Seven o’ clock in the evening and it is still light in Omsk, fresh and breezy. The CSKA ice hockey players descend the stairway from the plane and team coach Valery Cherny leads his boys to the bus. A busy time lies ahead of them, starting with the transportation of their equipment and hotel check-in. But the “Army” players are in good form and ready to go.
“Everything is fine, and we are happy to arrive back in Russia,” says their mentor. “The boys got a good meal of chicken, fish, pastries ... And they all seem happy. After 20 degrees Centigrade in Minsk Omsk’s 13 degrees is cool, but no matter, it’ll brace them, as long as no one gets sick.”
CSKA forward Sergei Klimkin adds: “We had a good flight here, a comfortable one and not at all tiring. We flew for 4 hours, some of us just sat, others played games on the tablets or mobile phones ... In Minsk the facilities were great and we expect the same in Omsk. I was really impressed by the Chizhovka Arena and I hope that everything here will be as wonderfully vivid, with a great rink and show to match!”
— Are you aware of that the stands will be full?
— Really? This is new for us, but we’ll take it in our stride. I hope our future hockey careers will see many more stands packed with spectators so we have to get used to it!
— How will you prepare for the Final?
— With discipline! We’ll save our energy and won’t run around, and we will listen to our coach. And get an early night too!
The coach is a little worried that the intense West Group games and flight here might affect the young players’ performance.
— Do the boys still have enough energy left after the heavy Tournament schedule?
— We played two games on both of last days. And then there’s the four-hour time difference as well, that’s a lot — we will have to get to bed at 02:30 local time. All of that can take its toll, of course.
— What do you know about your opponents in the Final?
— I know that since Ak Bars made it this far in the Gazprom Neft Cup they are a very strong team. They have an excellent school in Kazan and strong teams in every age group. Dynamo (Moscow) and Lokomotiv also really impressed me. But anyway, we will now take the fight to Ak Bars!
— This is the second year in a row that CSKA is in the final...
— It’s never a sure thing — we came in third place before that. But of course we are delighted that we got this far now, we are giving our best and our team effort will pay off. All for one and one for all!
So, the boys must now rest up and get some sleep. A training session is planned for 11:30 local time (08:30 Moscow time) tomorrow. Before the Final they will have to get in synch with each other and get a feel for the Omsk ice.