Ak Bars Kazan made KHL history on home ice, upending the expected champion CSKA Moscow in only five games to win the 2018 Gagarin Cup, becoming the first team in the league’s decade-long history to win three titles (2008, 2009, 2018).
When CSKA stunned the dominant SKA Saint Petersburg in the Western finals, it was widely expected that there was no way that the giant-slayers from the Red Army could be stopped en route to the Cup. But it was Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s defensive-minded squad that held the Red Army to only six goals in five games, including a shutout from Emil Garipov in the finale, and losing just once in overtime. Canadian Rob Klinkhammer scored the only goal in game five early in the third period, and the Leopards held on for the tight victory. Fellow Canadian Justin Azevedo was named playoff MVP, notching 24 points in 19 games, while Garipov finished the playoffs with an astonishing 1.55 goals against average.
The Western teams of SKA and CSKA were so dominant in fact that of the roster that just won Olympic Gold in PyeongChang, all but two of the 25 players were from one of those squads, while the remaining two came from Magnitogorsk. So while none of the Kazan players are able to unify their Gagarin Cup with Olympic Gold from this year, there are still sixteen players from four nations that have also held the International Hockey Lineal Championship, including the aforementioned Garipov and Bilyaletdinov, along with other star players Andrei Markov, Anton Lander and Danis Zaripov, who wins his record fifth Cup. Russia will now have their stars from Ak Bars and CSKA available to the national team for the upcoming Sweden Hockey Games, the final tune-up before the World Championships begin May 4 in Denmark.
Our congratulations go out to the players, management and fans of Ak Bars Kazan, and those on the roster that have also held the IHLC:
|🇷🇺 Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, head coach
🇷🇺 Alexander Burmistrov, forward
🇷🇺 Emil Garipov, goaltender
🇷🇺 Anton Glinkin, forward
🇷🇺 Mikhail Glukhov, forward
🇸🇪 Anton Lander, forward
🇷🇺 Nikita Lyamkin, defence
🇷🇺 Andrei Markov, defence
|🇫🇮 Atte Ohtamaa, defence
🇷🇺 Andrei Popov, forward
🇨🇿 Jiří Sekáč, forward
🇷🇺 Alexander Sharychenkov, goaltender
🇷🇺 Mikhail Sidorov, defence
🇷🇺 Alexander Svitov, forward
🇷🇺 Vladimir Tkachyov, forward
🇷🇺 Danis Zaripov, forward