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12 Apr, 2009 15:52

And the winner is… Ak Bars!!!

Ak Bars of Kazan have clinched the first KHL title in history by beating Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the 7th and decisive game of the final series.

After regular season winners, Salavat Yulaev, were knocked out in their last 16 series against Avangard, the Kazan side were regarded as the first pretenders for the Gagarin Cup title. However, the other finalist, Lokomotiv of Yaroslavl, were one of the sides that had consistently matched up well against Kazan. Both teams crashed quite easily into the finals.

And the first ever Gagarin Cup final satisfied all expectations. Before Sunday’s clash in Kazan, the best-of-seven series was tied up at three apiece, and no one could say for sure which side would grab the cup.

As expected, the final game turned out to be a low-scoring encounter.

With both sides aware just one mistake could prove costly, play began at a high-tempo, and the few chances that did arise came on power plays.

But even then, the AK Bars and Loko netminders were in no mood to give anything away.

There would be only one goal – and it wouldn’t come until the midway through the final period. Andrey Pevyshin fired the shot and Kazan captain Aleksey Morozov scored on the rebound – to give AK bars a 1-0 lead.

With less than a minute to go, Lokomotiv sacrificed their goalie as they tried to force the game into overtime. But the hosts held firm in the dying seconds to win the match, the series, and the entire inaugural KHL season.

And straight after the victory ceremony, the AK Bars players celebrated by finding out just exactly how much champagne the Gagarin Cup could hold.

”We are happy to lift the trophy. We’ve finally achieved our main goal of the season. Our entire play-off series was very hard, mainly because of the multiple injuries the players had to overcome. But all the guys did an excellent job and survived. And now we are the champions and it’s incredible,” Aleksey Morozov said.

Congratulations, Kazan!!!