Ak Bars, Avangard advance to Russian semis
Metallurg already in; one series still to be decided
Metallurg's fuzzy mascot-type guy greeting goalie Anton Khudobin
Ak Bars Kazan and Avangard Omsk each finished off their Russian Super League best-of-five quarter-final rounds yesterday in four games, 3 games to 1, with game four in each series needing overtime. #1 Ak Bars knocked off #8 Khimik, while Alexei Cherepanov's #2 Avangard squad eliminated the #7 Lokomotiv team of Semen Varlamov, Alexei Mikhnov, and Evgeny Artyukhin.
Ak Bars and Avangard will be joined in the semi-final round by Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Evgeni Malkin's former team. #4 Metallurg finished off a sweep of #5 Sibir Novosibirsk on Friday and are undefeated in the playoffs so far, having also swept their first-round series against HC MVD.
One quarter-final round series, #3 Salavat Yulayev vs. #6 Central Army, remains undecided, and will go to a deciding game five on Monday. For the complete quarter-final round standings as of today, click here.
Ak Bars' Danis Zaripov scoring the series-clinching goal in OT
against Khimik (Andrey Yegorov/Sport Express photo)
With Avangard advancing into the semis, Alexei Cherepanov gets another crack at surpassing Sergei Samsonov's 18-and-under goal-scoring record, which Cherepanov tied on Wednesday. Cherepanov (along with former Vancouver Canuck Artem Chubarov) assisted on the goal by Pavel Rosa that forced overtime against Lokomotiv yesterday, with Avangard defenseman Kiril Koltsov, another player formerly in the Canucks' system, getting the OT winner.
One of my favorite goals of the playoffs so far, from March 23rd by Metallurg's Jan Marek (one of the players that the Rangers traded away for Sean Avery):
Metallurg's Evgeny Gladskikh (yet another Canucks draftee) receives a long pass up-ice, dekes his way past one defender, and then fakes the Sibir goalie far out of the crease before sending the puck back to the onrushing Marek, who scores into a wide-open net.
Vitali Yeremeyev, Dynamo Moscow
In other RSL news, Dynamo Moscow announced this weekend that they have re-signed goalie Vitali Yeremeyev (ex-NY Rangers/Hartford Wolf Pack) to a new two-year deal. Said team president Mikhail Golovkov, "Vitali is one of the best goaltenders in the Super League, and had for many years given reliablility and stability to the Dynamo team. Signing him to a new contract was therefore one of our priorities."