Torpedo Sweeps Series For First National Title

TOLYATTI, Central Russia -- Torpedo picked up where it left off Sunday, crushing top seed Lada 4-1 for a 3-0 series whitewash in the inaugural Russian Hockey League final series.

After Lada's 6-2 loss to Torpedo in Sunday's second game at Yaroslavl, Lada head coach Gennady Tsygurov admitted he had not prepared his players well enough to face their opponents. But, two days made absolutely no difference as Torpedo walked past Lada on a snowy Wednesday night in Tolyatti.

The home crowd's hopes that their team -- which lost a mere five games in the regular season -- would turn the series around on home ice were extinguished in the first nine minutes of play Wednesday night.

First, Dmitry Vlasenkov scored on a wraparound after 2:27, coming out from behind the net with no Lada defender in sight. Less than five minutes later, Alexei Vasilyev beat Tolyatti goalie Sergei Nikolayev with a slapshot from the point that made its way through at least three players.

By the end of the second period, Torpedo was ahead 4-0 thanks to a wonderful individual effort by Alexei Gorshkov, who flew by the Lada defensemen and beat Nikolayev with a slapshot to the upper left-hand corner of the net, and a less artistic effort from Alexei Traseyukh that somehow snuck past a prone Nikolayev.

The Lada fans, some of whom had been very vocal despite their team's play, soon fell silent, and a number left after the fourth Yaroslavl goal.

Sergei Shikhanov's third period goal for the home team was of little consolation.

The Torpedo team heads home to a deserved hero's welcome after winning the team's first-ever national championship. It is fitting that it beat both Moscow's Dinamo and Lada on its way to the title, as those two teams had between them won all four titles contested since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Afterwards, Tsygurov admitted that while his players were tired -- they had to play extra playoff games against Rubin and Metallurg Magnitogorsk -- they were also outworked and outhit by a more physical, younger Yaroslavl team.

With the exception of the first period of the first game in Yaroslavl, Torpedo was without a doubt the better team on the ice.

Torpedo did not lose any of its nine playoff games, conceding a miserly one goal a game in the process. The Yaroslavl team has a number of players 25 or younger, so if the team stays intact in the off season, it will be the front runner next season.

The St. Louis Blues clinched a playoff spot by beating the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 behind Grant Fuhr, who made 23 saves for his 20th career shutout.

Brett Hull, back after a groin injury, scored midway through the first period as St. Louis reached the postseason for the 18th consecutive year.

(For other results, see Scorecard.)