Month: November 2016 (Page 2 of 5)

Financial worries could force Russia-based KHL to cut teams

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By RT.com

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.

HULL PIRATES 3-3 GB U20S

By Tom Carnduff – Ice Hockey UK

A goal on 59:59 from Ivan Antonov ensured Great Britain Under-20s left the Hull Arena with a 3-3 draw on Wednesday evening.

Hull held a 3-1 advantage going into the third period, but GB showed great determination to come back and get a share of the spoils in East Yorkshire.

The Pirates took the lead early into the game, Brad Betteridge alert to a scramble in front of netminder Renny Marr to tap in at the backpost on 3:25.

Great Britain responded well and drew level through Liam Kirk on 4:10 when his effort beat Ash Smith in the Pirates net.

Dominic Osman put the Pirates back ahead with the first attack following the face-off. Osman dumping the puck into the zone and deflecting in with assistance from the plexi-glass behind the net.

Andrej Themar made it 3-1 on 22:23. He capitalised on a loose puck in the neutral zone and shot high into the top left corner of the net one-on-one.

GB cut the deficit to one through Ivan Antonov on 27:35. Josh Grieveson’s pass found Antonov in space out to the left of the attacking zone and the forward’s wrist shot beat Smith low to his left.

On the half-hour mark, Great Britain changed netminder. Denis Bell joining the action in place of Renny Marr, giving both netminders equal playing time.

Powerplay opportunities were presented to Great Britain in the third period, Kirk came close to putting the score level but his wrist shot went just over from close range with 44 minutes played.

On 49 minutes, the Pirates came close to making it four. Themar found Stanislav Lascek in space at the backpost, but Bell was alert to the danger and saved well low with his right pad.

With 53 minutes on the clock, Bell was called into action again. Salem’s shot from the left was finding its way into an open net, but the GB netminder did very well in getting across and making the save with his glove.

The game finished with a dramatic conclusion. Following a spell of attacking play from the U20s side, Antonov’s buzzer-beating effort made it 3-3. The original shot deflecting off the glass behind the net, Antonov alert to the danger to score at the left post.

The draw seemed the fair result. Great Britain having spells of good attacking and defensive play throughout the evening. GB will continue preparations for next month’s U20 World Championship in Hungary.

QMJHL blanks Russia 4-0 to capture CIBC Canada Russia Series

By Canadian Press

Julien Gauthier (Val-d’Or Foreurs) scored twice and Pierre-Luc Dubois (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) and Alexandre Fortin (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) each provided a pair of assists as Team QMJHL blanked Russia 4-0 in Chicoutimi to capture the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series.

For the first time in seven years, the CHL has claimed back-to-back series titles, climbing ahead of Russia 10-5 in points heading into the sixth and final game on Thursday in Baie-Comeau, QC.

The win marks the QMJHL’s first shutout victory in the 14-year history of the event as Carolina Hurricanes prospect Callum Booth (Quebec Remparts) stopped all 16 shots he faced to write his name in the record books.

The QMJHL scored twice in both the second and third periods as Nicolas Roy (Chicoutimi Sagueneens) and Thomas Chabot (Saint John Sea Dogs) also found the back of the net.

With a lead, the QMJHL held Russia to just three shots on goal in the game’s final 20 minutes to secure the victory before a crowd of 3,146 at Centre Georges Vezina.

Russian goaltender Vladislav Sukhachev provided his team with some timely saves to start the night, coming up with a shootout denial of QMJHL captain Pierre-Luc Dubois 12:20 into the first period.

The QMJHL outshot Russia 10-6 in the first, getting a few close chances from close quarters as Sukhachev was forced to stand his ground on a number of goalmouth scrambles.

The Russians nearly took the first lead of the night three minutes into the second as Alexander Shchemerov found Alexander Volkov with a stretch pass, sending the big winger in for a scoring chance that was turned aside by Booth. Gatineau Olympiques forward Yakov Trenin had a golden opportunity a shift later, but Booth stood tall once again to keep the game scoreless.

Team QMJHL broke the offensive silence with 4:07 remaining in the second as Alexandre Fortin (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) retrieved the puck below the goal line on the forecheck, quickly dishing to Dubois who found a wide open Gauthier coming down the middle for a one-timer.

Nicolas Roy tacked on an insurance marker before the second expired, bringing the hometown crowd to its feet as he finished off a well-orchestrated passing play with Gauthier and Dubois at 18:42.

A heavy shot from Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot (Saint John Sea Dogs) gave Team QMJHL a 3-0 lead 5:22 into the third frame. Chabot took a cross-blue line feed from Samuel Girard (Shawinigan Cataractes) before using his time and space to rip a slapshot over the glove of a screened Sukhachev.

Gauthier saved perhaps the best of the night for last, bulldozing his way around a Russian defender down the left wing before tucking his second of the night past the outstretched pad of Sukhachev with just 1:17 remaining.

Gauthier earned QMJHL Player of the Game honours with his two goals.

The QMJHL held Russia to 0-for-2 on the power play, stretching their series drought on the man advantage to 0-for-15.

The win marks the 11th series victory for the Canadian Hockey League in 14 years of the CIBC Canada Russia Series.

The QMJHL improves to an all-time record of 15-9-3 against Russia.

Game 6 of the series is set for Thursday night at Centre Henry Leonard in Baie-Comeau, QC at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT. Be sure to catch the action on Sportsnet ONE and TVA Sports 2.

Slow starts dangerous for coaches in KHL

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By Mike Weber – One World Sports

Slow starts can be costly in the 60-game KHL schedule. Case in point: Big-name coaches Mike Keenan and Andrei Nazarov have been given the pink slip, along with Dinamo Minsk’s Slovakian bench boss Lubomir Pokovic, after beginning the season with mediocre results.

Metallurg Magnitogorsk shocked the hockey world by firing legendary coach Mike Keenan after losing back-to-back games. Iron Mike has left his name etched in hockey history by becoming the first bench boss to hoist the Stanley Cup and the Gagarin Cup, having won the NHL title with the New York Rangers in 1994 and then guiding Magnitogorsk to the KHL’s top prize 20 years later. 

Despite possessing a handful of KHL superstars, Keenan failed to get the best out of his players this season. Big spending Magnitogorsk owns the most feared line in the league of Sergei Mozyakin, Jan Kovar, and Danis Zaripov, and signed former NHLer Wojtek Wolski in the off-season. Add to the mix Chris Lee, one of the premier defensemen in the league, and former Russian national team member Vasily Koshechkin in net, and you have one of the best teams on paper in the KHL. But the results did not match the spending, and the squad, with largely the same nucleus as the team that won the league championship just two seasons ago, seemed to have tuned Keenan out.

With Magnitogorsk sitting in 5th place in the Eastern Conference, Keenan has been removed from his duties behind the bench. But the club hasn’t completely cut ties with Iron Mike. Keenan has moved upstairs into an advisory role with Metallurg. It doesn’t look like Keenan’s time in Russia will be coming to an end anytime soon either, with rumors circulating that the Canadian-born coach is close to finalizing his Russian citizenship and a possible gig as an assistant coach for the Russian national team could be around the corner. Stepping into Keenan’s shoes at Magnitogorsk is assistant coach Ilya Vorobyov.

Mike Keenan is not the only high-profile coach to have been fired, with former NHL enforcer Andrei Nazarov losing his job as coach of SKA St. Petersburg. The defending KHL champions have made major changes to their roster from last season, and the fiery coach was unable to get the squad to gel. Not even the most pessimistic of predictions would have put the star-studded team from Russia’s second city fighting for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but that’s exactly where SKA sits just a few games short of the halfway point in the season. Nazarov’s abrasive style just did not seem to suit the team.

Former NHL star defenseman Sergei Zubov has taken over behind the bench at SKA. The move is likely to see dividends on the blueline and the powerplay, as Zubov established himself as one of the best defensemen in the NHL and one of the best at quarterbacking the powerplay during his storied career. He also brings a winning mentality with him, having won the Stanley Cup in 1994 with the New York Rangers and in 1999 with the Dallas Stars. Meanwhile, Nazarov has returned to a familiar setting, being hired as head coach of Barys Astana, where he coached the team to a 30-win season last year.  Just a little more than a week after being fired by SKA, he got sweet revenge against the St. Petersburg side winning 4-2 in Astana.

Last season with Slovakian head coach Lubomir Pokovic at the helm, Dinamo Minsk were one of the surprise stories in the KHL, surpassing expectations and finishing the regular season as the fifth seed in the Western Conference. This year it has been a different story, with the Belarussian squad sitting in tenth place in the West and just five points ahead of last place Severstal. Assistant coach Andrei Kovalyov has been promoted to interim head coach. Kovalyov is very familiar with the club having spent six seasons with the organization during his playing days. Look for the former high-scoring forward to implement a more open, free-flowing style of play at Dinamo.

Milestone Night

Prolific Metallurg Magnitogorsk scorer Sergei Mozyakin notched his 400th career goal in top flight Russian hockey in a 4-2 victory over Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. The one-timer top shelf past Ilya Proskuryakov in his 800th game puts him in the record book with Boris Mikhailov and Vyacheslav Starshinov, the only other men to have achieved the feat. The smooth skating sniper sits just 28 back of Mikhailov, with it not out of the question for Mozyakin to reach the mark this season. The 35 year old has shown no signs of slowing, leading the league with 19 tallies in just 27 games this year.

Barys Astana Gets a New Home

One of the biggest changes to the KHL landscape over the years has been the modernization of the arenas. Earlier this year, Dynamo Moscow unveiled the VTB Ice Palace, widely-believed to be one of the finest hockey arenas in Europe, with a capacity to seat 12,100.

Now Barys Astana has followed suit, opening the doors to the state-of-the-art Astana Ice Palace. The spacious arena can accommodate 11,578 spectators and has great sightlines. Located on the west bank of the Kazakh capital, the new venue will help sell the game in the country and could help Kazakhstan host major international hockey tournaments. Barys prevailed 4-2 over SKA St. Petersburg in the arena’s opener.

The KHL ‘s SKA Saint Petersburg Brims with NHL Talent

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By Jacob Messing  – Flo Hockey

Although always in the shade of the NHL, the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) more than offers its own share of talent. Increasingly, high drafts picks and proven NHL players have taken their abilities across the world to compete.

Perhaps the strongest team in terms of luring players, SKA Saint Petersburg ices a wealth of NHL talent each game. With names including Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Slava Voynov, Igor Shestyorkin and the interesting career of Steve Moses, it’s no surprise SKA is leading the KHL with a 15-1-4 record this season.

Ilya Kovalchuk

Age: 33
Position: Left Wing
NHL Career: 816 GP, 417 G, 399 A, 816 Pts.
KHL Career: 205 GP, 85 G, 126 A, 211 Pts.
2016-17 Season: 20 GP, 10 G, 15 A, 25 Pts.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored 29-plus goals in 10 of his 11 NHL seasons and 37-plus in eight of them. He was a dynamic offensive player during his NHL days and the most talented player on the ice more often than not.

Everyone knows the story of his NHL retirement. He left the New Jersey Devils at the age of 30 and walked away from a contract that signed him for another 12 years and was set to pay him another $77 million.

It’s likely the 42 points in 36 games for SKA during the shortened NHL season of 2012-13 that persuaded Kovalchuk to go home following the campaign. Kovalchuk is one point behind the KHL leading scorer this season, Sergei Mozyakin of Metallurg.

Pavel Datsyuk

Age: 38
Position: Center
NHL Career: 953 GP, 314 G, 604 A, 918 Pts.
KHL Career: 40 GP, 15 G, 29 A, 44 Pts.
2016-17 Season: 9 GP, 4 G, 4 A, 8 Pts.

Similar to Kovalchuk, Datsyuk left the Detroit Red Wings with one year and $7.5 million left on his contract to join SKA this season. A two-time Stanley Cup Champion, Datsyuk’s all-around game will be missed by Detroit this season.

Nearly a point-per-game player during his 14-year NHL career, Datsyuk was feared by goalies league-wide and is transitioning his skill to the KHL. His vision and stickhandling were unparalleled, and often made impossible plays look easy.

He had a down year for Detroit during 2015-16, but was skating on a surgically repaired ankle just six months into what was called an 18-month recovery timeline. Datsyuk was worshipped for his dekes and incredible two-way play.

SKA named Datsyuk their captain this season, further showing his talent and leadership that he brings to each game. He will go a long way in SKA, which is looking to regain the Gagarin Cup for the league’s top team, which they last won in 2015.

Slava Voynov

Age: 26
Position: Defense
NHL Career: 190 GP, 18 G, 63 A, 81 Pts.
KHL Career: 42 GP, 6 G, 17 A, 23 Pts.
2016-17 Season: 19 GP, 6 G, 10 A, 19 Pts.

Also a two-time Stanley Cup champion, Slava Voynov was a big part of the in-your-face style the Los Angeles Kings played on their way to winning two Cups in three years (2012 and 2014). 

Voynov is a heavy hitter who instills fear into his opponents when they enter the zone or find themselves in the corner with him.

Voynov played just six games of the 2014-15 season before he was suspended indefinitely during an assault investigation. He pled no contest to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in September of 2015 and was ousted from the NHL.

He has played a key role for SKA since signing with the team in October of the same year. He currently sits second in the league in defensive scoring.

Steve Moses

Age: 27
Position: Right Wing
NHL Career: n/a
KHL Career: 88 GP, 47 G, 30 A, 77 Pts.
2016-17 Season: 7 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 Pts.

At 5-foot-9, Steve Moses went undrafted in the NHL, written off for his lack of size. In 2012, the American-born winger signed with Jokerit of the Finnish Elite League and made an immediate impact.

He used his speed and strong shot to record 22 goals and 38 points in 55 games. Fast-forward to 2014-15, when Jokerit moved to the KHL, Moses took the change well and scored 36 goals and 57 points in 60 games as a KHL rookie, which set the goal-scoring record for a single KHL season.

Following his breakout campaign, Moses signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Nashville Predators in 2015. Moses was fully expected to translate his game to the NHL, but was sent to the Predators’ AHL-affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals.

Through 16 games, Moses recorded two goals and seven points and was prematurely cut by the team. Moses returned to the KHL, scoring 10 goals and 16 points in 21 games with SKA in 2015-16.

Igor Shestyorkin

Age: 20
Position: Goaltender
NHL Career: n/a
KHL Career: 37 GP, 20 W, 2.17 GAA, .922 SV%, 7 SO
2016-17 Season: 15 GP, 11 W, 1.61 GAA, .940 SV%, 5 SO

Igor Shestyorkin joined the KHL at just 17 years old. A teenage starting goalie is unheard of for a league with as much high-end talent as the KHL contains. 

Shestyorkin was drafted by the New York Rangers in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL draft and could be the heir to the 34-year-old Henrik Lundqvist in coming years.

While it’s hard to determine a prospect’s NHL potential across leagues, what Shestyorkin has accomplished in his KHL time helps the best players in the world.

 

Russian Gretzky’ Makarov enters hockey shrine

By Kevin Mcgran – The Toronto Star

Sergei Makarov draws comparisons to The Great One after international career that some call the greatest in hockey history.

Was Sergei Makarov the greatest hockey player ever? We’ll never know, but he certainly was compared — favourably — to the best.

“He was always referred to as the Russian Gretzky,” said Cliff Fletcher, now a senior adviser with the Toronto Maple Leafs but then the GM of the Calgary Flames, who drafted Makarov. “He was the best, most dynamic European hockey player.

“Unfortunately he didn’t come to the NHL until he was approaching the twilight of his career, but it was amazing what he could do with that puck,” added Fletcher. “How he thought the game, how he could pass, just make the best play that could be made. He was like Wayne in a lot of respects in that he saw things before they happened.”

Makarov will get his long-awaited induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, along with Eric Lindros, Rogie Vachon and the late Pat Quinn.

Makarov played on one the most dynamic units in history — the KLM Line — with Vladimir Krutov and Igor Larionov. He represented the Soviet Union internationally and played for CSKA Moscow (Red Army), dominant in the Russian league in its day.

“For me, Sergei Makarov is the greatest forward in history,” Russian sportswriter Vladislav Domrachev of Sovetsky Sport told the Star through a translator.

“He was a kind of evil genius. Makarov played without any problems, not injuries, no scandals. He was a bright player — stick-handling, speed, IQ. CSKA coach Viktor Tikhonov used him on the penalty kill, not Larionov. He was the brightest player of the KLM line. Krutov was hard-working. Larionov had a great IQ. But Makarov was the face of the line.”

The line was feared, both in the Soviet league and internationally.

 “The difference for them is, they played together from their young days to the Red Army,” said Fletcher. “They read off each other so well on the ice.”

With Makarov, the Soviet Union won the world championship seven times, Olympic gold twice and the world juniors twice, as well as the Canada Cup in 1981.

He had 710 points in 519 games in the old Soviet Championship League, predecessor of the KHL. He scored at least 25 goals in seven seasons (each less than 50 games). After coming to the NHL at 31, he had 384 points in 424 games with Calgary, San Jose and Dallas.

“He was a good person,” Fletcher said of Makarov. “It was more of a challenge for him than, say, Larionov to come to North America. Not just the lifestyle, but how hockey was played here.”

Makarov hated the dump-and-chase brand, preferring to hold the puck as long as he could. He would get into arguments with coaches about it.

“The way the Red Army system was, especially the KLM Line, it was all about puck control,” said Fletcher. “It was a challenge for him to change, but he was such an immense talent. He adjusted very well and was a real good NHL player even though he was in his early 30s.”

Still, he won the Calder as rookie of the year in 1989-90 with 86 points in 80 games, prompting the NHL to put an age limit on the trophy, now restricted to players 24 and under.

In Makarov’s last year playing in the Soviet Union, CSKA Moscow had one of the greatest collections of talent anywhere — not just in Europe — in part because it was the main feeder team to the Soviet nationals.

Still, the KLM line was in tact, with rising stars Alexander Mogilny, Pavel Bure and Sergei Fedorov on the way, not to mention Valeri Kamensky. The blue line featured Alexei Kasatonov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Vladimir Malakhov and a young Sergei Zubov. They all went on to have long NHL careers, with some of them — Fetisov, Larionov, Bure and Fedorov — making it into the hall of fame ahead of Makarov.

“It took NHL all-stars to compete at the top level with them,” said Fletcher. “They were good.”

Sergei Makarov

Born June 19, 1958

Hometown: Chelyabinsk, Soviet Union

NHL: Calgary, San Jose, Dallas

NHL stats: 424 GP, 134 G, 250 A

Soviet stats: 519 GP, 322 G, 388 A

Olympic golds: 1984, 1988

World championships: 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1990

Canada Cup: 1976

Calder Trophy: 1990

 

Part of the change

Kisung Kim has seen a lot of positive change in Korean hockey as the federation prepares for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games on home ice in PyeongChang

By Szabolcs Zavodszky – IIHF.com

Kisung Kim has seen a lot of positive change in Korean hockey as the federation prepares for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games on home ice in PyeongChang.

Korean hockey might sound like a mystery to fans from big hockey nations but the story is very familiar to those from the up-and-coming hockey country. In 14 months the coastal city of Gangneung will host the Olympic ice hockey tournaments, which helps putting the sport in a bigger spotlight than before. Korean hockey has been going through a lot of change and one player who has seen a lot of this is veteran forward Kisung Kim, one of Korea’s top forwards in 12 World Championship events at Division I and II level.

“There is some pressure to play well but we can feel the excitement. The Olympics Games will be a great opportunity for Korean hockey to take the next step forward and bring hockey to the next level,” said the prolific scorer.

Kim is a native of Seoul and came up through the local youth system where he played in the high-school league before playing at university level. Just before his 20th birthday he played in his first senior World Championship in 2005 where he finished with three points in four games. Since then he has been a staple of the national team and after graduating in 2008 he became a professional player with Anyang Halla of the Asia League.

Two years ago the Korean Ice Hockey Association decided to go a different direction with the coaching staff and hired Korean-born former NHL player Jim Paek as head coach with Richard Park, another former NHL player of Korean roots, as an assistant coach.

“Since Jim Paek joined the national team a lot has changed. The atmosphere and environment has changed and so has the hockey development as well. There has been a huge change in three years,” said Kim.

Coach Paek during this time found a team leader on the roster. “He is an extremely hard worker who wants to get better every day and asks a lot of questions. For a coach it is exciting to have someone like this. His work ethic is incredible and it seems like he never wants to turn it off. In this way he leads by example for sure and even at his age he is getting better and better,” Paek said.

When asked how he would describe himself as a player Kim said the following: “I try to lead by example. I might not be the most vocal person but I want them to see how I prepare for the games.”

“I am good friends with Bruce Ramsey who was Kisung’s coach in the CHL so I have talked to Bruce about him. It was a great experience for him to come to North America, to learn some English and to become more independent. He has been able to bring that knowledge over and to pass it on to the others,” said Paek.

Kisung Kim spent one season with Tulsa Oilers in the minor league CHL, which he followed up with a season in Finland’s second-tier league Mestis.

“I had a tough season in the CHL. It was different style of hockey, the rinks are at a different size and also the culture was different, the food was different. But it was great for my career. I became more mature as a player,” Kim said.

Since coming back to Korea and playing in the Asia League, Kim has been lighting up the goal lamp. Two seasons ago he had 70 points in 45 games and has developed into a dependable scoring presence for both the Korean national team and his club team Anyang Halla, the first Korean club to win the Asia League.

“We have a larger support staff around the national team. In the past we only had two individuals supporting the team, now we have more people, which is a big change. This means we only need to concentrate on is hockey,” he said.

The way things are going for Kisung Kim and Korean hockey, he will be a face to remember at the 2018 Olympics.

Korea came off a good tournament in November during the international break where it beat host Hungary in the final and left behind Austria and Italy in the group stage. In April the Koreans will compete in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Ilya Kovalchuk is keeping his options open regarding NHL return

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By Liam McGuire – Puck Drunk Love

The Ilya Kovalchuk returning to the NHL rumor is once again upon us.

Speculation on Kovalchuk’s return to the league seems to be prevalent each and every season. In 2014,
the Devils were rumored to be bringing back the former 50-goal scorer. Earlier this season, rumors suggest Kovalchuk was considering an NHL return were also floated out there.

So is Kovalchuk ever going to return? He didn’t exactly squash the notion when discussing the subject with Russian scoopster Aivis Kalnins, Kovalchuk said a return to the league was “possible,” if it benefited his career.

”We will see, everything is possible. Why couldn’t I return to NHL? I’ll have all options open that can benefit my career.”: Kovalchuk

— Aivis Kalniņš (@A_Kalnins) November 9, 2016

It’s a vague statement, but another indication Kovalchuk might not be done with the NHL.

The 33-year-old officially retired from the league back in 2013, suiting up with St. Petersburgh SKA over the past four seasons. In 2016-17, he’s having an impressive year with 16 goals, 20 assists, and 36 points in 28 games. For him to return to the league, it would have to be a lucrative arrangement. Then, there’s the question of his rights, whether he’d have to clear waivers and so on and so on.

But, if Alex Radulov taught us anything – even the most unlikely KHL-to-NHL returns are possible. Obviously, the report doesn’t mean much but it adds fuel to the idea Kovalchuk will suit up in North America one more time.

Russia holds on for 4-3 win, reclaims series lead

By Canadian Press

The first ever CIBC Canada Russia Series contest in North Bay was an exciting one, but Team OHL came out on the wrong end of a third period scoring flurry as Russia skated to a 4-3 victory.

Kirill Urakov scored the deciding goal with 5:26 to spare in the third period, giving Russia a 5-4 series lead in points headed into Game 4 in Hamilton on Monday.

Philadelphia Flyers first round pick German Rubtsov scored twice for Russia while 18-year-old goaltender Vladislav Sukhachev was steady when called upon, turning aside 29 shots.

The OHL outshot Russia 32-25 but couldn’t come through late as Russia hung on to wrestle back control of the series.

Team OHL put the pressure on early, registering the first three shots of the game, but Russia would strike first on a funny bounce in the slot just 5:25 into the first frame.

Rubtsov took a low shot from the high slot that got past OHL goaltender Evan Cormier (Saginaw Spirit), glancing off the skate of one of his own defenders out front.

Team OHL would draw even on the power play two minutes later on a perfectly executed passing play. St. Louis Blues prospect Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting) dished the puck down low to Owen Tippett (Mississauga Steelheads) who quickly found Mississauga teammate Michael McLeod in the slot as he chipped a quick shot over the shoulder of Sukhachev at 6:22.

The Russians picked up the pace in the latter half of the first. Rubtsov was left alone in the slot, taking a feed from linemate Pavel Karnaukhov before waiting out a sprawling Cormier to score his second of the night at 15:54.

Russia carried a 2-1 lead into the first intermission while Team OHL led 8-7 on the shot clock.

Team OHL came out of the gate firing in the second as Sukhachev was forced into a trio of big saves, denying Adam Mascherin (Kitchener Rangers), Gabriel Vilardi (Windsor Spitfires) and Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting) on quality scoring chances.

After a quiet first half of the period at his end with Russia generating just one shot on goal, Cormier was solid in the latter half, keeping the OHL within one as he turned away Artur Tyanulin (Ottawa 67’s) on the doorstep. Nikita Li would be denied twice in the final three minutes of the second, keeping the OHL within striking distance headed into the final stanza.

Russia climbed out to a 3-1 lead 6:02 into the third as Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury Wolves) was the beneficiary of a strong play below the goal line by linemate Kirill Belyaev who won a puck battle before dishing to the slot. Sokolov, a Minnesota Wild prospect and 30-goal scorer with Sudbury last season, took some of the energy out of the Memorial Gardens with the insurance marker.

The OHL power play would click for a second time beyond the midway point of the third as Florida Panthers prospect Adam Mascherin (Kitchener Rangers) brought the Gardens to its feet. Team OHL drew to within a goal as Mascherin jumped on a rebound off the end boards on Owen Tippett’s wrister that went wide at 7:48.

Team OHL tied the game at three under two minutes later as Anthony Cirelli (Oshawa Generals) buried a rebound off Kyle Capobianco’s (Sudbury Wolves) low point blast at 14:10.

The flurry of scoring continued 24 seconds later, breaking the 3-3 deadlock as Russia regained the lead. Danila Kvartalnov and Kirill Urakov teamed up for bang-bang chances in the goalmouth, with Urakov burying on the rebound at 14:33.

The OHL put forth a late push, but couldn’t convert as Russia came away victorious in Game 3, improving to 5-4-0-0 against the OHL over the past five years.

Tippett earned OHL Player of the Game honours in the loss, recording two assists on the night.

The two sides clash again on Monday at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton as Game 4 of the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series is live on Sportsnet at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT.

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