A new year means more hockey — and five out of these seven games went beyond the 60-minute mark as the KHL served up another festive special. Traktor returns to the top of the standings with a rollercoaster win over Lokomotiv, Amur’s Evgeny Alikin single-handedly earned his team a point at home to Ak Bars, Barys defeated Metallurg and CSKA squeezed past Neftekhimik. Niko Ojamaki’s goal for Vityaz saw him match Teemu Hartikainen’s record tally for a Finnish player in a KHL season, but could not prevent his team losing to Dinamo Minsk in a shoot-out.

Alikin impresses, but Ak Bars wins

Amur Khabarovsk 1 Ak Bars Kazan 2 SO (0-1, 0-0, 1-0, 0-0, 0-1)

Amur goalie Evgeny Alikin made 54 saves to carry his team all the way to a shoot-out against Ak Bars, but the visitor got the verdict thanks to Steven Kampfer’s successful shot. The victory means Ak Bars needs just one more point to guarantee its playoff spot.

The home team, meanwhile, is in a much tougher battle to make post season. After Monday’s win at Admiral, Mikhail Kravets did not change his team as it continues its pursuit of Barys. Ak Bars also arrived on the back of a victory, and Dmitry Kvartalnov tweaked his line-up to bring back Kirill Panyukov during the gruelling Far East tour.

And it was Panyukov who potted the opening goal of the game, in the eighth minute of a first period that the visitor largely dominated. He converted the first power play of the afternoon as Ak Bars outshot Amur 24-4. However, the home team did come close to tying the scores when Radan Lenc hit the piping.

The second period brought more Ak Bars domination, but Alikin stepped up to make a further 18 saves and keep his team in with a chance. That chance was duly taken in the third when a more even exchange of play helped Ruslan Pedan tie the game with six minutes to play. Overtime could not separate the teams and in the shoot-out, two visiting Canadians found the net as Kampfer sealed the win for Ak Bars.

Photo: 05.01.22. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Amur (Khabarovsk) - Ak Bars (Kazan)

Sedlak in OT puts Traktor back on top

Traktor Chelyabinsk 4 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3 OT (1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 1-0)

Traktor posted a fifth successive victory to return to the top of the standings after a ding-dong battle in Chelyabinsk. The home team blew a 2-0 lead, then allowed another late equalizer before prevailing in the extras.

The team news brought a return to action for home defenseman Sergei Telegin, while Loko gave a debut to recent signing Brandon Gormley, late of Dinamo Riga. The visitor started the game well and Roman Will was the busier of the two goalies early on. However, when Lokomotiv got its first penalty, Teemu Pulkkinen quickly took advantage to put his former club a goal down. Traktor had another power play chance soon afterwards but failed to score, then the Railwaymen had the puck in the net only for a bench challenge to see the play whistled off for goalie interference.

Despite the scoreline, Lokomotiv enjoyed the better of the first period play. However, after the break, Traktor needed just 26 seconds to increase the lead thanks to Tomas Hyka. That goal was created by Lukas Sedlak, but the Czech forward found himself in trouble midway through the frame and his penalty enabled Artyom Anisimov to pull one back on the power play. The third period began with another Loko PP and another goal, this time for Reid Boucher, and the game was tied at 2-2.

Experienced home forward Andrei Stas is nobody’s idea of a prolific sniper: in 725 games, he has just 64 goals. This season, though, the Belarusian international is enjoying his most productive campaign since 2013-2014 and today he grabbed his sixth of the term to restore Traktor’s lead. It looked like it might be the winner, but in the dying moments Anisimov grabbed his second of the game to take us to overtime.

The extras did not take long. Traktor won the opening face-off, Hyka released Sedlak and the Czech forward won his one-on-one duel with goalie Daniil Isayev to give the home team the verdict.

Photo: 05.01.22. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Traktor (Chelyabinsk) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

Red-and-Whites up to fifth

Sibir Novosibirsk 1 Spartak Moscow 2 SO (0-0, 0-1, 1-0, 0-0, 0-1)

Sibir suffered its second loss of 2022 after falling to Spartak in a shoot-out. The visitor posted a fifth successive win and climbs to fifth in the Western Conference, moving ahead of Lokomotiv.

The home team handed a debut to new signing Maxim Goncharov, who thus made his 500th KHL appearance. However, it was not a happy introduction to his new team: the former Avangard defenseman was on the receiving end of a brutal hit from Alexander Avtsin and left the game injured. Avtsin sat for a minor and played on.

The first period was otherwise enlivened by a minor brawl midway through, with Sergei Shirokov and Denis Golubev prominent after Nikita Setdikov ruffled feathers with a hook. Goals, however, had to wait until late in the second period, when Dmitry Vishnevsky finally got the opener with a long-range effort.

In the third, the teams continued to play cautiously. Spartak could already harbor hopes of closing out a 1-0 win when Golubev popped up in the 56th minute to tie the scores. Overtime could not separate the teams, but Tim Heed potted the decider in a shoot-out to keep Spartak on the march.

Photo: 05.01.22. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Sibir (Novosibirsk Region) - Spartak (Moscow)

Fedorov’s OT trick pays off

CSKA Moscow 2 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 1 OT (0-0, 0-1, 1-0, 1-0)

Sergei Fedorov’s tactic of pulling his goalie in overtime has been one of the talking points of the KHL season — and came to international attention when Russia tried and failed to emulate it against Finland last month. Today, back at CSKA, Fedorov deployed it once more and reaped the rewards to seal a hard-earned win over Neftekhimik.

The visitor was missing one of its top defenseman, Lukas Klok, but played with no fear in Moscow. And Neftekhimik still had its scoring sensation Slava Leshchenko, who found the net in each of his first six games since joining the team. Six became seven late in the second period as Leshchenko put the visitor in front and the lead was backed up by the stats in a close-fought battle.

CSKA replied with a power play goal from Mikhail Grigorenko early in the second period. But there was still little to separate the teams and the game went deep into overtime before the Army Men took the win. Ivan Fedotov had already spent over a minute out of his net before Neftekhimik regained possession and forced the home team back to 3-on-3 play. But the goalie’s second spell on the bench, which totalled 1:40, produced the winning goal. Grigorenko and Nikita Nesterov did the probing, Lucas Wallmark applied the close-range finish with seven seconds left on the clock.

Photo: 05.01.22. KHL Championship 2021-2022. CSKA (Moscow) - Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)

Starchenko’s milestone sinks Magnitka

Barys Nur-Sultan 3 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2 (0-1, 2-1, 1-0)

Roman Starchenko, the popular and long-serving Barys forward, grabbed his 200th KHL goal to give his team victory over Metallurg. The win gives the Kazakhs a three-point lead over ninth-placed Amur and knocks Magnitka off the top of the table. Sadly, though, all the excitement took place behind closed doors as new COVID restrictions in Kazakhstan prevented spectators from coming to the big game.

Metallurg coped with the unusual silence better in the early stages and deservedly took the lead midway through the first period thanks to Andrei Chibisov. Home hopes were lifted by a strong showing on the power play late in that opening frame, and the second period saw Barys come into the game more effectively. Just after the midway point, Joe Morrow tied the scores and that triggered a cascade of goals. Brendan Leipsic immediately restored Metallurg’s lead but, just as quickly, Tomas Jurco made it 2-2.

Starchenko’s big moment came in the 54th minute. The 35-year-old forward, now serving as captain following Darren Dietz’s departure to CSKA, went coast-to-coast to grab a spectacular game-winner and make it two wins from two in 2022.

Zhafyarov’s double snaps Torpedo’s losing streak

HC Sochi 1 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 (1-0, 0-2, 0-0)

Torpedo came from behind to snap a four-game losing streak and rejuvenate its playoff prospects. However, with 10 games to play, the visitor remains in ninth place in the West, five points adrift of Dinamo Minsk. Sochi, 10 points further back, retains a theoretical chance of making the playoffs but would need an improbable run of form to end the season.

The home team got off to a great start thanks to Kirill Petkov’s goal in the second minute. However, Torpedo did not allow heads to drop, despite recent frustrating form, and went on to shade the play in the opening frame.

At the start of the second period there was no shortage of incident. Torpedo thought it had tied the game, only for a video review to rule that the puck did not cross the line. Five seconds later, Damir Zhafyarov’s redirect on Ivan Chekhovich’s shot left no doubt about whether the puck was in the net, but prompted new queries about the height of Zhafyarov’s stick. This time, the video verdict went Torpedo’s way tying the scores and helping Andy Miele, who had the second assist, to stretch his productive streak to a club record 11 games.

Midway through the game, Zhafyarov struck again, this time off an assist from Marek Hrivik. The video was not called for and that goal proved decisive.

Incident-paced win for Dinamo

Vityaz Moscow Region 3 Dinamo Minsk 4 SO (2-0, 1-1, 0-2, 0-0, 0-1)

Dinamo rallied from 0-2 to pick up another vital win in its push for the playoffs. Success in Podolsk maintains a five-point cushion for the eighth-placed Belarusians.

However, the Bison faced a battle to get the verdict today. Despite dominating much of the first period, the visitor went into the break down by two. Ilya Arkalov opened the scoring after 81 seconds — Dinamo further hindered by an unsuccessful review that cost a bench minor. That power play did not accrue, but midway through the opening frame, Valtteri Kemilainen doubled the lead on the home team’s second PP of the day. In between all that, Minsk found time to outshoot Vityaz 14-6 but could not beat Igor Saprykin.

That all changed early in the second when Libor Hudacek pulled one back. That’s the Slovak forward’s first of the season in the KHL after moving from Neftekhimik to Minsk via Lugano. Dinamo’s luck with the video review was not getting any better, though: midway through the second period the visitor was denied a tying goal when a check ruled that the puck had not crossed the line. Almost immediately, Vityaz made the most of its reprieve with a power play goal from Niko Ojamaki, who ties Teemu Hartikainen’s Finnish record of 28 goals in a KHL season.

Ojamaki’s scoring feats this term have often come in a losing cause, though, and today proved no exception. Hudacek’s second of the game got Dinamo back in contention and Artyom Demkov tied it up on the power play in the 48th minute. The visitor dominated the third period without finding a winner, then Vityaz had the better of overtime and almost repeated CSKA’s favorite trick from the extras, withdrawing goalie Igor Saprykin and eventually getting the puck in the net, only to find that the hooter had sounded and the goal was too late to count.

Thus an eventful game ended in a shoot-out and Demkov claimed the win for Dinamo.

Photo: 05.01.22. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Vityaz (Moscow Region) - Dinamo (Minsk)

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