MINSK – Yunost Minsk keeps its clean record with another tight win against one of the two qualifiers. The Belarusians defeated the Rouen Dragons 4-2 thanks to two third-period goals scored within 33 seconds. Yunost gets the chance to win the Continental Cup on Sunday night when facing Red Bull Salzburg.
The four Yunost goals were scored by players from four different lines. But the Belarusians experienced a tight battle against the underdog.
“We knew that Rouen is strong and their high loss yesterday against Salzburg was coincidence,” said Yunost coach Mikhail Zakharov. “We had some problems on the power play and we allowed them goals we shouldn’t, but all in all I’m satisfied with the result.”
Rouen gained the lead twice and withstood the pressure of the Belarusian forwards with their physical play for a long time, but Yunost tied things up twice before they eventually scored two other goals midway through the third period.
“We fought well for 40, 50 minutes, but small mistakes make a big difference against this kind of opposition,” said Rouen coach Rodolphe Garnier. “Our roster is probably too short to play games at this level in such a short time. We lost our focus sometimes.”
Yunost and Rouen played an end-to-end game with chances at both ends for most part of the game.
Yunost had the better start with a power play and dangerous attacks from the first line with Alexander Borovkov, Ukrainian national players Olexander Materukhin and Oleg Tymchenko. They also enjoyed a two-man advantage but didn’t manage to convert.
Rouen survived the early minutes and came back strong, but Mika Oksa had another solid game in the Yunost net and was again selected as the best player of his team.
The Dragons had the biggest scoring chance of the game after 13 minutes when Mathieu Brunelle and François-Pierre Guénette had a two-on-one, but Brunelle's shot ended in Oksa’s glove.
With 79 seconds left in the first period it was the Rouen Dragons, who ended the deadlock. Yunost was one man short when Carl Mallette and Julien Desrosiers confused their opponents with their double-pass play. Mallette eventually shot the puck into the empty side of the net.
Yunost reacted in the second period and was awarded with a power play which Alexei Baranov used to tie the score at 2:28.
Just two minutes later, however, Rouen regained the lead when Anthony Rech received a pass at the blueline from Jonathan Janil and scored on the breakaway.
Two minutes later Vladislav Klochkov made the audience euphoric again when he netted the puck on the other side to equalize the score at two.
The 2-2 score remained for the rest of the second period in a clash of two hockey cultures with the elegant skating and creative play from the Yunost side and the more physical play of the Rouen Dragons.
Yunost created more opportunities in front of French national team goalie Fabrice Lhenry, but his defencemen mostly blocked the scoring attempts, defending their area in front of the net well against the Yunost players that often tried to carry the puck into the net as beautifully as possible.
The hosts had more luck in the last period when Rouen got into penalty trouble. Additionally, Daniel Babka and Julien Desrosiers had to leave the ice with injuries in the second period, but they returned later.
The Belarusians didn’t score on their first three power plays of the period, but when the last expired, they remained in puck possession and Alexander Ryadinski scored from the blueline at 10:47.
It was the first time Yunost was leading in this game and 33 seconds later they scored the decider.
Tymchenko got the puck in front of the crease and lifted it just below the crossbar for the 4-2 goal. That was it for Rouen.
The Dragons will have to strive for a medal tomorrow against SønderjyskE Vojens while Yunost Minsk will play for the Continental Cup plate against Red Bull Salzburg on Sunday.
“It will be a good game and it will be tight,” Garnier said being asked to compare Yunost and Salzburg. “Maybe Yunost is slightly the favourite because they can play in front of their own crowd.”