Sometimes, hockey is a matter of millimeters. Today, that was the distance the puck travelled over the blue line in the 58th minute before Alexei Toropchenko dragged it back into the Avangard zone and launched a charge to Simon Hrubec’s net. Simi managed to block the initial shot but could do nothing as Tyler Wong forced home the rebound to tie the scores. A well-deserved point? Almost, but not quite. Instead, a video review spotted the offside and the Dragons were denied a shot at overtime.
It was a tough one to take at the end of a battling performance. Avangard arrived in Mytishchi seeking a fifth straight victory but, for long stretches of Sunday’s game, Red Star looked every bit the equal of the team that leads our division. Even in the first period, when the Hawks opened a 2-0 lead that was – just – enough to win the game, our guys looked capable of giving the high-flyers problems.
The early exchanges were even, but Avangard opened the scoring 10 minutes into the game. Jiri Sekac collected a Damir Sharipzyanov feed at the top of the circle and squeezed a shot through traffic into Jeremy Smith’s top corner. However, it was a familiar goalie at the other end of the ice who found himself facing some anxious moments. Simon Hrubec knows all about our forwards, and that knowledge gave him a chance to redeem an error by Ville Pokka as the Finn dithered next to his own net. Slava Leshchenko swooped in to steal the puck and picked out Luke Lockhart between the hash marks, but Hrubec beat our captain’s shot away.
Luke came even closer moments later, getting into a similar position and unleashing another thunderbolt. This time, though, the piping came to Simi’s rescue and Avangard remained in front. Even when Avangard extended its lead, the goal came following a spell of Red Star pressure. The visiting defense got a kind bounce after a shot slammed wide of the mark, and the Hawks sprang into action to send play up the ice. In our zone, a neat interchange bamboozled a defense scrambling back into position and Reid Boucher finished off the move to make it 2-0.
In the second period there were fewer shots on either goal, but once again Red Star was creating chances and pressing the visitor. That ultimately prompted a 5-on-3 power play and a goal clawed back thanks to Hunter Shinkaruk and Ethan Werek. With a two-man advantage, the Dragons overloaded the Avangard defense and when Hunter fired the puck across the face of the net, he had two targets to aim for. Werek got the decisive touch to beat Hrubec and put our guys right back in the game.
The final frame saw Kunlun working hard to find a tying goal. Andrej Sustr smashed a shot in Hrubec’s mask, Wong was denied on an odd-man rush and Parker Foo crashed the net without beating the Czech goalie. At the other end, Smith made a big save to deny Corban Knight late in the frame but the biggest moment of the game took place in front of the TV screens as Wong was denied that late goal. Even then, Leshchenko forced one more big stop out of Hrubec seconds before the hooter as our former team-mate proved too big of a barrier to our hopes of getting something from this game.