25 December 2019
Kunlun Red Star 2 Dinamo Minsk 1
The Dragons delivered the perfect Christmas present on Wednesday with a disciplined performance bringing much-needed victory at home to Dinamo Minsk.
After two heavy losses in the previous home games – and a huge penalty count in the defeat to Torpedo – this was a welcome return to the controlled hockey that lifted the team into the playoff places earlier this month. For the first two periods, there was little to fault in Red Star’s performance: no goals allowed, no penalties taken and a 2-0 lead. Inevitably, Dinamo’s desperation helped it get back into the game in the third period, but Curt Fraser’s men were able to see out the win and finish the final home stand of 2019 on an encouraging note.
There were changes to the roster, with Jeremy Smith replacing Simon Hrubec in goal and Andrei Maximov making his KHL debut. The 27-year-old Russian forward has been playing VHL hockey in China for two-and-a-half seasons; today he took the place of Hu Yang and slotted into a fourth line that featured Gunars Skvorcovs and Brandon Magee, two other players recently called up from the second string. Luke Lockhart returned after serving a one-game ban.
After allowing 11 goals in its two previous games, Kunlun needed a good start to this one in order to boost the team’s confidence. And ever-reliable captain Brandon Yip duly obliged with a goal from the first power play of the game. Andrej Sustr fired in the point shot, Andrew Miller had the visiting defense stretched on the slot and the puck broke for Yip to shoot home in the sixth minute.
That heralded a period in which Red Star had the better of the game without ever completely stamping its authority on proceedings. Kunlun had more time on the attack and more shots at Danny Taylor’s net without extending its lead.
The second period saw the Dragons continue to have the edge, but it wasn’t until the final moments that the team got its reward with a second goal. This time it was Devante Smith-Pelly, reacting fastest to the rebound from a Jake Chelios effort and showing the props to outsmart Taylor in the visitor’s net.
Dinamo got on the scoresheet at last early in the third period when Andrei Kostitsyn decided to take matters into his own hands. The experienced forward collected the puck on Red Star blue line, swerved the attentions of one defenseman and lifted a wrister into the net from the top of the right-hand circle.
Thus encouraged, the Belarusians began to push forward in search of a tying goal. A power play midway through the third saw Smith on his mettle, denying recent signing Joe Morrow and watching with relief when a wicked deflection took a point shot wide of the far post. But the Dragons’ PK is none too shabby these days; the home team finished on the front foot and was soon enjoying a PP of its own after Alexander Pavlovich tripped Luke Lockhart in center ice as our forward looked to capitalize on a turnover.
Dinamo took the game to the Dragons in the final frame, outshooting Red Star 19-4, but our defense held on and secured a confidence-boosting victory ahead of the final road trip of the year.