Known for his puck-handling, fiery attitude and full-ice, empty net attempts, Manitoba Moose goaltender Mikhail Berdin got his first taste of Kontinental Hockey League action on Wednesday, and surprisingly, it went rather plainly. Berdin’s SKA St. Petersburg teammates (to whom he has been loaned to from the Winnipeg Jets) battled Sibir Novosibirsk at the Ice Palace, ultimately losing 4-1 in a game that actually set a new league record.
Coming into Wednesday’s contest, SKA ran into some COVID-19 issues, with nearly half of the team testing positive – including many members of the coaching staff. Those with positive tests obviously sat out the game, while help was summoned from St. Petersburg’s junior affiliates SKA-Neva and SKA-1946. 10 players made their KHL debuts Wednesday, including that of Berdin.
St. Petersburg ended up losing the contest 4-1, with the always hungry backstop Berdin finishing with a .826 save percentage and a 4.00 goals against average. Although playing behind star Yaroslav Askarov, and veterans Magnus Hellberg and Alexander Samonov, Berdin is expected to see more action as the year progresses, especially considering his team’s position in its battle with COVID-19.
SKA is not the only team battling the coronavirus, as reports have indicated that Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (12 positives), Barys Astana (12 positives), Dinamo Riga (10 positives), Salavat Yulaev Ufa (three positives) and Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (unknown number of positives) each currently have a number of players locked down in quarantine. Not only is the future of certain league games in play, but the overall day-to-day operation of the league is certainly in question.
The following is an interview done by SKA with Berdin following Wednesday’s game, and translated into English via the team’s official website:
Could you have stopped any of the shots for Sibir’s four goals?
Yes, of course. I am not satisfied with my performance. Personally, I think that I am fully to blame for Sibir’s second and third goals. In truth, it was tough for me physically, I hadn’t played for a long time. Everything comes with experience, and I think I will improve in the coming matches. I only spent three or four training sessions with the team before this game.
Where did you travel to Saint Petersburg from?
I was with my family in Sochi. I had been training hard before I came to Saint Petersburg, so I had time to get back into shape. Nevertheless, it is always difficult when you don’t participate in official matches for a long time.
SKA had a young roster today with Roman Rotenberg on the bench.
Different situations occur during your career, I simply tried to focus on my own performance. I tried to help the team as much as possible. Regardless of age, everyone was wearing the SKA badge on their chest.
SKA already have a lot of goalkeepers in the squad.
I’m not thinking about that, I’ve come here to do my work. I am used to competition.
You haven’t played in Russia for a long time.
To be honest, I didn’t notice a big difference. Ice hockey is the same everywhere, especially when you consider that the rinks have become smaller here. The puck and sticks are the same. Do I want to score in the KHL? I haven’t thought about that.
When did you know that you were going to play today?