For the second time in three days, the Dragons went down to defeat in Khabarovsk. After a battling 4-5 loss on Sunday, Red Star reshuffled the team but could not find a winning formula. Among the key changes, Hunter Shinkaruk missed out and Slava Leshchenko returned to the team while Parker Foo took the place of Tyler Wong. That necessitated a widespread switching of the attacking lines in search of a partnership that can score consistently.
There were positive signs in the first period. The game was evenly poised, chances came and the two goalies, Dmitry Shikin and the Tigers’ Evgeny Alikin, were kept busy. However, the promise of our start was undone midway through the session when a defensive error gifted Amur the lead. Attempting to pass the puck behind the net, Jason Fram misjudged his angles and unwittingly fed Alexander Sharov. The home forward reacted quickly, stuffing the puck into the net off Shikin’s skate.
Two goals in seven seconds at the start of the first period took the game decisively away from the Dragons. Sharov got his second of the evening, arriving at the back door to score after Vladimir Mikhasyonok attacked on the wraparound. Then, right from the face-off, Amur won possession, Valery Vasilyev sent Vladimir Butuzov into our zone and his pass was rifled home by Dmitry Lugin.
From that point on, it was always going to be an uphill struggle – despite the fact that Red Star always had more than its fair share of the play in the first 40 minutes. Frustrations began to bubble over: Slava Leshchenko and Hynek Zohorna had a robust exchange of opinions midway through the second period and proved to be merely the undercard to a full-on fight between Spencer Foo and Hynek’s brother, Tomas. Sad to say, the Czech forward edged that one on a knock-down. Some days, nothing goes right.
Some consolation came late in the game. Vasilyev was ejected from the game for boarding and the resultant power play saw the Dragons get a goal back. Leshchenko was the scorer, shooting home after Ivan Nikolishin’s shot was directed into his path. That’s Slava’s fifth goal since joining us in November, and it made for livelier finish than seemed likely at the start of the third period. Another Kunlun power play with 92 seconds on the clock enabled us to end the game playing 6-on-4 in the quest for an improbable comeback. Despite a flurry of shots on Evgeny Alikin’s net, though, it was not to be and at the hooter passions rose once again as Ethan Werek came to close to another fight with Amur’s Nikita Kamalov.
Despite the disappointing scoreline, it’s worth noting that the Dragons dominated many of the stats. More shots on goal, more time on the attack, significantly fewer penalties. Unfortunately, a couple of lapses in concentration let the team down and led to another defeat. So far, 2021 has been a tough slog for our guys but the journey continues and the team is back in action on Thursday with a trip to Sibir.