All good things come to an end

3 November 2019

HC Sochi 2 Kunlun Red Star 0

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The Dragons began their record-breaking winning sequence with a 3-2 success at home to HC Sochi. A couple of weeks later, the teams met again beside the Black Sea. Both teams had a hot streak to protect; Red Star’s five-game series was up against a three-game winning run for Sochi.

There was some big team news ahead of the game, with Devante Smith-Pelly making to make his debut for Kunlun. The Stanley Cup-winning forward, who practised with the team for the first time yesterday, slotted into a line with Wojtek Wolski and in-form Andrew Miller as he made his first appearance of the season. There were also returns for Gilbert Brule and Vic Bartley, both available once again.

However, once into the action, it was two former Dragons who had the edge over our current roster. Forward Sean Collins was a star in Red Star’s first KHL season. After that, he moved on to Sochi and today he proved to be a difference maker in the first period. He opened the scoring in the 18th minute, forcing home the rebound after Simon Bertilsson’s point shot. Then, exactly two minutes later, his no-look feed set up Malte Stromwall for a power play goal to double the lead.

Much of the rest of the game was built around Ivan Nalimov. The Sochi goalie played for times for us last season but today he proved to be a formidable obstacle for his former club. His 19 saves secured Sochi’s second shut-out of the season as our offense struggled to break down a well-drilled defense. It wasn’t for want of trying: over the course of the game, we spent plenty of time on offense and mounted 58 attempts on Nalimov’s net. However, Sochi’s players managed to block 20 of them before they reached the goalie. For once, our guys came up against an opponent that could match our work rate and willingness to press the puck.

As a result, clear scoring chances were limited. Brule’s line with Spencer Foo and Cory Kane was the most active around Nalimov’s net but could not find a breakthrough. Even four power play chances in the third period could not provide a way back into the game for our guys. That long winning streak was coming to an end.

And with it, we reach the conclusion of our latest road trip comes to an end and the first part of our season. The team now gets a short break for the November internationals. But, while 25 games represent roughly one third of the regular season, we prefer to think of it as the first quarter of the campaign. After all, with the team just one point and one place outside the playoff spots – and with recent form showing that Red Star can mix it with anyone in this league – there’s every reason to hope that we’ll be extending the current campaign beyond the regular championship.

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