30 October 2019
The Dragons are flying! Tuesday’s 3-1 victory in Riga makes it four wins in a row for Red Star, matching the club’s best ever sequence in the KHL. You have to go back to the early days of the 2017/18 campaign for the only other time the team has managed this feat. And the positives don’t end there: today’s victory puts us just one point behind eighth-placed Neftekhimik and we have a game in hand on the team from Nizhnekamsk.
It was a win built on clinical offense and solid game management. Taking chances early on put Kunlun in control of the game, staying out of the box kept the guys on top. In the third period, when Riga might have expected to push forward in a bid to save the game, Red Star calmly closed the door, stifling the home offense and creating the bulk of the chances to close out an impressive victory.
A fast start has been a hallmark of our recent games and so it proved once again here. With three minutes gone, Ryan Sproul calmly skated out of his zone with the puck. Two Dinamo players collided and the counter-attack was on. Sproul fed Trevor Murphy between the hash marks and his shot was deflected onto Ethan Werek’s stick. Werek needed no second invitation, slotting the puck past Alexander Salak from a tight angle to open the scoring. Sproul collected his first point for the club with his assist.
Midway through the first period, Adam Cracknell doubled the lead with a goal he created for himself. First, he put the pressure on Sergei Gimayev, forcing the defenseman into an error in his own zone. Then, after Nerijus Alisauskas failed to control the loose puck, Cracknell swept it up and rounded Salak for the second goal.
Gradually the Latvians began to get into the game and there was a reward for their efforts at the end of the first period. Kristaps Sotnieks fired in a shot from the point and a deflection took it away from Simon Hrubec and over the line.
The second period began with Dinamo applying the pressure, but Hrubec and his defense held firm. At the other end, Werek fashioned a good chance for Garet Hunt to get his first goal in the KHL, only for Salak to close the door. Seconds later it was Hrubec on top of his game to pluck a Lauris Darzins effort out of the sky.
Hrubec was the busier of the two goalies in the second period, though, as Dinamo raised its game and created a few alarming moments around our net. However, not even a power play chance could show the Latvians the way to goal and we reached the second intermission with our 2-1 lead intact.
At the other end, Salak was fortunate not to be retrieving a third puck from his net early in the third period. Adam Cracknell’s shot was pushed out to the hash marks where David Bondra was waiting to fire in the rebound. However, the Slovak international clipped the crossbar with his effort and Riga was reprieved.
That didn’t last long, though. Salak dithered behind his net as Dinamo luxuriated in a power play chance and Werek raced in to steal the puck. Instead of attempting the tricky wraparound, our forward had the composure to pick out Luke Lockhart who gleefully fired into an empty net to make it 3-1 and claimed Red Star’s first short-handed goal of the season.
With 10 minutes to play, it was time to show some game management and Red Star closed out the win admirably. Once again, it was an evening where the stats offered plenty to encourage our team – from the final scoreline to just the two minor penalties taken in the game. We move on to Nizhny Novgorod in search of a new club record of five successive victories and with hopes of breaking into the top eight.