|2009 Continental Hockey League (KHL)|
With a touching ceremony Avangard Omsk retired Alexei Cherepanov (New York Rangers)’s jersey in their first home game played after the Chekhov’s tragedy, against Belarusian KHL newcomer of Dinamo Minsk, on October 20th.
Before the match it was announced that for that game weren’t planned any commercial or musical interruptions, and Avangard distributed a commemorative free issue of their match program, completely dedicated to Alexei.
The commotion, on and off the ice, hit the peak when Alexander Svitov (Columbus Blue Jackets), team’s captain, with Anton Kuryanov and Alexander Popov, Alexei’s line mates, skated with the jersey to have it hanged on the Arena-Omsk roof. On the stands the fans raised a big banner, saying “It's so easy to imagine you as alive, that it's impossible to beleive in your death”. Many other similar banners have been raised not only in this game, but in all KHL arenas.
Avangard will wear for the whole season a jersey with the number 7 on the chest.
The game was played in a surreal, silent atmosphere. The guests scored the game’s first goal after just a couple of minutes with an harmless dump that Grahame dealt badly with. Rosa tied it up a few minutes later on a powerplay after a great pass by Jagr from the right side. The two goals charged a bit the crowd and it was indeed a very interesting match despite the sorrow spread all around.
In the second period Avangard scored the go-ahead goal with a quick shorthand counterattack by speedster Alexander Popov, just to be caught up by Minsk with a powerful slapshot by Andrei Spiridonov, at his first goal of the season. Three minutes later though a blue line shot by Nikita Nikitin (St. Louis Blues) ricochets against a defender and Klepis is free to score the 3-2 with an easy empty net touch.
Only twenty seconds into the third period Dinamo manages to tie the game again thanks to a superb shot by Ben Clymer that goes in top shelf in the left corner. Avangard though keeps on controlling the match, finding the game winner at fifty-second minute thanks to a Kuryanov shot deflected in by Minsk defender Andrei Antonov, the author of the first goal. In the last minutes of the game Dinamo tries the last card by benching Kostur, but the home team finds the fifth goal with a two-meters touch by Dmitri Pestunov (Phoenix Coyotes).
The sad night has been concluded by a touching, commemorative video displayed on the arena’s scoreboard, when many Avangard players could not hold back sobs and tears from their eyes.