite being outshot 33-29 by Nomad, the Belarusians had the upper hand during two periods and went up early in the game. Pavel Razvadovski contributed with two goals and an assist to the win. Dmitri Milchakov was a big help in the net saving 31 of 33 shots on goal.
“It was a hard victory. It’s a tough team, everybody has good skill, young, fast. But we were better. Thanks to the guys. They gave 100 per cent,” said Razvadovski.
“It’s a huge victory for us. We were preparing a lot. We played six games in this competition. Each of us wanted to win. I think we deserved this victory,” Milchakov said.
Yunost Minsk opened the scoring already with the first scoring chance with 6-on-4 skaters during a power play with second delayed penalty and a strong skating performance of Razvadovski. The forward skated on the left behind the goal line, turned back to skate around Nomad defenceman Roman Rachinski to the crease and then beat goalie Vladimir Kramar for a goal of the tournament candidate at 3:24.
Yunost missed out on capitalizing on the second penalty, Nomad became stronger and the game heated. With Yunost defenceman Klemen Pretnar already in the penalty box, Sergei Sheleg was assessed a penalty for roughing. Nomad seized on the opportunity and tied the game with 5-on-3 players on the ice. Artemi Lakiza sent off a long shot, Yunost goalie Milchakov made a block save and Valeri Gurin was on the spot to net the puck with a high wrist shot.
There were also disciplinary issues on the other side that led to a two-man advantage for Yunost for the last 43 seconds of the opening frame. With Georgi Dulnev in the sin bin for holding, Yegor Petukhov had a breakaway but saw his shot saved and was then assessed a penalty for slashing goalie Milchakov.
“Our team was not able to use the emotions in the right way. 10 minutes of penalties in the first period was a crucial part in Yunost’s success and afterwards it was very difficult to get back into the game,” said Nomad head coach Georgi Vereshagin.
After half a minute Yunost converted the situation to regain the lead. After a blocked shot from Razvadovski it was Konstantin Zakharov, who netted the puck. The video review showed the puck was in before bouncing back from the goal. A 2-1 lead for Yunost.
“We knew who we were going to face in the final game. We realized we need to have the lead as fast as possible in the beginning and not to allow any more goals. They played great in the slot, had good chances and some players have great puckhandling skills,” Yunost head coach Mikhail Zakharov said.
“The Continental Cup is an important tournament for us and it allows us to play in the Champions Hockey League next season, which inspires many teams to take part and win the Continental Cup.”
After killing the penalty early in the second period, Nomad Astana had the opportunity to play on power play themselves but the penalty expired and 26 seconds later Alexei Yefimenko ended a counter-attack with a precise shot from the left face-off circle to give Yunost a 3-1 lead. Nomad reacted with changing goaltenders. Dmitri Malgin came in for Kramar. But the next to score a goal was Yunost’s Razvadovski. With a lot of traffic around the crease and shots on Malgin it was him, who managed to push the puck into the next to make it 4-1 with 2:15 left in the second period.
Nomad Astana was rewarded for its effort early in the third period. After battling back the puck in the neutral zone Dmitri Gurkov found Nikita Mikhalis whose shot was saved by Milchakov but Gurkov capitalized on the rebound and it was a two-goal game at 1:48. Nomad tried come one closer but a counter-attack led to Maxim Parfeyevets’ 5-2 goal and brought Yunost one step closer to gold.
Beside the medals there were also individual honours. Vladimir Kramar of Nomad Astana was named Best Goaltender of the tournament, the Sheffield Steelers’ Mark Matheson won the Best Defenceman award and Nikita Mikhailis of Nomad Astana was voted Best Forward.