For the first time this season, the Vanke Rays went into overtime after Biryusa ground out a 1-1 draw over 60 minutes. The Lady Dragons were frustrated by inspired goaltending from Darya Gredzen, who followed up yesterday’s impressive performance with 33 saves in regulation to earn the visitor a point.
However, in the extras the Rays quickly found the answer, needing just 20 seconds for Alex Carpenter and Megan Bozek to engineer an opening for Jessica Wong to get beyond the Biryusa defense and snatch the game-winner. That extends the girls’ winning streak to three games and lifts the team to 35 points, five adrift of table-topping Agidel but still with four games in hand on the leader. It also takes us seven clear of fourth-placed Tornado, who lost 2-1 at home to Dynamo Neva in Saturday’s earlier game.
Biryusa is not generally ranked as one of the top teams in Russian women’s hockey, but the Krasnoyarsk club has a history of getting results against the Rays. Last season, the girls from central Siberia were our first opponents in the WHL and left Shenzhen with back-to-back victories. Those losses were avenged by our championship-bound team later in the season, but yesterday’s game – a hard-earned 4-2 win – served as a reminder that Alexander Verednikov’s playoff chasing outfit was a serious test.
And so it proved again today. For all the Rays’ dominance – more shots, more possession, more time in the attacking third – it was a struggle to beat Gredzen. The 16-year-old is still learning her trade, and this is only her second season in senior hockey, but on the evidence of her two games in Stupino, she looks like a star in the making.
Her excellence kept Biryusa in this game and it wasn’t until the end of the second period that the Vanke Rays broke the deadlock. Hannah Miller brought play into the Biryusa zone but was closed down by the defense. KRS recycled the puck, with Lindsay Agnew setting up Melanie Jue for a point shot. By this time, Miller had moved to the slot, where she applied the redirect. Given that the Lady Dragons led the shot count by 24-9 at the second intermission, it’s fair to say a 1-0 was the least their efforts deserved.
However, midway through the third period, Biryusa tied the scores. Valeriya Pavlova, a goalscorer in Friday’s game between these teams, went behind the net and got away from Jessica Wong. She fed the puck back to Sofiya Lifatova who in turn set up Elena Larshina for a shot from the blue line. Kimberly Newell made the initial save but a scrimmage in front of the net ended with Ekaterina Dobrodeyeva stuffing the puck home.
That was enough to take the game to overtime, with Biryusa more competitive in the third period. But Wong’s winner in the extras keeps the Vanke Rays bandwagon rolling on. Next up, it’s a double header against second-placed SKIF next week with the girls in the mood to avenge a 1-0 loss in Nizhny Novgorod last year and keep closing on the league leader.