RIGA, Latvia – Ak Bars Kazan had a more difficult than expected start into the Continental Cup with a narrow 2-1 win against Kazzinc-Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk. Team Russia winger Danis Zaripov was the game-winner with two goals.
Ak Bars’ glorious first offensive line opened the score for the favourite at 7:58. Danis Zaripov successfully ended an attack after a Sergei Zinoviev pass. The lead was deserved, as the Russian runner-up of last season was better in any aspect of the game and had also more chances in several power play situations of the first period.
Kazzinc-Torpedo came out with a much better performance into the second period. They began to cause more work to Robert Esche, the American netminder of Ak Bars Kazan. The Russians took four penalties from the 24th to the 29th minute but Kazzinc-Torpedo failed to make use of nearly six minutes of power-play time in a row. After the Kazakhs had ended the power play by a penalty against themselves, it seemed that the threat was over for Ak Bars. Nikolai Zarzhitsky did not agree and finished a surprising attack of the Kazakhs with a rebound to equalise the game at 30:23.
The Kazakhs from Ust-Kamenogorsk seemed to be back into the game and being a more and more resistant opponent in the second period but it was the Russians who were more successful – personified by Zaripov, who scored his second goal of the game 37 seconds before the second intermission. It was the game-winner for Ak Bars and game over for Kazzinc-Torpedo. The Kazakhs were harmless in the third period and were lacking danger for a result change in the last minutes. Even though the game ended with a narrow 2-1, Ak Bars was not in danger to lose the game after it had been struggling in the middle twenty minutes.
“I’m not satisfied with the score,” said Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, the Moscow-born Ak Bars head coach with Tatar roots, “we played better than the result and wanted something more than a 2-1.” His goalie Esche found similar words: “I think we played a lot better but it’s important to win and focus on the games to come.”
For the Kazakhs, the narrow result against the clear Continental Cup favourite was rather a success. “The opponent was stronger, maybe also because they have the chance to play in their own championship while we have to play at the second level in Russia,” Yerlan Sagymbayev, the head coach of the Kazakhs, said.Photo gallery of the gameClick here for the complete Continental Cup Super Final coverage