Oh Captain, my captain

8 October 2020

Traktor Chelyabinsk 4 Kunlun Red Star 2

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Luke Lockhart is the obvious choice to captain the Dragons this season. The 27-year-old is in his fourth season with the club – the longest serving current player on the team – and in that time he has grown and matured as a player. Last season’s 16 (13+3) points was something of a breakthrough for this forward and his development is set to benefit country as well as club as Luke moves towards eligibility for Team China thanks to his family heritage.

Today in Chelyabinsk, Lockhart played a true captain’s game. Luke had a hand in both our goals, scoring one and assisting the other. He wasn’t the only player to make a significant contribution. Ethan Werek also had two points, both assists, while Andrei Bakanov scored his first goal in the KHL.

Bakanov’s big moment came early in the second period after something of an air raid on the Traktor net. Lockhart fired the puck into the corner, where it looped up off the board. Werek helped it on its flight towards the slot and Bakanov got his stick off the ice to steer the disk past Roman Will. The 18-year-old, who played last season in the Ontario Hockey League, sent out a timely reminder of his qualities ahead of the second phase of the NHL draft, taking place later today.

Werek and Lockhart were also involved in the Dragons’ second goal of the game, early in the third. This time, Ethan’s pass from behind the net found Luke in space out in front. Despite taking the puck on his backhand and stumbling as he looked for the shooting lane, our captain still picked his spot over Will’s shoulder to record his second goal of the season.

Simon Hrubec also delivered a moment to remember, shutting the door on a late penalty shot from Vyacheslav Osnovin to deny the Traktor forward a hat-trick. But all that wasn’t enough to deliver a win for our guys. Two goals from Alexander Avtsin set Traktor on the way to victory, two more from Osnovin confirmed the result. Young defenseman Ilya Karpukhin had three assists.

But there were welcome signs. We saw the return of more players – Hunter Shinkaruk, Casey Wellman and the Foo brothers, Spencer and Parker, were back in action. Alexei Toropchenko, suspended for three games following his dismissal against Dynamo, was among the absentees. On defense, Sergei Gimayev rejoined the roster. Clearly, we’re still some way from a settled team as injury and illness continues to disrupt our line-up. However, the addition of more key players gives our coaching staff more options as we close the gap on the rest of the league and deliver and ever-more competitive team. Our next test comes in Minsk on Friday when we visit a revitalized Dinamo. It’s another tough task, but you can be sure our Dragons are ready to give it everything.

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