Battling Dragons downed by Yeryomenko

19 October 2019

Kunlun Red Star 1 Dynamo Moscow 2

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Despite a rousing performance in the third period, the Dragons once again failed to claim victory over Dynamo. A string of penalties at the start of the game put Red Star on the back foot but the guys recovered to tie the game thanks to Adam Cracknell’s third of the season. After that, it could have gone either way but visiting goalie Alexander Yeryomenko stood in Kunlun’s way, making 34 saves as his team snatched the points.

Curt Fraser handed a KHL debut to two defensemen, calling up Arturs Salija and Bobby Shea from the VHL. Salija, 27, had 14 games for KRS-BSU in that competition this season. The Latvian began his career within the Dinamo Riga system but never cracked the KHL there. His last three campaigns were played out in Slovakia.

Shea, meanwhile, returned to hockey after a year’s absence to join another Chinese VHL outfit, ORG. The 29-year-old American played the bulk of his career in the ECHL, helping Reading Royals win the Kelly Cup in 2013. This season he has 5 (2+3) points from 11 VHL games and was voted defenseman of the week at the end of September.

Whatever line-up the coach selects, though, it’s hard to execute a game plan when a team is short-handed. The early stages of this game were dominated by a string of penalties on KRS, culminating in an opening goal for Vadim Shipachyov in the eighth minute. Only then did the home team settle down, stay out of the box and start creating opportunities at the other end. A raid down the left by Brandon DeFazio threatened Alexander Yeryomenko’s net; the forward’s pass was heading for Jason Fram at the back door, but an awkward bounce prevented the defenseman getting his shot off.

It wasn’t long before Red Star got its first chance on the power play; Daniil Tarasov, who collected his first point of the season with a helper on Shipachyov’s goal, took a tripping call and the Dragons tied the game. Adam Cracknell got his third of the season with a shot from the top of the circle that took a deflection off Vyacheslav Kulyomin’s stick as it went past Yeryomenko.

There were still chances at the other end, with Dmitrij Jaskin hitting the bar, but the balance of the play was changing. Dynamo ran into further penalty troubles and the opening session ended with Red Star gaining momentum to take into the rest of the game.

The second period had a rather calmer start. Both teams clearly focused on discipline during the intermission and the flow of penalties dribbled away to nothing. Both goalies had to look sharp on occasion, with Yeryomenko making a double save to deny Mikael Tam and Jason Fram before Simon Hrubec made a firm pad save to halt Michal Cajkovsky after the Slovak international intercepted the puck and bore down on goal. For the most part, though, the teams generated pressure rather than genuine excitement around the nets. The Kunlun forecheck made it hard for Dynamo to get out of its zone, but did not produce many clear scoring chances.

That relative calm was broken early in the third period when Dynamo restored its lead. This time Kulyomin found the net at the right end, collecting a pass from Ivan Igumnov behind the net and firing home from between the hash marks.

The Dragons responded by raising their game and pouring forward to test Yeryomenko time and again. The veteran may be nearing the end of his career, but he showed just why he helped Dynamo win two Gagarin Cups with 15 saves before Hrubec was called to the bench in favor of an extra skater. The pressure intensified, with Dynamo calling a time-out of its own to calm some anxious nerves as Yeryomenko was left hanging on as the shots rained in. That regroup proved just enough to see the Blue-and-Whites over the line despite a brave Red Star performance.

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