In theory, hockey is a simple game. Look after the puck, keep firing in the shots, get bodies between the opposition and your net, and you won’t go far wrong. Yet today, despite leading the way on most of the key stats, the Dragons found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-4 loss against a Severstal team that took its chances. The visitor also relied on some inspired goaltending from Dmitry Shugayev as he returned to the Mytishchi arena where he played junior hockey until 2018.
The form guide made optimistic reading ahead of this one. On the eve of the game, the Dragons made their first appearance this season in the KHL’s power rankings, an unofficial rating of who’s hot and (by implication), who’s not. That wasn’t a surprise to anyone following closely: December was the best month in franchise history, with 12 points from 9 games at a ratio of 1.33 per game. Ending the old year on a high, with back-to-back wins, meant there was plenty of anticipation ahead of our first meeting with Severstal this season.
Perhaps, though, there was also a need for caution to be read in the record books. After all, in eight previous meetings with the Steelmen, Red Star had managed just two victories, most recently in December 2017. And, unfortunately, that hoodoo struck again.
There was an early warning when Vladislav Provolnev hit the post in the first minute. At the other end, Gleb Shashkov and Cory Kane fashioned a couple of chances, but the opening goal went to Severstal midway through the first period when Shawn Lalonde’s point shot beat Dmitry Shikin, who was screened by Igor Geraskin.
That goal apart, the opening stanza was fairly even. But when Severstal got its first power play of the afternoon early in the second, Daniil Vovchenko doubled our problems. And midway through the session Joonas Nattinen made it 3-0 with a goal on the breakaway after Alexei Toropchenko came close to getting us on the scoreboard.
As always, even in adversity there was no lack of determination on our part. Captain Luke Lockhart led by example, smashing home a Jake Chelios feed to reduce the deficit. This was Luke’s 25th goal for KRS and he moves to second spot in club’s all-time goalscoring chart surpassing Gilbert Brule and Olli Palola. Locky’s predecessor as the team captain, Brandon Yip, sits comfortably on top with 45.
Visiting goalie Dmitry Shugayev then pulled off a double save to deny Hunter Shinkaruk and Ethan Werek, and he would go on to impress as the Dragons upped the pressure on a power play.
Cory Kane took no prisoners in his search for a goal, although his enthusiasm ultimately got him in trouble after hip-checking the visiting netminder and taking a minor penalty for his pains. That only got our alternate captain riled up, though, and on returning to the game he beat Shugayev by legitimate means, skating in to convert the rebound from Ryan Sproul’s shot and make it a one-goal game with almost five minutes to play.
But there would be no big fightback. Instead, Alexander Petunin put the game out of reach when he converted a penalty shot after Vojtech Mozik was called for tripping. Even a late power play and a spell of 6-on-4 action wasn’t enough to dislodge the opposition. Shugayev finished his day’s work with 42 saves – 24 of them in that frantic final frame – to secure Severstal’s win; Red Star will look to rise again on the back of that enterprising third-period performance.