Promising signs despite narrow loss

23 August 2019

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 Kunlun Red Star 2

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Game two of the Romazan Memorial Trophy brought another big test for our guys. Metallurg provided the opposition and a chance to test ourselves against one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference. Much like yesterday’s encounter with Traktor, this one went down to the wire. Although there was no repeat of Thursday’s victory, there were still plenty of encouraging signs.

Perhaps the most telling commentary on proceedings came from Metallurg head coach Josef Jandac. The hugely experienced Czech, who has led teams at the Olympics and World Championship, was impressed with what he saw from Kunlun on Friday.

“Today was more like a battle than a game,” he said. “Kunlun put us under a lot of pressure and played a strong forecheck. We had problems getting out of our zone at times and in the end we were lucky to get the win.”

That’s a tribute to the hardworking team ethos established by Curt Fraser, as well as the buy-in from the new Red Star roster. At times last season, we lacked the capacity to grind out games; today’s evidence suggests this may be changing at last.

But it’s not all about doing the ugly stuff. There were promising signs from our new forwards against Traktor, and more against the tournament host. Take a look at our opening goal, midway through the first period. Spencer Foo and Tyler Wong orchestrated a slick 2-on-1 break and Wong duly delivered his first goal for the club. Those two forwards are among several looking to establish themselves not just in the KHL, but also within the national team program as the season continues; the early signs are encouraging.

Metallurg, though, is always a tough opponent and it wheeled out the big guns to get back into this game. Sergei Mozyakin, inevitably, dug his team out of hole with the tying goal early in the second period before new signing Denis Parshin gave Magnitka the lead. That wasn’t the end of it, though. The game’s momentum changed hands repeatedly, with our press continuing to unsettle the opposition. Olli Palola got a deserved 2-2 goal midway through the third period and it looked like overtime – at least – might be on the cards for us once more.

That wasn’t to be. Teenage forward Nikita Rozhkov popped up in the last minute to get his first goal in senior hockey and give Metallurg a narrow win. But this was no disgrace for a team playing only its second game of the summer against powerful – and more polished – opposition.

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