For the Astana based Barys team, every game against the Kazan, Russia based Ak Bars is a big event. The names of the two teams have almost the same meaning, Barys is a Kazakh white mountain leopard, the Ak Bars is the same leopard but the Tartar team emphasised “white” by adding “ak” in front, secondly the team logos resemble each other.
However, they are completely different teams on the sheets. Ak Bars is a well funded Continental Hockey League (KHL) team that has seen many victories big and small in its nearly 60 year history; it has taken the Gagarin Cup (the equivalent of the Stanley Cup) twice out of the five seasons played since the KHL was established in 2008. In the 2008 and 2009 seasons, it was a European Champions Cup 2007 winner and has taken many other trophies. Barys can’t boast having won any of these trophies, so far.
Another factor fueling the rivalry between Ak Bars and Barys is that in the first three KHL seasons, Ak Bars knocked Barys out in the first playoff rounds without losing a single game and so far, Barys hasn’t gone further than the first playoff knock out round in the post season.
The two teams have faced each other two dozen times in the KHL since 2008; Barys beat Ak Bars only at their 13th faceoff in 2010, they then lost five more games to Ak Bars. Barys only won four games against the Russian team, including the most recent game.
But that is in the past. Today, Barys is a different team, with a different game plan; it has demonstrated just that in its latest game against Ak Bars.
Mikhail Rakhmanov scored the first goal to give Barys an early advantage in the first period, his sixth of the season, but the home team did not need more than 10 minutes to catch up. After the first exchange of goals, both teams played a tight point game, which is good for Barys, a team that should avoid high score games against Ak Bars (last game they lost to Ak Bars 0:5) which they managed to do.
In the second period, a goal by former NHL star Nik Antropov put Kazan’s team in an inconvenient situation; they tried to even up the score but failed to do so. The Kazakh team also had the chance to score in two power plays but also failed. Barys successfully defended the lead and now is behind Ak Bars in the Western Conference rankings by only one point with a total of 85.