The last stop on this Lokomotiv appears to be a championship. Following their familiar playoff formula of stingy goaltending and timely scoring, Yaroslavl Lokomotiv continued to roll by defeating Ufa Yulayev 3-0 on Thursday to take a 1-0 series lead in the Russian Super League Finals. In doing so, Yaroslavl improved to 7-1 in its past eight playoff matches. The shutout also marked Lokomotiv’s third blanking in its past six playoff games, with all being authored by sophomore goalie Semen Varlamov.
Ufa began the game as passengers, allowing Lokomotiv to take a 1-0 lead just three minutes into the first period on a Zbynek Irgl tally. Playing on a line with Alexei Yashin, Irgl has by all accounts established himself as a dynamic offensive force as the playoffs have progressed.
Again catching Ufa weary out of the gate, Ivan Nepriayev scored just one minute into the second stanza to increase Yaroslavl’s lead to 2-0. The goal was Nepriayev’s third of the postseason and first in four games. Veteran centerman Alexei Kudashov, who in 1993-1994 scored his one and only NHL goal as a Maple Leaf, added an insurance marker with two minutes remaining in the second period to salt it. Neither team tallied in the third period.
Game 2 of the best of five finals is Saturday, April 5. While Yaroslavl’s series lead is certainly not insurmountable, Ufa’s mission for Saturday is clear: derail this Lokomotiv before its too late.