The 15 games played so far in the West Group of the Gazprom Neft Cup, held in St Petersburg, have brought 133 goals.
The last games of the preliminary stage, held today at the Yubileyny Sport Palace, made no fundamental changes in the standings. But it is interesting that the results of simultaneous games in the big and small arenas at the Palace were almost identical. First, Dynamo (Moscow) overcame Jokerit with a score of 4:2 and Lokomotiv beat Donbass with the same score line. Then CSKA and Vityaz both flattened their respective opponents, Dinamo Riga and Yamal, with 13 goals apiece! The only difference was that Yamal took two consolation goals against Vityaz while the boys from Riga could only pull back a single goal against the Muscovites.
It is also worth noting that the Riga goal, scored in the third period (the score was already 10:0), was the only one conceded by the Cup holders in the qualifying stage. With two wins and 19:1 goal difference, CSKA has to be the favourite in the West Group. The Muscovites will now meet Severstal in the quarter final.
But while CSKA’s chances were always rated highly, the success of Vityaz in the tournament to date (3 wins in 3 games in sub-group D) has been unexpected. The team from Moscow Region made little impression when it debuted in the Gazprom Neft Cup last year. But the Podolsk boys born in 2004 are living up to their team’s name (“vityaz” in Russian means “knight”): 25 goals scored in three games are an impressive calling card. Vityaz will cross sticks with the hosts, St Petersburg SKA, in the quarter finals.
We look forward to positional and well organized hockey in the quarter final between Lokomotiv and Jokerit. And the fourth West Group quarter final will be a “dynamic” derby between Dinamo from Minsk and Dynamo from Moscow. In 2014, the Muscovites beat the Minsk boys in the semifinals with a crushing score of 10:3, so both sides have something to prove.
The first of the West Group quarter finals will begin in the Yubileyny Sports Palace at 15:00 (Moscow time).