“You have to keep aiming high!” – Participants in the 8th Gazprom Neft Cup look back on the Super Final
The Tournament’s Super Final ended with a narrow 1:0 victory for CSKA over Ak Bars. Immediately after the final horn sounded gloom descended on one end of the ice and a carnival on the other. But before long the boys were exchanging heartfelt congratulations at the awards ceremony, because there are no losers in the Tournament, only winners!
Ivan Vasilyev, Ak Bars forward:
— We did some serious preparation for the last game — stayed disciplined and didn’t fuss over small matters — we could all think only of the match. But CSKA is a very strong team and we knew who we were up against. There were no special tactics in the end, it was all about just playing and going forward to score. At first we tried to play a defensive game and then ratchet up the pressure but it didn’t play out like this. One error in such a game can ruin everything, and that’s how it went.
Nikita Malygin, Ak Bars defender:
— We went out to play with the right attitude, thought we’d score over and over. But as everyone saw, our attacking game didn’t come together at all, while CSKA played equally well in attack as defence. After we conceded that goal our coach told us not to lose heart, to get serious and get stuck in. We did our best but we were gutted after the final horn went. The only thing that comforts us is that we still have the title of the best team in the East Group!
Dmitrii Kasutin, CSKA forward:
— It was a bit tough after the flight but our coach really got us ready for the game, told us to rest up, not to run around and to focus only on the match ahead. When we woke up this morning we could think of nothing else, although there were some nerves too, that’s only to be expected. We couldn’t wait to get on the ice and start playing. There was an incredible atmosphere at the game, we all felt it and felt charged from the sheer energy in the stands. A big stadium, lots of spectators, it was fantastic!
Ivan Zhigalov, CSKA goalkeeper:
— Everybody played really well, defended the goal and got right behind the puck. And our tactics were right, everyone threw themselves into attack and then pulled back in defence. Big thanks go to the players of Ak Bars who fought to the very last, they are a really strong team, and I’m happy we won in such an all or nothing game.
Lenar Vildanov, Ak Bars head coach:
— I am pleased with my boys, they did everything we had planned. But going up against CSKA is a thankless business so we just tried to keep them tied down. We had three or four good chances on goal and should have scored at least once, but that’s how it goes in children’s hockey. We put a lot of energy into it and some of our players got a bit sick. There was also no time at the tail-end of the game to change keepers, we tried but the game kept returning to our zone. We are proud of our boys though, they are all from one city but play for the whole Moscow region. This was a great Tournament too. We were a bit thin in attack unlike CSKA, who steamrollered their way up and down the rink. In the end we won 2:1 in the semi-final and went down 1:0 in the Final. But the second place is also an excellent result. That last game will give us plenty to think about and will boost our work in future.
Valeriy Cherniy, CSKA head coach:
— It was a hard-fought Tournament and the Final game all the more so. The responsibility of defending our title weighed heavily too. We knew that Ak Bars plays a solid defensive game but we didn’t adopt any special tactics. That’s not how we play, we try to keep a tight defence with rapid switches into the opponents’ zone to play very actively in attack, to pressure hard and shoot more. Hockey is a team sport, some of the boys played better than others on the day, but everyone did their bit towards this victory — you won’t get anywhere alone. The Tournament was very useful for the kids as well as a huge festival for them. Today they won but tomorrow we must get back to work, aim high again and then we might really see something from these lads.