MINSK – Yunost Minsk has won the IIHF Continental Cup for the second time. The Belarusians defeated last year’s winner Red Bull Salzburg 4-3 in front of 14,550 spectators at Minsk Arena to claim the CC-winner’s plate.Links: Game Sheet / Photo Gallery
It was a perfect revenge for last year when Salzburg won the competition ahead of Yunost thanks to a 5-3 head-to-head win early in the 2010 tournament. This was the Minsk club’s and Belarus’ second CC win in the tournament’s 14-year history. Yunost also won in 2007.
“After the second place last year, which wasn’t considered a good result here in Belarus, and the fact that it was tough to play these teams here, it was really wonderful to win the Continental Cup today,” Zakharov said.
“We had been preparing for this tournament very hard and we knew Salzburg, their players and their style of play pretty well. Compared to last year we were more disciplined and we improved our penalty kill.”
Yunost scored two early goals and made it 3-0 after 18 minutes, but Salzburg found its way back into the game. However, they came just short of an equalizer after almost getting back from a 4-1 deficit after two periods.
Two lines contributed to the four goals for Yunost’s win. Andrei Stepanov (1+1) and Olexander Materukhin (0+2) had two scoring points each. Stepanov scored the 2-0 goal in the first and assisted on Alexander Kitarov’s game winner at 7:23 of the second period.
All three Salzburg goals were scored by Canadians; Douglas Lynch, Steve Regier and Ryan Duncan.
Finnish goalkeeper Mika Oksa had another strong performance in the Yunost net. Coming from city rival Dynamo Minsk recently after getting little ice time in the KHL, Oksa became a fan favourite in the Minsk Arena. He won the Best Goalkeeper award and was selected into the All-Star Team by the media.
“It was a tough tournament with great games and great wins, I’m quite happy,” Oksa said. “I didn’t play that much this season, so you never know how it goes, but I guess I did something right here.”
Yunost Minsk got an early lead at 2:46 while playing one man short. Olexander Materukhin escaped for a breakaway and saw his shot blocked by Salzburg goalkeeper Reinhard Divis, but Alexander Borovkov scored on the rebound.
At 8:37, Yunost already had a 2-0 lead. Andrei Stepanov fought for the puck against the Austrian defenders and also beat Divis, forcing head coach Pierre Pagé to take an early time-out after a bad mistake by the defensive pairing Thomas Raffl and Daniel Boss.
The time-out didn’t have the desired effect. Salzburg took two penalties and Andrei Bashko scored Yunost’s third goal from the blueline with 1:57 remaining in the first period.
“Unfortunately the first period against Yunost was our worst period in this tournament. We simply overslept the beginning. We gave everything we can in the end. It’s tough for us,” Salzburg captain Thomas Koch commented after the game.
“We made mistakes we can sometimes afford in the league, but not at this level. The Belarusians were simply too smart and too efficient.”
It looked like Yunost would take a comfortable 3-0 lead to the middle period, but 71 seconds before the intermission Salzburg got on the board. Ryan Duncan hit the post on a breakaway, but because of Alexei Deniskin’s slashing Duncan was awarded a penalty shot. He converted it to cut the lead to 3-1.
In the beginning of the second period Yunost remained the stronger and more efficient team. At 7:23 the Belarusians perfectly executed a two-on-one rush. Andrei Stepanov passed to Alexander Kitarov to the left side, who shot the puck past Divis. This was the eventual game-winning goal.
Salzburg worked hard to tighten up the game, but the Austrians didn’t find the means to do so until the last period. First Steve Regier cut the lead at 7:21, then Douglas Lynch scored the 4-3 goal with another quick attack, with 4:50 remaining in regulation time.
“I think both teams were pretty tired, but we played smart in the last minutes,” Yunost goalie Oksa said. “One shot can make a difference, but they didn’t have any good chances in the last minutes.”
Yunost coach Mikhail Zakharov took a time-out to shake up his team and his squad responded. Yunost survived Salzburg’s assault in the dying minutes and captain Alexander Ryadinski could accept the Continental Cup plate. With a huge smile on his face.
And the 14,550 fans at the Minsk Arena celebrated their favourites, giving them a standing ovation.
MARTIN MERKFinal Ranking
1. Yunost Minsk (Belarus)
2. Red Bull Salzburg (Austria)
3. SønderjyskE Vojens (Denmark)
4. Rouen Dragons (France)Directorate Individual Awards
Best Goalkeeper: Mika Oksa, Yunost
Best Defenceman: Dustin VanBallegooie, SønderjyskE
Best Forward: Ryan Duncan, SalzburgMedia All-Star Team
Goalkeeper: Mika Oksa, Yunost
Defenceman: Alexei Baranov, Yunost
Defenceman: Dustin VanBallegooie, SønderjyskE
Forward: Ramzi Abid, Salzburg
Forward: Carl Mallette, Rouen
Forward: Ryan Duncan, Salzburg