POST SEASON: Dinamo Riga is the only non-Russian team to have made the playoffs every season.
RIGA - With a 2-1 win away to Spartak, Dinamo Riga has clinched a place in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
Going into their final road game of the 2011/2012 season on Feb 17, the equation was simple for Pekka Rautakallio’s men: win and confirm their playoff berth with four games at home still to be played; lose and still face the possibility of being edged out of the top eight in the Western Conference by the team they were about to face off against.
In a game with so much riding on it, the Moscow-based club managed to strike first, going ahead 1-0 through Stefan Ruzicka in the seventh minute.
Dinamo Riga would recover from the early setback, scoring twice in the second period through Janis Sprukts in the 31st minute and Girts Ankipans in the 38th to ensure that their season will continue past the end of the this week.
In the four-year history of the KHL, the Baltic’s premier hockey franchise has made the playoffs every season – the only non-Russian club to achieve the feat.
After the North American based National Hockey League (NHL), the KHL is widely regarded as the strongest hockey league in the world.
Following their 4-2 loss to Atlant in their homecoming match at Arena Riga Sunday night, the men in maroon are sitting in seventh position in the Western Conference, three points clear of CSKA and eight points behind Severstal.
While it is unlikely that Dinamo Riga will drag in Severstal with three matches remaining (one of the three matches took place on Wednesday night against Sibir after The Baltic Times had gone to print), their focus will instead turn to remaining ahead of CSKA, which has played a game more than the Latvian club.
Should Dinamo Riga achieve their goal, it is likely that they will face Torpedo or Atlant in the first round of the playoffs.
Torpedo and Atlant are currently vying for second place in the Western Conference’s Tarasov Division, with 84 points apiece from 51 games. However, as it currently stands Torpedo will move through to the playoffs as the top team in the division on account of having won two more games in regular time.
If the regular season is anything to go on, Dinamo Riga would prefer to meet Torpedo in the first round of the playoffs.
When they first came up against the Nizhny Novgorod-based club on the road on October 27, the home team prevailed 3-2 in overtime. On the return game in Riga on January 24 Dinamo Riga evened the ledger with another overtime win, this time 5-4.
Dinamo Riga’s record against Atlant makes for less attractive reading. The Moscow-based club has won both of their regular season clashes against the Latvians.
Dropping down a position in the regular season standings to eighth is an unattractive proposition for Dinamo Riga, with their first round playoff opponent then like likely to be SKA – a team that Dinamo Riga only defeated on one occasion in their four regular season meetings.
Following Wednesday night’s game against Sibir, the Sandis Ozolins-captained side will end the regular season with games against Metallurg Novosibirsk on Friday and Amur on Sunday.