SKA players have come back home from the road trip with the wins in Arkhangelsk, 4-1, and Ulyanovsk, 8-7, and are having a refreshing break. The bandy players are going back practicing on the ice on the 20th of December. In the meantime, our club's website has taken an interview with a SKA head coach.
"Mikhail Yurievich, let's start from the end. The very last game against Volga caused a lot of commotion amongst our fans. Why was the victory in Ulyanovsk against one of the basement dwellers such a Herculean task?"
Honestly, I don't buy such a reaction to the game. Every team has its' ups and downs. We slightly went off the beaten track, but we won in the end. We finished up the opposing team having only one back-up player for the entire game. Isn't it something!? Yes, we had some problems tuning up to it from the start, trailing behind for quite a while. Please, don''t underestimate our rivals. Ulyanovsk Volga having a solid core was so motivated. They didn't plan for another gut-punch loss in the game against the current Russian bandy champion. Every team would bend over backwards to hand a loss to or earn a point against a reigning champ....especially, the one at the bottom of the current standings.
".....however, what influenced the team, or a combination of factors, that resulted in such team dynamics?"
Let me start off from the fact that in Arkhangelsk we played shorthanded for almost the entire game and were physically drained. The rivalry turned out to be so energy-consuming. My boys sustained many injuries and let me remind you all over again, that we have been playing "short-benched" for about two months, having one or two back-up players on the roster to sub up for those out on the ice. We were afraid to be physically needing an extra player to complete the line-up of eleven. That was almost happening in Ulyanovsk, I mean having just one sub for 11 players, we could easily have found ourselves in a tight spot, fractionally presenting the team on the field. We decided to sit our rookies Max Plotnikov and Sergey Skopintsev out for the game, due to an intensive catching up mode and instant response format. The stakes were too high to let it slide with some weak links in the chain.
" Was there a chance that you simply underrated Volga?"
I don't think so. We considered all necessary precautions and broke down the opponents game tactics and strategy. We were simply overtired. Keeping that in mind we canceled the ice time the day prior to the game. Ice condition was way different from what we got used to, to put mildly. Volga played well floated crosses and saucer passes, whereas we were sticking to low delivery and drilled feeds. It was very unusual to have a ball bouncing here and there, that made us make mistakes in ball-handling and passing. It took us quite long to start shooting a ball mid and long range. No, we didn't sell Volga players short, in no way. We were bushed and that's the fact. Let's recollect the game in Arkhangelsk against Vodnik. Don't you remember their coaches kept saying that the team was immobilized by fatigue after the game in Krasnoyarsk? Yes, they owned up to the SKA superiority a bit, but tiredness was named as the main factor of the loss, accompanied with an "unforgettable" layover in Moscow. We have had a "pleasure" of making stopovers in the capital three times this year by now.
"What made you take a timeout in the 16th minute?"
Frankly, I wanted to take it earlier in the game for making adjustments, as the team seemed to be turned off.
"In your opinion, what was the key moment in the game?"
I can't say definitely which one or if it ever was. One situation followed the next one, body checking all the time, counterattacking non-stop...we should have cut off the rival players by fine passing execution, but failed to do so due to low speed performance.
"Did Volga surprise you in anyway?"
No, I haven't noticed some drastic changes to what we experienced before playing against them last seasons. All what happened to our team in the game was caused by extremely inside-the-team issues and none else.
(to be continued)