Tigers with shootout win in the Bears’ cave

Tigers with shootout win in the Bears’ cave

26 Aug 2015Lucas Bradelj»

10,500 km separate the Croatian capital Zagreb from Khabarovsk, the administrative center of the Far Eastern Federal District of Russia, located 30 kilometers from the Chinese border. There is though one thing both cities have in common: KHL hockey.


Whenever different hockey philosophies face each other, you have an interesting matchup to be looking forward to. The case could not be more extreme than with Zagreb and Khabarovsk: The Croatian representative in KHL is built on a large amount of North American imports, whereas Amur does not have a single Canadian or American player under contract. Though don’t think any of those towns don’t know their hockey: KHL Medvescak Zagreb was founded 54 years ago and also the Tigers can celebrate their 50th season of existence. In Day 3 of the 2016 KHL season, those two fascinating hockey clubs would meet in front of 6800 spectators Croatia to kick off their respective seasons.

So let’s get right into the action. Everything started in almost perfect fashion for Zagreb. There was not even a minute played when Jesse Sarinen tried to deliver a one-timer, but Amur-goalkeeper Juha Metsola was able to close his five-hole in time. Shaone Morrison, who can look back at more than 500 games in the NHL, was also very close to the go-ahead-goal. This time though it was the post to say ‘nyet’. The teams would go into the first intermission scoreless, as also Swedish acquisition Tom Wandell could not score on the Tiger’s first real chance of the game.

The Croatians, pushed by their amazing fans, kept pressuring in the second period and it paid off, as the 'Bears' went up by two goals within less than a minute of play. First Tom Zanoski scored on a perfect tape-to-tape pass by Mark Katic and 41 seconds later Tomas Mertl squeezed one through Metsola. It was a special goal for the 31 year old Zanoski, as the forward played for Medvescak already during the club’s time in EBEL and returned to Zagreb this off-season.

Radek Smolenak even had the chance to make it 3-0 Zagreb, deking out Evgeny Kurbatov and circulating around the net. The hockey gods were not on his side though, as the puck did not cross the goal line, because Metsola was somehow able to put his stick in the way.

A two-goal-lead is nothing in hockey and the Russians proved that. Despite the fact the Zagreb had been the better team until this point of the game, Khabarovsk came back. In the 32nd minute Vyachslav Ushenin gave an absolutely gorgeous pass from behind the net to Vyachselav Litovchenko, who had no problem finding the wide open net. Only 4 minutes later Tom Wandell would also find the equalizer, capitalizing on his own rebound to beat Daniel Taylor for the second time.

Stefano Giliati had one chance in the middle frame to regain the lead for the Bears, but his backhander would only hit the crossbar.

In the third period both teams created some chances, but, just as was the case in overtime, the goalkeepers were ready for the challenge. So the winner had to be determined in the shootout and it was Vladislav Ushenin to give the Amur the extra point.

All results from Day 3 of KHL action:

Traktor Chelyabinsk - Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg  2-1 SO
Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk - Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk  2-1
Vityaz Podolsk - Metallurg Novokuznetsk  2-1 SO
Dynamo Moskva - Sibir Novosibirsk  4-3 OT
HC Slovan Bratislava - HC Admiral Vladivostok  1-3
KHL Medvescak Zagreb - Amur Khabarovsk  2-3 SO

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