Top Russian ‘06 squads square off for the third time
It’s a packed slate of games to watch this weekend. The Vaughan Kings battle Toronto Nationals in a Top-10 tilt on Monday. Tappara Sininen and TPS tangle in a Top-10 matchup between 2008s in Finland. The week concludes with a contest between Flemingsbergs IK and Transgunds. Then, a clash in Russia between CSKA Moscow and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
Nationals aim to get the better of Vaughan in ‘11 clash
This tilt will be anything but cozy, as the No. 23 Toronto Nationals (34-12-3) will attempt to notch their first win against No. 13 Vaughan Kings (36-6-2) this season.
|Monday, January 30 @ 6:55 PM EST|
Westwood Arena 2
In the previous two matchups, Vaughan skated away winners by scores of 5-4 and 4-0. The Nationals know they have the skill to compete with Vaughan, but it will be no easy task. The Kings come in winners of their last seven.
Keep an eye on the blue line for Toronto, as it will be tasked with shutting down one of the best offenses of any 2011-born team. Vaughan has an impressive plus-145 goal differential to date.
Pete’s Pick: While the first game between the two clubs was close, Vaughan showed there might just be more of a skill disparity here than meets the eye. That said, the Nationals will have some extra pep to try and finally nab a win. They will drop a close one, 4-2.
Craig’s Pick: Nats are 4-1-1 since their 4-0 loss to Vaughan earlier this month. And despite being unranked, they’ve actually fared alright against Top-10 opponents with a 5-4-1 record. This month alone, they beat No. 10 Oakville Rangers 4-0 and No. 9 Toronto Titans 5-1. I think the Nats have a good showing here, but ultimately Vaughan wins, 4-2.
Tappara sets sights on solidifying top spot
No. 3 Tappara Sininen (22-2-5) and No. 5 TPS (21-6-0) should expect fireworks when the two drop the puck on Saturday.
|Saturday, February 4|
Tappara has been unbeaten in six games since the continuation of group play for 2008-born teams began with the New Year. For TPS, it has been a bit of a slower start, settling for a 2-2-0 record in group play. This will be the first head-to-head battle between the two in their group setting.
Statistically, Tappara has been bringing the firepower. The top three point getters in the group all hail from the club. Jonatan Seppälä (5G, 10A), Eemil Mattanen (7G, 7A) and Jermu Myllä (6G, 7A) sit atop the leaderboard.
Attempting to counter that three-headed attack will be TPS’ Miro Aaltonen, who’s knack for finding the back of the net has shown strong. He has buried seven goals in just four games.
Pete’s Pick: These teams have played in some high-scoring games in group play this far, so offense will be a focal point. Tappara’s main players will get it done in this one, boosting them to a 5-2 win.
Craig’s Pick: Whatever the line is on total goals, take the over. I’m expecting a shootout north of eight goals scored in this one. I think that type of game favors Tappara and its high-powered offense. I’ll take the ‘Battle Axe’ to win 6-4.
Trångsunds, Flemingsbergs square off in ‘09 encounter
No. 6 Sweden-ranked Trångsunds (10-3-4) will look to strengthen its resume when it faces off against No. 1 Flemingsbergs IK (33-3-4).
|Saturday, February 4|
Back on Dec. 19, the two sides skated to a 3-3 tie. Flemingsbergs took a 3-1 lead into the second period before Trångsunds struck twice quickly at the start of the second frame to even the score.
Flemingsbergs has been one of the premier units for the better part of the last two months. Since Dec. 3, they are unbeaten in seven games.
Pete’s Pick: Flemingsbergs took its foot off the gas in the last tilt between these two. I don’t think they underestimate their opponent this time, taking a 4-2 final.
Craig’s Pick: Flemingsbergs may be the better team on paper, but I think Trångsunds proved a lot in that 3-3 tie. The ability to dig themselves out of a 3-0 deficit and outshoot FIK in the process shows they can compete. Players like Jonatan Tapper, Alexandros Tsioulis and Malte Olenius will be ready to prove themselves in the rematch, and get a 3-1 win for Trångsunds.
Ivan Okunev looks to lead CSKA over Lokomotiv
No. 2 CSKA Moscow (23-2-0) and No. 18 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (15-7-0) will break their stalemate in the season series. A third game this weekend will break the 1-1 tie between these ‘06 Russian teams.
|Sunday, February 5|
Yaroslavl got the best of CSKA, 5-3, in the first matchup on Sept. 25. CSKA evened the series up with a 4-1 victory on Nov. 27. Alexei Elblaus and Vadim Dudorov stood out in the two games for Lokomotiv, registering four and three points, respectively. The two forwards are among the highest scorers for their squad. Dudorov has garnered 10 goals and 35 points to lead Lokomotiv, with Elblaus’ 20 points just behind.
Ivan Okunev had been the leader for CSKA all season long, currently with 44 points (21G, 23A).
Both teams have spent the entire 2022-23 season among the Top 10 in Russia.
Pete’s Pick: While Lokomotiv have put together a solid season, CSKA is just a notch above the rest of their birth year. Okunev is the real deal, and he single handedly could win this game for CSKA, but I like their depth better than that of Yaroslavl. CSKA goes up in the season series by the final whistle, 5-1.
Craig’s Pick: Lokomotiv is the only team in Russia with wins over the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country. They’ve played opponents tough all season long. If — and it might be a big if — Lokomotiv can keep Okunev at bay, they just might steal another upset. Lokomotiv with another upset, 4-3.