MINSK – Yunost Minsk has started successfully into the Continental Cup Super Final it hosts in the Belarusian capital. They defeated SønderjyskE Vojens 2-1.
Yunost had a strong first half of the game, but after jumping to a 2-0 lead, the almost 9,000 fans at Minsk Arena had to tremble at the end. The persistent Danes came back strong and they even had chances to get even.
“We knew from videos that they are a strong team, so we’re glad that our guys did the best and won this game. The first game is always hard,” Yunost coach Mikhail Zakharov said. “But I’m not satisfied that we gave them the opportunity to score a goal and get back to the game.”
Yunost lived up to its role as the favourite only in the beginning, when the Belarusians were the more active and the more skilled team.
SønderjyskE had a hard time keeping its opponents out of their zone and the Danes received several penalties for hooking or holding as they didn’t seem to be used to this level of rule enforcing.
Yunost, however, made little out of its six minutes of power play and the 13-5 shot-on-goal advantage in the first period. But eventually the hosts opened the scoring with 70 seconds left in the first period.
SønderjyskE goalie Alfie Michaud deflected Vladislav Klochkov’s shot from the side boards, but Sergei Zadelenov scored on the rebound.
The Danes had more puck possession in the middle stanza (17-17 shots on goal in the second and third periods), but the second goal of the game was also Yunost's. At 6:36, Yaroslav Chupris sent a long pass to the blueline and Alexander Kitarov finished off the breakaway with the 2-0 goal.
With 2:05 left in the second period, SønderjyskE brought the tension back into the game. Christoffer Kjærgaard skated around the net to score the 2-1 goal through traffic.
In a more even played third period, the Danes were close to tying up the score while Olexander Materukhin missed on a breakaway at the other end.
Coach Mario Simioni pulled his goalie with 72 seconds left and while Yunost was close to score into the empty net, the Danes were able to react with a counter-attack. Frederik Storm received the puck at the blueline without any opponent around him, but he missed this huge opportunity with 38 seconds left when he was alone in front of Yunost’s excellent Finnish goalkeeper Mika Oksa.
“We are very proud of our hockey team today. We played a really good game. In the first period the Minsk team definitely outplayed us and we were very nervous. We’re not used to play teams at that level,” SønderjyskE coach Mario Simioni said after the game.
“I think we showed too much respect and I told the guys ‘you can play with this team’ and in the end we had the chance to tie this game. We came here to be successful and to have a chance to win a tournament, and now we have to beat Salzburg.”
The Danish captain Kim Lykkeskov still believes in his team’s opportunities.
“All teams in this final are good teams, but we saw that we have a chance to beat them. We had good games against Salzburg and Rouen some years ago,” Lykkeskov said. “It’s a new day tomorrow and we need to be ready.”
SønderjyskE will play Red Bull Salzburg in the evening game while Yunost Minsk faces the Rouen Dragons at 15:00.