Day: November 18, 2016

Financial worries could force Russia-based KHL to cut teams

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The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) could be forced to reduce its number of teams due to financial pressure.

The Russian-based KHL is currently recognized as the world’s second-best ice hockey league after the National Hockey League (NHL), but a recession in the country is beginning to have an impact on some clubs.

The falling price of oil has affected the Russian state-owned companies and regional governments that fund most teams, sending many into debt.

League president Dmitry Chernyshenko told state agency R-Sport earlier this week that the KHL board is set to discuss “an optimization of the number of clubs taking part.”

“I think it’s possible that the league could contract if the board takes that decision,” Chernyshenko said.

The KHL has long pursued an aggressive policy of expansion, with China’s HC Kunlun Red Star the latest addition to the ranks for the 2016/17 season.

Despite the NHL also identifying China as a possible target for expansion, Shanghai-based Kunlun Red Star – which joined the league this season – has struggled to attract fans, with crowds under 1,000 at some games at its home arena.

There are currently 29 teams in the KHL across eight countries in Eastern Europe and Asia, with the majority based in Russia. Most rely heavily on Russian state handouts to fund their operations.

The top three earners in the KHL are former NHL players – Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Slava Voynov – each with annual salaries around the $5 million mark.

Russia’s finance minister, Anton Siluanov, criticized Russian regional governments in financial difficulties last week, saying they were irresponsible by continuing to spend money on sports teams.

Earlier this year Siluanov suggested 5 percent budget cuts would be necessary in 2017, as Russia’s budget deficit was predicted to stand at 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) next year

Comtois leads QMJHL to 4-1 win in Baie-Comeau

By Canadian Press

2017 NHL Draft prospect Maxime Comtois (Victoriaville Tigres) scored twice while the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies duo of Gabriel Fontaine and Alexandre Fortin each had two points in a 4-1 Team QMJHL win over Russia in Game 6 of the CIBC Canada Russia Series.

After Julien Gauthier (Val-d’Or Foreurs) stole the show on Tuesday in Chicoutimi, Comtois took centre stage in Baie-Comeau, pacing the QMJHL to victory.

“It was a lot of fun being the youngest guy on the team playing with players who have been drafted to the show,” said Comtois post-game. “We have a fast team and we really used it tonight on the forecheck. We used our speed to create chances and managed to score some nice goals.”

Russia came out with an inspired first period, outshooting Team QMJHL 10-5, but the scoreboard told another story as Comtois had the QMJHL up 1-0 after 20 minutes.

The 17-year-old finished off a complete team effort off the forecheck 3:20 into the game, tapping Alexandre Alain’s (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada) spin-around scoring chance over the goal line after it trickled through the legs of Russian goaltender Anton Krasotkin.

Krasotkin kept Russia within one in the final minute of the frame, stopping Alain on a two-on-one opportunity from in close.

The two sides had a combined five power play opportunities in the first period but neither was able to convert.

Krasotkin continued to stand tall in the opening half of the second, turning away QMJHL scoring leader Maxime Fortier (Halifax Mooseheads) on two separate occasions.

Those saves set the stage for Russia to knot things up at one as draft eligible forward Klim Kostin scored his first of the series at 12:37. The 17-year-old took advantage of a broken play as Alexander Shchemerov’s low shot went off the skate of a QMJHL back-checker and onto the stick of Kostin who made no mistake.

After breaking a scoreless drought of 108 minutes spanning back to Game 4 in Hamilton, Russia would have just eight seconds to enjoy it.

The Rouyn-Noranda duo of Fortin and Fontaine hooked up to reinstate the QMJHL lead as the former found the latter in the high slot for a one-timer over the glove of Krasotkin at 12:45.

Team QMJHL led 2-1 headed into the third period despite being outshot 18-15 as goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick (Sherbrooke Phoenix) was there when called upon to keep them ahead.

Krasotkin and Fitzpatrick swapped saves in the opening shifts of the third period before another Husky got in on the action.

Colorado Avalanche prospect Jean-Christophe Beaudin (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) snapped a wrister over the shoulder of Krasotkin at 7:46, getting assists from Rouyn-Noranda teammates Fortin and Fontaine on the play.

Down a man, the QMJHL capped off the series with a shorthanded marker, putting an exclamation mark on Russia’s power play woes as they’d finish 0-for-19 over the six game affair.

Comtois and Alain worked together to strip a Russian defender of the puck at the offensive blue line as Comtois would wait out Krasotkin with a backhand deke in alone with 2:35 remaining to make the final 4-1.

The QMJHL outshot Russia 22-20, holding them to just two shots in the third period.

A capacity crowd of 3,042 took in the action at Centre Henry-Leonard in Baie-Comeau as the QMJHL improved to 16-9-3 all-time in the event.

Goaltenders Callum Booth (Quebec Remparts) and Evan Fitzpatrick (Sherbrooke Phoenix) set a new QMJHL mark for goals against in a single series as the two combined to allow just one, turning aside 35 of the 36 shots they faced over two games.

Alexandre Fortin (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) would finish Game 6 as the scoring leader of the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series, recording four points (0-4–4) in the two QMJHL victories.

The CHL wraps up the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series at an all-time mark of 58-19-1-6 while Russia comes away at 26-55-0-3.

The CHL has now won the CIBC Canada Russia Series 11 times in the event’s 14-year history.