24 December 2019
Kunlun Red Star 1 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 4
The Dragons faced something of a crisis among its forwards going into this game. Not only was Gilbert Brule recovering from injury and unable to face his former club, Garet Hunt and Luke Lockhart were both suspended following the tempestuous conclusion to Saturday’s loss against Torpedo. For Hunt, this was the start of a five-game ban; our enforcer won’t be back in action until the New Year.
Challenges, of course, bring opportunities. Mikhail Plotnikov and Hu Yang joined up with the first team for their first KHL appearances of the season, having previously played in the VHL. For Plotnikov, it was his first KHL action since the 2017 playoffs when he played for Admiral; for Hu, captain of KRS-BSU in the second tier, it was a return to the Red Star line-up after two appearances here at the end of last season.
There was also a landmark moment for Gunars Skvorcovs, our Latvian forward. He’s made the step up from KRS-BSU in recent weeks and today he got his first goal for the Dragons. It came early in the second period when he deflected a Cory Kane shot beyond the reach of Jakub Kovar in the visitor’s net following a good break involving Devante Smith-Pelly and Vic Bartley. At that stage, with Avtomobilist pegged back to 2-1, there was every reason to hope that the game could be saved.
After all, the first period saw Red Star play at a good tempo and enjoy long spells where it dictated the play. Unfortunately, the chances went begging and the pace began to drop, making it easier for Avtomobilist to get a foothold in the game. As a result, it was 0-2 at the intermission following a breakaway goal from Dan Sexton and yet another tally from Artyom Gareyev. He’s not the most prolific of Avtomobilist’s forwards, but he clearly enjoys playing against Kunlun: this was the eighth goal he scored on us.
However, despite the boost of Skvorcovs goal early in the second, Red Star was unable to get back into this game. Brooks Macek restored Avto’s two-goal margin late in the middle frame and midway through the third, Geoff Platt completed the scoring.
This defeat, and Saturday’s before it, are all the more frustrating after the team produced so much good hockey in the previous weeks. It’s a reminder that the KHL is a relentless league and hockey at this level gives no opportunity to relax. Equally, though, there is little time to stew in the disappointment of a poor result; the Dragons are back in action on Wednesday with Dinamo Minsk coming to Beijing for the final game of 2019 in the Chinese capital. It’s not too late to put a little home victory on your Christmas wish list.
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