SKA St.Petersburg: Gagarin Cup Champions

The SKA St.Petersburg are the 2014/2015 season Gagarin Cup Champions.

The SKA team has finally accomplished what they tried to for seven seasons, and it looks like the lucky seven is what brought them the luck needed to capture the prize. The team has been desperate, having talent come and go, from now NHL star Vladimir Tarasenko to Alexander Salak but what they needed was the duo of Mikko Koskinen and Russian superstar Ilya Kovalchuk.  The latter had an impressive playoffs with six goals and 17 points in 21 games played coming into the final game, and continued to take the reigns of the team into his own hands. When the team was down 3-0 vs CSKA Moscow the previous series, his play carried the team and stole the series. That gave them the momentum to meet in the finals with the Ak Bars where they beat the team in five games, with Kovalchuk playing a big part in the victory.

The final game took place in the home of Ak Bars – Kazan Hockey Arena, which was sold out. The VIP sections and press boxes had never been so full, and two squads of officials were appointed to take part in the game. Extra cameras were added, and of course, you can’t forget to mention the man behind the victory of SKA – President Alexander Medvedev being present for his team’s success. Emotions were high before the game when both teams arrived to the arena. Bars head coach Zinatulla Bilalyedinov was asked to give an update on the situation which he kindly refused, making it clear that all the focus is on the game.

SKA started early on and executed their gameplan just five minutes into the game when score was already 2-0 after goals from Jimmie Ericsson(brother of NHLer Jonathan Ericsson) and Captain Kovalchuk.  Evgeny Dadonov set the new KHL record scoring 15 goals in a single playoff campaign(Mikhail Anisin, 14), and former NHLer Alexei Ponikarovsky continued his team’s success making it 4-0 by the end of first period.  One of Ak Bars’s players made a hit to the head on one of SKA’s players and received two minute minor and a ten minute misconduct penalty as the game seemed in doubt.

The 2nd period began in favor of Ak Bars, giving them some sort of hope when Mikhail Glukov scored and made it 4-1, but their hope was smashed not long after, when Patrick Thoresen gave a beauty pass to Kovalchuk who went out on a breakaway and put the puck behind Anders Nilsson who faced his last shot of the game. Zinatulla pulled him and he gave way to long-time Ak Bars goalie Emil Garipov. Taking his spot between the pipes, coach Zinatulla tried to make his team realize that they were on the edge of defeat and had to do something to show some signs of life in the game. After Kovalchuk’s goal the game slowed down a tick and 2nd period ended with a score 5-1.

When both teams returned for the 3rd period it was uncertain if SKA could keep up their pace, but it was noticeable that they were doing everything to get a hat-trick for their leader Kovalchuk. Ak Bars got two powerplay chances but failed to convert therefore making the inevitable scenario clear – SKA would be the champions. Roman Cervenka completely ended it with a goal with a minute left in the third.

Kovalchuk was named MVP, and to a crowd chanting “Kovalchuk! Kovalchuk!”, he hoisted the Cup with the rest of his teammates, putting another season of the KHL in the books.

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