Recovery, training, and a balanced work & rest strategy — everything’s important when you’re getting ready for the Super Final. On the morning of April 24, Kazan team Ak Bars held a training session — tomorrow the team will have their biggest game of the year.
The precise movement of the players, steady defence, transition to attack — these are the main impressions from the two-sided game that the Ak Bars coaching team set up before the Gazprom Neft Cup Super Final. But Lenar Vildanov’s ‘panthers’ have reason to be nervous — several of their key players were off with illness:
“Everything is going to plan. Of course we wanted to move the morning training session to the evening, as that would have been better. Yesterday we didn’t have any games or trainings, so we just relaxed. You know what they say — sometimes it’s better to conserve your strength in the spring. And the final is tomorrow in the evening, so we have enough time to recover. But the fact that some boys have gotten ill is very upsetting. But never mind, we’ll keep on fighting.”
Ak Bars is getting ready for the fight with CSKA carefully. The coaches have even brought in other specialists, to help find the ‘army’ team’s weak points.
"We’re not pressurising the boys, we’ve already achieved our goals, there’s no pressure. We’ve already gone through a lot of strength, a lot of emotions in the eastern final. We have already played CSKA twice, and now they have an even stronger team. I spoke to my colleague from Yaroslavl, and he said, “CSKA is a very powerful team, four really and equally strong line-ups, it’s going to be very hard for you.”
After the training game, the boys had some recovery time. Forward Denis Kurochkin told us how the team spends their time outside of the rinks:
“We watched movies, went to museums, and played a little bit. We really liked it here, and it’s a very beautiful city. Now we’re waiting for a trip to the oil refinery. I’m sure that will be very interesting!”
But he doesn’t talk much about anything apart from sports — Denis, like the rest of his team, is waiting for the game of the year:
“We’re getting ready for the Super Final, since CSKA is a good team, but we really want to win. I don’t really know anything else about the ‘army’ team. Yes, a team from that school won the Gazprom Neft Cup last year, but in 2012 the trophy went to Ak Bars. Patience and speed, those are the keys to success. We have to out-skate CSKA. Today we played a two-sided game during the training.”
After the ice the boys get changed and put wet clothes into the dryer. After stretches everyone can have some bananas, as they are not only tasty fruit, but also a snack helping the body recover carbohydrates. Preparation for the game is scheduled point-by-point, and the Ak Bars head coach won’t deviate from the plan at all. He knows how to beat CSKA:
“We’re not going to get involved in open hockey. We’re going to close up, wait for our chance, our opportunities. We’re not going to back down, of course — that’s not part of our traditions. But playing head-on — that’s a death in ice hockey! So we’re going to decorate the final with a beautiful game.”
The game for the Gazprom Neft Cup will take place on April 25, beginning at 19:00 Omsk time.