DAVOS, Switzerland – Russian powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg won the 84th Spengler Cup after defeating Team Canada 4-3 in the final on New Year’s Eve.
All Russian goals were scored by internationally well-known players. Maxim Sushinski opened the scoring after ten minutes, but defenceman Micki Du Point tied it up for Canada at 6:53 into the middle stanza.
St. Petersburg reacted with goals from Alexei Yashin and Maxim Afinogenov in the second half of the middle period, and the 3-1 score remained until the dying minutes of the game.
Brett McLean cut the lead with 82 seconds left in regulation time, but Sushinski scored his second goal into the empty net just 19 seconds later. Josh Holden made it 4-3 with two seconds left, but that was too late to spoil the Russian party.
The annual invitational tournament is known as the oldest international club event and it has established itself as a mix between a hockey festival and an all-star weekend in the Swiss hockey calendar in the time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
And for the participating teams from Europe and Canada it’s a cross between Christmas holidays in the idyllic Swiss Alps and offensive-minded, European hockey.
This time the traditional five-team round robin format was changed by adding a sixth team and playing in two groups of three teams each, similar to the former European Champions Cup.
With the extension, the organizers added Genève-Servette, a second Swiss team along with host HC Davos, to get better coverage in the French-speaking part of the country.
Two teams from the Russian KHL – SKA St. Petersburg and Spartak Moscow – were joined by Czech club Sparta Prague and by a Team Canada that was mostly comprised of Canadians playing in Europe, particularly in the Swiss National League A that has a long Christmas break due to the event.
St. Petersburg won its group by defeating Genève-Servette (3-1) and Sparta Prague (4-1) before edging Genève-Servette again (4-3 OT) in the semi-finals to make it to the last game.
Team Canada defeated Spartak Moscow 6-1 in the preliminary round, but HC Davos won the group after a 3-2 victory against the Canadians.
The Mark Messier-coached team had to play in the pre-semis where they defeated Sparta Prague 4-3 in overtime before avenging the loss to Davos by blanking the home team 4-0 in their semi-final encounter.
It became a classic Canadian-Russian clash for the trophy with the better end for the star-studded Russian team that went up to third place in the KHL’s Western Conference after a slow start and after goalkeeper Yevgeni Nabokov, the most prominent off-season transfer, left the team due to family reasons after a series of poor performances.
Team Canada was the last non-KHL tournament winner, in 2007, when it defeated Salavat Yulayev Ufa in the final game. Dynamo Moscow defeated Canada in the 2008 final; Belarusian KHL club Dynamo Minsk claimed the trophy last year after winning against host HC Davos; and now St. Petersburg becomes the third straight KHL Spengler Cup winner.
The win made Alexander Medvedev twice as happy after arriving in Davos and celebrating with the team as he heads both the KHL and SKA St. Petersburg.
For the army club it’s already the fourth Spengler Cup triumph. They won in 1970, 1971, and 1977 under the old Soviet club and city name, SKA Leningrad.
By winning the Spengler Cup and defeating the Carolina Hurricanes in a pre-season exhibition game that was a prestige result for the club, SKA St. Petersburg seems to be prepared for the race for the KHL’s Gagarin Cup. Last year they lost already in the 1/8-finals to underdogs Dinamo Riga.