Continental Cup Final day two
by Andy Potts|13 JAN 2024
Nomad forward Maxim Musorov threatens the Herning Blue Fox net during his team's 7-2 victory in the 2024 IIHF Continental Cup Final.
photo: © James Assinder
Nomad Astana clinched victory at the 2024 Continental Cup with a day to spare. The Kazakhs followed up Friday’s win over Cardiff with a 7-2 thrashing of Herning Blue Fox. Then, in Saturday evening’s game, GKS Katowice lost 2-3 to Cardiff Devils in a pulsating battle. As a result the Poles cannot catch Nomad, regardless of the result of Sunday’s game between the two teams. The Devils could match Nomad’s current six-point tally, but the Kazakh team has the advantage on the head-to-head.

Herning Blue Fox 2 Nomad Astana 7 (0-4, 1-2, 1-1)

Herning’s fans are fond of a chant to the tune of “Heaven is a Place on Earth”, but Nomad ensured that the opening moments of Saturday’s game were more inferno than paradise for the Danes. After scoring two quick goals to subdue Cardiff on Friday night, the Kazakhs potted three goals inside five minutes to take immediate control of this one.

Captain Alexandr Borissevich got things started with a shot from a negative angle that bounced off Valdemar Andersen’s shoulder and into the net. The Maxim Musorov exchanged passes with Nikolay Shulga, slicing the defence open before doubling the lead. Dinmukhamed Kaiyrzhan added a third and Herning called a time-out to discuss plan B for this game.

Tamirlan Gaitamirov, one of several Nomad players who comes with World Championship and KHL experience, agreed that fast starts were a big part of the team’s success here.

“I guess it’s a little more focus from the start, and maybe a few things going our way too,” said the one-time USHL defender. “But we’re here together as a team, we’re looking forward, we’re staying positive. Two games and two wins is great for us but that’s behind and we need to get together and win that last one against another good team.”

Whatever was discussed, it could not inspire an unlikely revival. However, it did at least stem the flow of Nomad goals. While the team from Astana continued to dominate, it wasn’t until a power play in the last minute that Stanislav Alexandrov added a fourth.

In the second period, Nomad still found it all too easy to move through the Danish defence. Artur Gatiyatkov did just that, walking in to beat Andersen for 5-0. Then Gaitamirov had a similarly unimpeded advance and Daniil Tsybin put away the rebound from his shot.

Herning finally had something to cheer midway through the game when Oskars Cibuliskis thundered a slap shot off the boards and saw it bounce into the net off Nikita Boyarkin’s back.

That had little impact on the final score. The teams traded two more goals in a bad-tempered third period, and Nomad’s Shulga missed a penalty shot late on. The big incident was the fight between Mathias Bau and Kirill Nikitin in the closing stages. 

GKS Katowice 2 Cardiff Devils 3 (1-2, 0-0, 1-1)

Saturday’s evening game saw the tournament host looking to bounce back from an opening night loss. Meanwhile, GKS Katowice knew that it had to take something from the game to keep its title hopes alive going into Sunday’s clash with Nomad.

Although the Devils no longer had any mathematical hope of winning the cup, there was the small matter of putting the record straight after a bruising first-night loss. GB international Ben Bowns got the start in goal ahead of Tyler Wall and quickly earned the approval of a partisan home crowd with an early save.

However, he was a virtual spectator for much of the first period as Cardiff dominated the play. There was a reward after six minutes when Cole Ully chased the puck into the corner, turned, and saw a path to the net open before him. Inspired, he went to the doorstep and beat John Murray to open the scoring.

Katowice's goalie admitted his team did not deliver in the first period. "We knew they were going to be a tough team to play," he said. "We knew what we were getting into and not everybody was up for the task at the beginning. We took a little time to get comfortable with the physicality of tonight's game."

Murray did well to keep Cardiff at bay in a first period where he faced 20 shots. However, the experienced Polish international was guilty of an uncharacteristic error to double the Devils’ lead. He came a long way out of his net to shovel the puck around the boards, but instead gifted possession to Jamie Arniel. He had the presence of mind to pick out Ryan Barrow in front of an open net, presenting his colleague with perhaps the simplest finish of his career.

There wasn’t much sign of Katowice’s offence in the opening frame, but in the 18th minute Kacper Macias launched a point shot that got past Bowns to bring the game – and the tournament – back to the boil.

A scoreless second period ramped up the tension but generated little in the way of scoring chances. However, the third brought plenty more drama. GKS drew level at 2-2 when Joonas Monto, the Poles’ leading scorer in domestic competition, got onto Hampus Olsson’s feed. A point would take the title race to the final day and the Polish fans responded by kicking up the volume another notch.

But a goal from nothing set the home support in full cry once again. Ully attempted a move and was caught up on his way to goal. As the puck flipped into the air, Cody Donaghey produced a magical piece of hand-eye coordination to bat it out of the air and past the startled Murray.

That restored Cardiff’s lead and reestablished Nomad’s grip on the prize. GKS battled until the hooter, but a couple of big saves from Bowns and a Polish effort that squeezed just the wrong side of the post ensured that the Devils took the win.

For Polish defender Jakub Wanacki, it was a tough way to finish. "As the game went on, we played better and better," he said. "It was an amazing atmosphere, a big emotional game and I want to thank our supporters. But at the end of the day we have nothing and that's a big pity for us."