28 November 2020 KHL, Kunlun Red Star, recap, Shikin, Sibir
A game-winning performance from Dmitry Shikin brought Red Star its first shut-out of the season. In-form Sibir peppered our net with shots, but Dima made 47 saves to win the game for the Dragons. That snaps a nine-game skid, and brings our visitor’s four-game hot streak to a juddering halt.
This game was also the start of our official link-up with the Movember fundraiser, which devotes the month of November to raising awareness and funds for men’s health issues. The campaign started more than 20 years ago, encouraging men to grow a moustache during the month – hence Movember – and has grown into a global phenomenon. It was particularly fitting that the Dragons launched their initiative at a game against Sibir; today’s opponent knows all too well the pain of losing a friend and colleague to cancer before his time. Last October, defenseman Samvel Mnatsyan lost his battle with cancer at the age of just 29.
On the ice, it was a clash between two teams in contrasting form. Sibir’s winning streak included an eye-catching 5-1 thrashing of CSKA in Moscow, while Kunlun was seeking its first victory of the month. Alexei Kovalev made few changes to the team that lost 2-4 against Amur last time out, bringing Viktor Baldayev back into the defense in place of Denis Osipov and rotating goalies to give Shikin the start ahead of Jeremy Smith.
The first period was overshadowed by an injury to our defenseman Sam Lofquist. Midway through the session he was on a trademark link-up with our offense, marauding behind the Sibir net. But he found himself in a three-way collision with team-mate Alexei Toropchenko and Sibir blue liner Yefim Gurkin, and had to be stretchered from the ice. There was no foul, it was a clean collision, but an awkward fall left Sam needing help from the medics.
That incident came as the Dragons were coming into the game, and the remainder of the first period saw our guys have two power plays. However, there was no opening goal, despite Red Star having the better of the stats.
The second period began with Kunlun enjoying a long spell of possession in the Sibir zone. However, there were few shots to give Harri Sateri problems during that spell. Slava Leshchenko changed all that, though, bursting through on the odd-man rush and dinging the crossbar with the Finn well beaten. At the other end, Shikin pulled off some big saves, the best of the bunch to deny Evgeny Chesalin and keep the teams deadlocked.
Then came Lev Starikov. Our rookie defenseman hadn’t previously troubled the scorers this season, but decided that it was time to show off his offensive capabilities. First, he got on the end of some great work from Viktor Baldayev, only to be denied by Sateri. Then, a few minutes later, the 20-year-old potted his first KHL goal. Casey Wellman sent the puck back to the blue line and the visiting defense expected Starikov to look for another pass. Instead, he surprised everyone by circling around the zone and slinging in a shot from the goalline. The puck flew behind Sateri, clipping the goalie’s shoulders on its way into the net and Red Star had the lead.
Late in the frame, that advantage might have been doubled. David Bondra was presented with a glorious chance but steered the puck wide of an open net just before the second intermission.
In the third, Sibir looked to raise its game and force an equalizer. The visitor piled on the pressure, getting 20 shots at Shikin as it battled in vain for a goal. At the other end, Red Star’s chances were limited, but there was an imaginative piece of play from Spencer Foo as he juggled the puck on the end of his stick before narrowly failing to steer a backhand shot past Sateri.
The final stages were tense. Defending that one-goal lead, Red Star twice found itself killing penalties and played much of the last two minutes with four men against six. But heroic goaltending and resilient defense – our guys blocked 18 shots in the game – kept the scoresheet blank and secured our first victory since Oct. 28 in St. Petersburg. Last time we snapped a long losing streak, we went on to win three in a row; on Sunday we can try to double up this success when we entertain Avangard.
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