Big fightback falls just short

13 October 2020

Spartak Moscow 6 Kunlun Red Star 4

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As a club, Red Star has quite a habit of signing sons of famous fathers. Our current roster includes David Bondra, son of Slovak hockey legend Peter, and Jake Chelios, whose father, Chris, is an IIHF Hall of Famer. Today, another famous name went onto the list – Igor Larionov.

Veteran hockey fans might recall ‘the Professor’, a legendary forward who won it all: three Stanley Cups, two Olympics and four World Championships. He also played alongside our head coach, Alexei Kovalev, at the 2002 Olympics. Now his son, Igor Junior, is on our roster, ready to take his first steps at the top level. The 22-year-old debuted at Spartak this evening, having played the bulk of his career to date in North America.

Larionov wasn’t the only youngster on the roster. German Shaporev returned to the team after being cut in recent games and the teenager had something of a point to prove after his impressive early season form raised expectations around him.

And so we went into the game at Spartak in bullish mood. That carried into a bright start and within minutes we were up on a power play goal. Hunter Shinkaruk was the architect, surging forward and slinging the puck into the danger where Ethan Werek scored at the back door. For only the second time this season, the Dragons scored first in a game. And we almost had a second when Spencer Foo saw his shot bounce off the post to safety. Was Spartak already reeling?

Not quite. The home team steadied its nerves and scored three goals in five minutes to take control of the game, Ilya Talaluyev getting two of them and Dmitry Shikin leaving the game early as Simon Hrubec took over between the piping. That lead jumped to 5-1 by the midway stage, and it looked like another miserable evening was in store.

But, as we’ve seen so often this season, our guys will not let adversity halt their game. A 1-5 deficit should be too great to contemplate clawing back, but a brave effort had home nerves jangling when, with over a minute to play, we had it back to a one-goal game. Jason Fram started the long haul back into the game, smashing the puck into the roof of Mikhail Trushkov’s net.

It got better. Midway through the third, Sam Lofquist followed up a Werek shot and stuffed home the rebound to make it 5-3. Then came the storm, and captain Luke Lockhart scored his second in three games, again from close range, to make it 4-5 with 66 seconds on the clock. Spartak, on a losing streak ahead of this game, had every cause to be nervous as the Dragons were finishing strongly. However, the comeback fell away at the last when, with Hrubec again called to the bench to allow an extra attacker on the ice, Spartak won possession and Mikhail Yunkov fired into the empty net.

Once again, we came up just short on the night. But once again, we showed that the gap between our team and the rest of the league is nothing like as insurmountable as some sections of the hockey media might suggest.

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