Club breaks Lokomotiv’s undefeated streak to win title
On Thursday, SKA Strelna’s improbable run to the U17 Russian National Championship ended in victory with a 6-2 win over Lokomotiv 2004 Yaroslavl. The win snapped an undefeated tournament run for Lokomotiv, who entered the finale as winners of its last six. Ten teams originally set out for the title and were divided into two groups of five. our of those teams were mainstays in the World Rankings.
Heading into the national championship game, no other team had looked as good as Lokomotiv. They had outscored opponents 28-7, with two shutouts and had four of the top 10 scorers in the tournament. The offense was producing, the defense was holding teams to little zone time, and the goaltenders were making timely saves. That is, however, until Strelna met them in the championship game.
Strelna got out to a fast start when Kirill Potapov scored 44 seconds after puck drop. He collected a turnover from Egor Surin and sent a perfectly placed shot over the right shoulder of Semyon Konopsky. That lead would be doubled around the 10-minute mark when Georgy Tatulov sent a shot from the right circle over Konopsky’s glove following a face-off win.
After a late push back from Lokomotiv, Strelna was able to put the game away with a pair of late goals, securing the 6-2 win and ‘06 national championship.
Late-game heroics from Makar Opolinsky
Strelna had a tough task right out of the gate, clashing with CSKA Moscow in its first game. Forty seconds after falling into a 3-1 deficit early in the third period, Strelna cashed in to make it a one-goal game. With just over five minutes remaining in regulation, Artem Valuev collected his second point of the game to tie things up at 3-3. No winner was decided in overtime, thus leading to a shootout. Makar Opolinsky played hero for Strelna by scoring the only goal in the skills competition to secure the win. It was his first game-winner of the tournament, but would not be his last as the tournament wore on.
In the second game, Strelna found itself sitting on 2-0 lead over Siberia in the third period. However, goals from Egor Golovnev minutes apart evened the score and forced overtime yet again. Three minutes into the extra period Egor Kosachev tallied the winning goal for Siberia.
After splitting their next two games of pool play, SKA Strelna entered the playoffs 2-2-0 as the No. 3 team out of Group B.
Strelna, CSKA Clash in playoff rematch
Stepan Tarasenko notched his first goal of the tournament when he opened the scoring against Ak Bars seven minutes into the first period. Oleg Kuznetsov scored the only other goal in regulation during the second period to tie it at 2-2. Strelna once again found itself preparing for a third overtime game. Despite numerous chances for both sides, no player could find the back of the net. With action headed to a shootout, Opolinsky showed off his skill yet again by scoring the only goal; his second of the tournament.
The victory set up a rematch with CSKA, and Strelna wasted no time in breaking the ice. Evgeny Novikov, Ivan Kornilov and Artem Valuev propelled Strelna out to a commanding 3-0 lead. Strong defense and goaltending from Mikhail Korotkov held Moscow off the board until late in the game. Nikita Frolov, one of the most dynamic scorers of the birth year, netted two goals 43 seconds apart. With renewed hope and momentum, CSKA threw everything they had at Strelna, but their opponent held firm. By way of a 3-2 win, Strelna’s spot in the championship game was set.
Lokomotiv’s perfect run comes to an end
Four of the top 10 scorers in the tournament hailed from Lokomotiv, with Egor Surin leading them all. In six games, he had seven goals and 14 points. Not only had Lokomotiv been the only undefeated team in the tournament, they hadn’t lost a game since March 26th. Their 13-game win streak would come to an end at the hands of Strelna in the championship though.
Strelna’s early 2-0 lead was cut into by Surin seven minutes into the second period. Team captain Artem Valuev was quick to restore the two-goal lead, cashing in on a power-play opportunity just a few minutes later. Evgeny Novikov increased the lead to 4-1 and Strelna firmly in control, cruised to a national championship victory.
Ranked as high as fourth in the world among 2006-born teams this season, Strelna’s championship caps off a 36-10-0 record. They entered the national championship after taking first place in the St. Petersburg District. Opolinsky, Novikov and Tarasenko all eclipsed the 40-point mark this season, with five more players averaging a point per game as well. It is also back-to-back national championships for Strelna, as the ‘06 squad won the U16 tournament last year.