''You are always welcome'': Minnikhanov’s goal and Chupin’s double help Tatarstan win against flyers form Philadelphia
A friendly match between the national squad of the Republic of Tatarstan and legends of American Philadelphia Flyers took place on 15 February in the Kazan Sports Palace. The game ended with a victory of the Tatarstan hockey players 7-6. Realnoe Vremya tells the details.
''Such meetings should be a common practice, you are always welcome''
Probably we should wait for a full house if the game were on a weekend. Spectators filled about a half of the stands of old Sports Palace. In such cases, it is usually said that real fans came, not spectators. There were people to look at: such famous players as Sergey Gimaev, Scott McPherson and Terry Carkner played for Philadelphia and such favourites of Kazan ice hockey as Aleksey Chupin and President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov as the Tatarstan team's captain performed for Tatarstan's national team.
After presenters entertained the fans as much as they could, the main characters appeared on the ice, and team captains Rustam Minnikhanov and Joe Watson delivered their welcome speeches. The Americans' captain recalled his youth as a player when he played against Russian hockey players: ''I am happy to be here, we have received a very warm welcome. I already played against the Russian team in the seventies, but they were not as friendly as during this game. We intend to continue our hockey relations with Tatarstan.''
Minnikhanov, in turn, stressed the current relationship of Russia and the USA having hoped for better relations, including in sport: ''Our countries are going through not the best relationship nowadays. Your visit is a serious step in the rapprochement between our countries. Sport, especially hockey, brings us together. Such meetings should be a common practice, you are always welcome.''
Time of unsuccessful penalty shots
The beginning of the match passed at a high pace. The teams not only defended but also attacked. Once the guest team's defenseman violated the rules. According to the rules, a penalty shot is awarded instead of additional two minutes. Tatarstan's national squad captain Rustam Minnikhanov approached the puck but he could not win the goaltender. The score opened soon – a puck appeared in the goal of the Tatarstan team, Lindsay Carson was its author. By the way, it was the first shot to Evgeny Mokeyev's goal.
Tatarstan players started to attack more furiously then. At times it was surprising how the puck did not reach the goal! Tatarstan's national team performed combinations, tried to shoot the puck. But it almost ended with the second missed goal. The host team committed a foul in their zone, but Joe Watson did not manage to make a penalty shot. We were lucky. In several minutes, Tatarstan players were lucky in attack – Philadelphia's goaltender lost the puck, and Pavel Terentiev shot it into almost empty net– 1-1.
Dangerous attacks of the Tatarstan squad did not stop, but the goalie cleared even Minnikhanov's penalty shots. The guest team could play in counter-attack, during one of them Philadelphia almost scored a goal, then it earned a penalty shot that Aleksander Semak did not perform — Mokeyev did not let the puck be in the net. However, Philadelphia held the lead by the end of the period — 1-2.
''I have seen the guy in the goal for the first time but he defends''
On the break after the first 20 minutes, hockey expert Sergey Gimaev noted the Tatarstan president's game: ''I had played against Rustam Minnikhanov. I know he trains a lot, he has a clean throw. He had many opportunities today. He has not scored a goal yet, but his partners are trying to let him attack.''
He also noted the game of the Tatarstan national squad and goaltender of his team Frédéric Cassivi. In his opinion, Tatarstan hockey players played full steam in the first 20 minutes: ''The teams are playing very well today. I don't think the Tatarstan team is playing to the max, it has a reserve. I have seen the guy in the goal for the first time. He is a cool goalie. Minnikhanov shot from very dangerous positions, but he defends. He will be substituted in a half-period. We will see what will happen then.''
The character of the game did not change in the second half – Tatarstan players shot the puck again and again but did not manage to score a goal. If in the first 20 minutes the guests created scoring chances, though not many, now the hosts closed Philadelphia in its zone in the first minutes. Aleksey Chupin who performed the role of a defenseman in this match was the driver of the Tatarstan team's attack. The host team players hit the crossbar of Frédéric Cassivi's goal. What everybody waited for happened in the middle of the second half: Minnikhanov finally scored a goal – 2-2.
Later, the American team's goal was awarded another penalty shot. Although Andrey Ryabov tried to do it but did not manage to win Oleg Romashkov who just appeared on the ice. Then the pace of the game decreased, which was likely to be linked with the age of the participants. Tatarstan's team continued keeping the rival in its zone, Philadelphia not only did not want to miss goals but also scored one. Jeff Chychrun performed a penalty shot – 2-3.
The teams had a rest on the second break, and the ice was renewed. This is why hockey promised to be hotter and faster. The expectations started to live up from the very beginning – as usual, Tatarstan players rushed to attack and were awarded a penalty shot. Although Evgeny Zakharov who tried to do everything nice in the style of Vladimir Trachev, Philadelphia's goaltender did his job.
Another penalty shot was awarded soon. It was performed by Chupin. The puck traitorously hit the crossbar. One could think of both mysticism and bewitched crossbars. As soon as such thoughts appeared, Andrey Pisarev levelled the score – 3-3. The game exploded and had quite a high pace. Philadelphia did not play only in defence. In one of the counter-attacks, Americans took the lead again — Al Secord went head-to-head and scored a goal within a minute, Andrey Nikolishin sent the fifth puck for his team to the goal of the Tatarstan team – 3-5.
Then the host team was very disappointed and even started to attack less. It could seem they lost their motivation. While performing another penalty shot, Evgeny Frolov simply could not shot the puck into the goal. But he rehabilitated almost immediately and gave hope for a successful outcome of the game. In several seconds of the playing time, Aleksey Chupun equalised the score – 5-5. It is how one can change the course of the game and get a psychological advantage.
When 4 minutes left till the end of the third period, Chupin scored his second goal, so the Tatarstan squad went ahead for the first time. It seemed it was the end: like Tatarstan sensationally won a victory, but then judges awarded the host team's goal a penalty shot. It was performed by Chase Watson. Although Tatarstan players tried to attack more and more, the regulation time ended in a tie 6-6. After-match penalty shots decided the outcome of the game. The Tatarstan squad was more successful there. Chupin can be confidently called the hero of the game. Despite the level of his rivals, he played quite confidently and successfully. As a result, he helped the Tatarstan team win. In general, the veterans looked pretty active. It is seen that many of them are still linked with hockey.
Sergey Gimaev hockey expert
''When I was offered to play, I immediately agreed: I train a lot and play. There was such a good opportunity to play. Moreover, I knew where we would go – Kazan, Petersburg, Moscow. It is always pleasant to come to Kazan. I adore this city. If there is an opportunity to come here, I always go.''
Dmitry Balmin former Ak Bars defenseman
''I am very glad to be in such a situation in this palace. In the 90s, we were champions of the country here. Today I played with the people we won the gold with. Unfortunately, not all of them managed to come due to their occupation. It is good that hockey was outside politics despite the situation between Russia and the USA. Personally, today's game is nostalgia. The rival team had very good players. For instance, I had a chance to play against Nikolishin and Semak.''
Hockey, friendly match
Kazan, 15 February, Sports Palace
Tatarstan Veterans — Philadelphia Flyers legends — 7-6 (1-2, 1-1, 4-3)
Goals: Carson (2', 0-1), Korotkin (10', 1-1), Zarybnicky (19', 1-2), Minnikhanov (30', 2-2), Chychrun (36', 2-3), Pisarev (44', 3-3), Secord (48', 3-4), Nikolishin (49', 3-5), Frolov (54', 4-5), Chupin (54', 5-5), Chupin (57', 6-5), Ch. Watson (59', 6-6), Bezrukov (victorious penalty shot).