AK BARS 1, TRAKTOR 2
Practically everyone in the hockey community thought Ak Bars would strike back, answering a 1-3 loss to Traktor in the first match of the series with a win. As it turns out, everyone can sometimes be wrong. Traktor defeated Ak Bars 2-1 last night, showing that the have no doubts or reservations in their ability to take on and beat their redoubtable opponent.
From the start, the Kazan side came out aggressively, literally fretting and fuming, forcing Traktor to defend devilishly. Only thanks to their goal keeper, Traktor was able to keep Ak Bars scoreless in the first period. Traktor’s own counterattacks were harmless, clearly showing their strategy was to stay even and fend off Ak Bars’ offense.
The second period portended to be a joyous herald for Kazan fans. Current leader of Ak Bars Danis Zaripov instilled hope in heats across Tatarstan, capitalizing on an opportunity made when two Chelyabinsk players were sent off with a goal. At this point, it seemed that Traktor would need a miracle to save the match, and to their credit, the team proved that miracles do happen. Andrei Popov scored an equalizer for the Chelyabinsk side just before the end of the second period, providing fans of both teams with food for thought during the break.
Unfortunately for Ak Bars, the third period demonstrated just how cruel destiny can be. Just as they began to increase pressure, a silly mistake by a defender cost Ak Bars, as Evgeny Kuznetsov capitalized, sending the puck into the back of the net. The Kazan side was now in the unenviable position of being down 1-2 with only fifteen minutes to go. Credit must be given to the Traktor defense, which didn’t let Ak Bars create any dangerous moments for the next 10 minutes. Ak Bars tried desperately to score, and in the last five minutes of the match they had several opportunities that they couldn’t connect on.
Once again, Ak Bars has lost, on a night when nothing seemed to go right, putting them down two matches to none in the series. Even so, the Tatarstan team still has a home series coming up, where they will hopefully pull things together.
The next match will be played in Kazan’s Tatneft Arena on 18 March.