Three in a row

22 October 2020

Kunlun Red Star 6 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4

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What a difference a week can make. Last Wednesday, the Dragons were adrift at the foot of the KHL, without a win on the ice all season. Thursday brought the visit of Salavat Yulaev and a crucial, confidence boosting victory. And it was no flash in the pan. Today’s high-scoring encounter with Metallurg brought a third successive victory, each one against a serious opponent from the Eastern Conference. Slowly but surely, our faith in the work of everyone at the club is starting to pay off.

The Metallurg game also brought back an old friend. Goalie Artyom Zagidullin, who had a short spell with the Dragons during our first season, has returned to Magnitogorsk on loan from Calgary. And today’s game was his first since rejoining his first club.

Initially, it looked like he might enjoy himself. Igor Shvyryov gave Metallurg an early lead and the puck was in Dmitry Shikin’s net again a couple of minutes later. But, after an astute coach’s challenge, Grigory Dronov’s effort was ruled out for a foul on our goalie.

Alexei Kovalev’s appeal from the bench was a game-changer. At 0-2 inside five minutes, it would be easy for our team’s confidence to take a knock. Sure, back-to-back wins prior to today’s game did a huge amount for everyone’s self-belief, but the scars of that difficult start cannot be underestimated. But instead of a two-goal deficit, the decision went our way – and the uplift was almost like scoring a goal of our own.

Just to confirm that theory, the Dragons went and scored a goal of their own. Hunter Shinkaruk is in predatory form right now, amply living up to his name. Stalking his prey on the slot, he forced home a power play goal after Zagidulin denied first Trevor Murphy, then Casey Wellman.

Zag wasn’t the only former Dragon in this game, though, and Taylor Beck restored Metallurg’s lead with a power play goal early in the second. But after that, it was all about us in the second period. Spencer Foo tied it up on yet another power play before Jason Fram’s short-handed effort put us ahead midway through the game. Fram robbed Beck in center ice and beat Zagidulin in a one-on-one. Then came two goals in 90 seconds, Ethan Werek redirecting Tyler Wong’s shot before Sam Lofquist thumped home a one-timer. And that was the end of Zagidulin’s evening in the 38th minute.

A 5-2 lead should have made for a comfortable third period, but in the event, we faced a nervous finish. Earlier in the day, Jokerit clawed back a four-goal deficit to beat Barys and news of that epic encounter might have given Metallurg some hope during the second intermission. Certainly, the opposition came out for the final session ready to throw everything into the game. Quick goals midway through the frame from Yury Platonov and Harri Pesonen had nerves jangling among the Dragons. However, head coach Kovalev called a time-out, calmed everyone down and waited for his faith to be rewarded. In the 56th minute, it was. David Bondra followed up a shot from Ruslan Pedan and put the rebound past understudy goalie Gleb Nosov. The vital two-goal cushion left Metallurg with too much to do, and we closed out a third successive win.

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