The 8th Gazprom Neft Cup International KHL Kids Ice Hockey Tournament included a total of eight teams debuting! Seven of them (Dynamo (Moscow), Dinamo (Minsk), Vityaz, Donbass, Jokerit, Severstal, and Torpedo) were in the West Group, and the eighth, Barys, was in the East Group.
The best of the newcomers was Dynamo Moscow, although they began the tournament with a loss on penalty shots to Vityaz, but in the end made it all the way to the West Group final, where they fought a tense battle against the main favourite, CSKA. After the first period, Dinamo led 3:2, but they ended up losing 3:6. At the end of the deciding game, the blue-and-white forward Denis Yakovlev said that after such exciting four days he didn’t even want to leave the Belarussian capital.
The tournament hosts Dinamo Minsk took fourth place, losing the bronze position to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in a series of post-game time penalty shots.
Severstal and Torpedo ended up in the game for 5th place, in which the ‘auto workers’ were strongest — 3:1 to Nizhny Novgorod.
Just a little bit lower down was the result for Vityaz from Moscow region. After their sensational victory over Dynamo Moscow on the first day of the tournament, Vyacheslav Kurochkin’s boys only won one more game, taking 10th place overall.
In the East Group, Barys seemed at first unprepared for the level of play shown by their opponents, but towards the end they braced up and in the game for 11th place they beat Yamal 4:2.
The debut of Ukrainian Donbass and Finnish Jokerit were big events at the Gazprom Neft Cup. The Ukrainians got to Minsk on the slow train with complicated transfers, arriving at the Belarussian capital late at night, and came straight onto the ice early the next morning. Donbass demonstrated solid hockey — in the group stage they lost to Atlant and CSKA, but they battled in both matches hard up to the final seconds. The Ukrainians also managed two wins, and ended up in ninth place.
Vladimir Korobenko, head coach, Donbass:
“The tournament was great! I have only one suggestion for the organizers: please get young ice hockey players together for these kinds of competitions more often! This was a real children’s world championship! All the games were knuckle to knuckle. You can’t take your eye off the rink. It’s hard to overestimate how useful playing in the Gazprom Neft Cup is. The players are gaining invaluable experience. I’d only heard about these kinds of tournaments before, and now we’ve had the good fortune to be able to take part in one.”
Vladislav Tsurgan, forward, Donbass:
“A great tournament and an incredible level of competition! So many happy memories! First of all, I liked playing against such strong teams. Only in games against strong opponents can we improve our own skills. The opening ceremony was unforgettable. It was all so beautiful! I especially liked the story about a hockey player that unfolded right on the ice. I would love to take part in such a big event again someday”.
As to the Finnish Jokerit, this Helsinki team became the first in the history of the Gazprom Neft Cup to come to the tournament from beyond the former Soviet Union. From an athletic point of view, the Finns had been counting on achieving more: they didn’t expect that Russian hockey players of this age would be a cut above. As a result, Jokerit, with a single victory (over Dinamo Riga) took 11th place in the West Group.
Juha Jokiharju, head coach, Jokerit:
“We are glad that we had the chance to take part in such a monumental competition. We’re a little dissatisfied with our result — we could have played better. It’s especially upsetting that we lost only minimally, and that a few victories slipped away literally by a hair’s breadth. No big deal though — we will hope that next year our young club members will improve on our results. Before the tournament we had a serious selection to the team, as there are two
Defender, Jokerit, Peetu Räsänen:
“It was a superb tournament! And it’s a shame that we didn’t manage to win more. When we came here we thought that we would take a higher place, or maybe even make our way to the final. But the level of our opponents was very high. We were not ready to fight at the same level as the leading Russian schools. But it’s not a big deal, and there’s no point getting upset anyway. We have a lot of games ahead of us. All our victories are still to come!”