We recall Neftekhimik very rarely. Last season their results were disappointing, because of which we didn’t hear very much about this club at all. With the lack of information, there is excellent ground for rumours. In the mid-season, malicious talkers were proposing to sell the half of the roster and send the club into the Supreme League.
In the preseason, the squad of Vyacheslav Butsayev were only stronger than only the CSK of the Air Force from the Supreme Hockey League, and a month ago they were falling under the pressure of every opponent in the conference. Surprisingly, in three weeks the “wolves” rose from the bottom of the East straight into the playoff zone and turned into the most fearful force of the conference, setting a club record of nine consecutive wins. Vyacheslav Butsaev accepted the team when everything was lost, brought it to the end of the season and even extended the contract with Neftekhimik. Now, it seems, the bosses can be satisfied.
First, the Nizhnekamsk team defeated the strong Sibir, twice confidently sorted out the SKA and coped with the Amur in style. Afterwards, they took care of the powerful Ak Bars and finally on the November 4, Neftekhimik blew out CSKA on the second attempt!
Neftekhimik has changed, but Butsaev does not lose his head from such a series. After defeating Severstal (fifth in the series), he calmly remarked that the team was pleased with the result and continued to work. After defeating the Admiral, there was a conversation about character. Next were comments about self-confidence, well-coordinated defence. Even after the victory over CSKA, Butsaev reacted very calmly: “Let’s not focus on a series of victories. We won – well done. The guys felt a taste for victory, they are getting tuned from match to match, and we are grateful to them for doing everything we ask them to.”
First of all, Konstantin Barulin started to shine. Sometimes this goalkeeper gives a brilliant save of the times of the silver “Atlant-2011” and together with Alexander Sharychenkov, they successfully guard the “last frontier”.
In Tatarstan, they quickly recognised the cheater in Kerby Rychel, who arrived in Russia with substantial baggage of excess weight, and Andrei Nestrasil soon went to save Magnitogorsk for a lot of money. The departed were replaced by Jonas Englund and Jakub Berglund, who did not fit the club from Riga.
Butsaev has no superstars at his disposal, so the mentor requires every dedication and full observance of his ideas. Lapping and understanding of the coaching concept took two months. Even the first-round “Carolina” at the 2012 draft Ryan Murphy lost his Canadian gloss and goes on a fight along with the rest of the team. Stepan Zakharchuk received the captain’s badge, a place in the special brigade and changed beyond recognition. In 24 games, he earned just four minor penalties. Instead of splitting up his rivals, Stepan coaches the young, and under his influence, another talent began to emerge – Ziyat Paygin. After the first day of the regular season, the defender suddenly appeared in the top scorers, for the first time since playing for a sports school, having scored 1 + 2.
Nizhnekamsk counterattacks turned into a real nightmare for opponents. The main driving forces of the Nizhnekamsk attack were the guys from across the ocean. Matt White and Zach Mitchell quickly adapted to Russia and became the core of the first line. The first one mastered giving the last pass, and the second approached the role of the prime central forward. Together with the North Americans, Pavel Poryadin holds the best season of his career. This forward has got a great shot and quickly escapes the defenders.
The media component of Neftekhimik is in perfect order, simply because subscribers and fans hear all the details: interviews, photo reviews, infographics on the most important events.
Let’s continue watching them on October 12, when they will be visiting Moscow Dynamo. It won’t be the most pleasant test for the Muscovites.