28 April 2021
Today’s game in Balashikha wrapped up the Gagarin Cup final. Avangard beat CSKA 1-0, and claimed a 4-2 victory in the series. That means that the KHL’s top trophy, and with it the title of Champion of Russia, goes to former Dragon Simon Hrubec.
The Czech goalie joined us in 2019 and immediately established himself as a key player on the team alongside his American colleague Jeremy Smith. They split the game time equally and after almost every game they earned plaudits from team-mates, fans and coaches.
In total, Simon played 32 games that season, winning 12 and enjoying two shut-outs. He stopped 93.2% of shots for a GAA of 2.19, so it was no surprise that he was the first player to be offered a contract extension for 2020/21.
The new season was much tougher than before. Hrubec played 10 more games for us, winning just one. But what a win it was: at the end of October he made 42 saves in St. Petersburg, guiding the team to a historic 2-1 victory over SKA – our first ever against that opponent.
With title-chasing Avangard not entirely convinced by its goaltending, it made sense for the Hawks to look elsewhere. Hrubec caught the eye and the offer was too good to refuse – both for our club, and for the goalie himself, who deservedly got a chance to take his game to a whole new level.
He grasped that chance with both hands, and we congratulate him from the bottom of our Dragon hearts. Not least because he did it in a manner never before seen in the KHL.
There have been several occasions where the Gagarin Cup final has been decided with a shut-out: three times before we saw a 1-0 victory in the decisive encounter, and once more we saw a 2-0 verdict. But we never saw a goalie pull off back-to-back blanks to win the trophy.
Just imagine: an even battle, worthy of any final. Two teams matching each other every step of the way. Then, with the series locked at 2-2, Hrubec suddenly decides: “OK, the party’s over – let’s get this job done”. After that, 120 minutes and 51 shots could not produce another goal on the Czech, and Avangard lifted the cup.
We can’t speak for everyone, but from out point of view our ex-Dragon was the driving force behind this long-awaited Avangard triumph. And we are sincerely happy for the goalie, who 18 months earlier arrived in Eurasia’s strongest hockey league.
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