Yunost Minsk player Klemen Pretnar with a scoring chance in front of the Ritten net. Photo: Alisa Keptyukha
Two first-period goals lead to win over Ritten
Host Yunost Minsk started the 2018 IIHF Continental Cup with a 2-1 victory against Italian champion Ritten Sport.
Goals from Mikhail Plotnikov and Alexander Karakulko in the first period proved decisive in the victory before 3,120 fans at Chizhovka Arena.
“It was a good game, we had a good team and a hard-fought win. When we started playing shorthanded we showed character and pushed through. To win this tournament you have to win every game so we have to go step by step,” Plotnikov said.
At 7:33 Plotnikov came from the right side to the net while having an extra attacker from a delayed penalty call and saw his first attempt saved but then capitalized on his own rebound to open the scoring.
Persistence from the first line paid off again during one of its next shift. Just 2:43 after the opening marker Alexander Karakulko scored on another rebound to beat Ritten goalie Patrick Killeen for the 2-0 marker with Plotnikov getting the helper.
Although it was the hard work during these minutes that made the difference in goals, Yunost Minsk earned the lead with the better performance of the two teams. The Belarusians outshot Ritten 15-9 in the first and 16-6 in the second period. But it became a bit more difficult later.
“It was a very tough game for us. We had two good periods but in the third period it was difficult. We had to battle to keep the lead. Our forwards didn’t capitalize on their chances,” Yunost head coach Mikhail Zakharov said.
After 40 minutes of play there were not many arguments in favour of a comeback but Ritten certainly wasn’t willing to quit and came out stronger into the last frame. But Yunost defended well, didn’t allow too many shots and goalie Dmitri Milchakov was close to earning a shutout until with 3:21 left Daniel Tudin made the fans from Ritten celebrate the first goal thanks to his one-timer after a drop pass from Roland Hofer. But the 2-1 score didn’t change in the dying minutes of the game.
“We gave up two goals in the first period. We were respecting the opponent too much. We were better in the second period and were better [than Yunost] in the third period. But the opponent worked well as a unit of five guys on the ice so it was difficult to score against them,” said Ritten’s Finnish head coach Riku-Petteri Lehtonen.
“Everything is possible as we saw last year. We can still win. But we have to be honest. We play against professional teams. We are just from a little village and have just a few pro players. But if you believe everything is possible.”