Jakub Klepis earned himself a place in Russian hockey folklore after his third period goal determined the 2012 Kontinental League Gagarin Cup title. The Czech forward kept his composure in the slot to score the only goal of the decisive seventh game of the final series, returning the championship to Moscow for the first time since 2005 and condemning hosts Avangard Omsk to an agonizing defeat by the narrowest of margins.
Today’s victory was the third in a row in the series for Dynamo, who battled from a 1-3 deficit to claim the title.
“I’m almost without emotion,” Dynamo coach Oleg Znarok told media after the game. “It’s a kind of emptiness and fatigue. I want to thank the players for the trust and character they showed right through the playoffs. It was all very difficult and tense, but we went step by step to our success and I’m happy that everything ended well.
“Even when it was 1-3 I had no doubts about these guys and I was confident we could still do it. That’s why I said it was only just starting, and I was right. We won because we were the better team. There’s no other way to succeed in sport.”
Klepis struck at 52:03 as the tension within a packed Arena Omsk was reaching fever pitch. The Dynamo player’s compatriot Marek Kvapil got free behind Karri Ramo’s goal and picked out Klepis unmarked in the slot. His first effort was blocked, but the rebound was kind and before Nikita Pivtsakin could reach him, Klepis was able to lift the puck over the sprawling goaltender to send Dynamo’s visiting fans into rapture.
That was far from the end of the action, however: Avangard threw everything forward in a desperate bid for an equalizer, and with less than 20 seconds to go Alexander Yeryomenko was called upon for his final save of the night, staying big in the crease to block a close-range effort from Alexander Frolov and end Avangard’s last hope of retrieving the game and the series.
In a series dominated by goaltenders – Yeryomenko was voted MVP after conceding just 10 goals in seven games – it was fitting that the final encounter was another low-scoring affair. But Dynamo might have grabbed the lead slightly earlier when presented with a 5-on-3 power play an 44:32. Despite holding a two-man advantage for 70 seconds, though, there was no way through the Avangard defense, even as the home crowd simmered with rage at the penalty call against Sergei Gusev following a big open-ice hit on Mikhail Anisin.
Earlier, despite the shortage of goals, there was plenty to keep the fans entertained. The first period brought plenty of goalmouth action. Dynamo’s best chance came at 7:30 when Filip Novak’s shot got away from Karri Ramo, but Denis Mosalyov couldn’t reach the loose puck before Pivtsakin sliced it out of the danger zone. At the other end, Alexander Popov almost ended the period on a high for Avangard, but Yeryomenko pulled off a stunning reaction save to pluck the puck from the top corner.
In the second period, after a slow start, Avangard began to take command of the game. The home team steadily tightened the screw around Yeryomenko’s goal but was unable to find a way through. But that pressure counted for little in the end after Klepis got the vital strike.
The title also means Oleg Znarok can add a winner’s medal to the runners-up award he picked up with MVD two years ago.