Agidel Ufa wraps up Russian regular season title

For the first time since 2000, the regular season champions will not be SKIF or Tornado. But there’s one final hurdle Agidel must face: the playoffs.

With a 5-4 win against Arktik Universitet in Ukhta,  officially wrapped up the top spot for the inaugural Russian women’s hockey playoff, clinching the regular season title with two games to spare.

The win lifted the side from Bashkortostan to 11 points ahead of second-place Dynamo St. Petersburg, whose regular season was done, and 13 ahead of third-place Tornado Moscow Oblast, who have four games remaining.

The Ufa side have been nothing short of dominant, and it’s a breath of fresh air: either Tornado or SKIF Nizhny Novgorod have won every domestic title in the 21st century (with SKIF winning nine in Moscow before moving to Nizhny Novgorod, where they’ve won two more) and all but one domestic title overall (Spartak-Mercury Yekaterinburg, now defunct, won the 2000 title).

Agidel has lit the lamp like nobody’s business, with their 97 goals ranking 17 ahead of the second-best offensive team in the league, Tornado. Star forward Olga Sosina is leading the league in scoring again with 43 points in 22 games, while Slovakian import talent Nicol Čupková has proven to be an excellent sidekick to take some of the load off of Sosina with 34 points of her own for third in the league.

They also have the league’s top scoring defender in Anna Shibanova, who posted 18 points in 22 games. And to put the cherry on top, goalie Anna Prugova leads the league with 5 shutouts and a 1.27 goals against average, and ranks second in save percentage with a .944 that’s slightly behind Valeriya Merkusheva of Dynamo (.952).

But now, Agidel faces a test that no other Russian women’s team has faced: a two-round playoff. This is the first season in Russian women’s hockey history that the top flight champion will be determined in a postseason tournament. And the other three playoff teams - Dynamo, Tornado, and (barring a collapse by them and an amazing surge by Biryusa, 11 points back with 4 games left) SKIF - will be hungry to take down these titans. Can Agidel bring the title out of the Tornado/SKIF duopoly? Will that duopoly remain unchanged? Or could Dynamo shock everyone and take the trophy home? We’ll find the answers next month in the first Russian women’s playoff.