Fighting spirit and overtime woe

17 February 2019

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Red Star’s overtime frailties struck again as Amur edged a tight verdict despite a strong fightback from the Dragons. Despite going 2-0 down and, at times, having to withstand intense pressure from the host, our guys produced a resilient display to tie the game in the third period. Sadly, once again, the extras proved a step too far as we missed the chance to claim the win.

The least said about the early stages of this game, the better. Our guys made a sluggish start and trailed at the first intermission to an Artyom Zhelezkov goal. The second period was even tougher: Amur led 16-4 on shots and only some inspired goaltender from Tomi Karhunen, recalled for his first appearance since January 17, limited the host to a single extra marker from Alexander Gorshkov.

In the third period, at last, there was something to cheer. Brandon Yip got Red Star back into the game with a fine solo effort. Collecting the puck on his own blue line, he took matters into his own hands and advanced to the top of the right-hand circle before lazering a wrister off the underside of Marek Langhamer’s bar. The captain’s goal moves him to 19 for the season: only Chad Rau, two years ago, has scored more in a single Red Star campaign and, with three games left, a club record could be in the offing.

More immediately, overtime was in the offing. A Kunlun power play ended emphatically when Ville Lajunen smashed home a shot from a central position after a long spell of possession in the Amur zone. With 10 minutes to play and the game tied at 2-2, the Dragons looked capable of escaping defeat and punishing the host for its failure to turn pressure into goals during that one-sided second stanza.

However, an inability to win in overtime has been something of a bugbear for Red Star this season. Since downing Slovan on penalties back in September, our record after tying games has been miserable. Our preceding nine journeys beyond the 60-minute mark ended in nine losses, four in shoot-outs and five in overtime itself. This time, Karhunen managed to deny Tomas Zohorna and Jan Kolar in quick succession, but a third rebound fell to Danil Faizullin for the winner; 10 losses in the extras this season and today’s, like many before, coming as a sucker punch after battling back to salvage the game in regulation.

For head coach Curt Fraser, that battling spirit was the key positive from Saturday’s action. “We knew we were up against a hard-working team,” he said. “Although we fell back by two goals after two periods, I was proud of our team and the way we continued to compete and find a way to claw back into the game.”

With the current season coming to its end, Red Star plays it final road game here in Khabarovsk on Monday before returning to Beijing for the two remaining engagements of the campaign against Admiral and Barys.

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Kunlun Red Star