Game 1 of Group D panned out well for our hometown team. They routed the hosts of the Bandy Cup tournament, 6-3. Despite of the fact that "the Devils", which is the nickname for a team from Sandviken, have lost some key players this year, this squad is always considered to be a tough nut to crack by any opponent. Especially, in our case. Still vivid are recollections of the two losses to SAIK in the Cup tournaments of 2017 and 2018, when both times our hometown team was eliminated in the semifinals.
SKA started off cautiously, but confidently by blocking off two key players from the SAIK line-up, Daniel Berlin and Erik Safstrom. On their part the SKA-Neftyanik players were building an offensive frontline to set a tone for the entire game. Finally, a dominating ball possession, passing skills and field control advantages came into fruition. Multiple scoring chances brought about a comfy 4-0 result by the 39th minute of the first half. Sandvikens were fighting back and sometimes successfully, but our hometown team took the reigns of the game and led it to a convincing win with no sweat, 6-3. Erik Pettersson tallied another hattie.
Game 2 against IFK Motala, a team with no great accomplishments in the internal Swedish championships ever, the 9th position in 2018-19 standings, turned out to be the toughest one for SKA-Neftyanik so far. The SKA head coach Mikhail Yuriev had been "cautiously optimistic", having predicted "no pleasure cruise" in the game against Motala and he proved to be right. The crux of the matter was the fact that SKA had played a very intensive and labor consuming game the night before against the home team, while Motala were as fresh as a cucumber and didn't require a beauty sleep.:)
They chose a simple success formula of entrenching themselves defensively in their D-zone to cuff and shackle all the attacking moves by SKA. This tactics almost led it up to the overtime shoot-out "toss-up", but eventually justice prevailed and our hometown team clipped Motala, 3-2. When Erik Pettersson, twice, and Maksim Ishkeldin found a seam in the net, there was some hope by the middle of a second halftime of SKA getting control and getting momentum to finish off the game without unnecessary worries. Never worked this way. Motala scored another one (3-2) and played their way to a penalty shot to beat the buzzer. This morning luck was played on our hometown side and a Swedish bandy player Hulthammar made a wide shot.
In Game 3 SKA was facing "a new kid on the block" of Swedish Elitserien, Frillesas BK. The year of 2019 is the first year for them among the cream of the crop of Swedish Bandy. Naturally, none of the experts predicted that the newcomers, who don't even have their own club ice arena, would introduce the manifest of a new bandy syntax. SKA dumped their opponents, 6-0. A SKA rookie Stanislav Turushev pampered his fans with two unassisted goals. Our hometown team won all three games in the Group D and is moving on up to the next round.