Even before this game began, our club had some very welcome news. Following a review by the local authorities in the Moscow Region, fans are allowed back into the arena for the Dragons’ remaining home games of the season. After weeks of playing in an empty Arena Mytishchi, where the swish of the skates and the shouts from the bench reverberate eerily around the building, it’s going to be a huge relief for everyone to get back to doing out thing in front of an audience. True, at present we can only sell 20% of the available capacity to allow for adequate social distancing, but emerging from a pandemic means taking one step at a time.
Of course, being able to sell tickets once again – and they’re available for Thursday’s game against Neftekhimik from tomorrow, Jan. 20, on this very website – also brings a new challenge: putting in performances that will inspire people to come and watch. Pressure? We prefer to think of it as motivation.
In the first period, the Dragons absorbed plenty of pressure from Amur. The visitor spent almost three times as long on the attack and outshot us 17-7. But the only goal went to Red Star, late in the frame, when Ivan Nikolishin converted our first power play of the game.
However, Amur also has plenty to play for. The Tigers still hope to get into playoff contention and knew that only victory here would suffice. Our visitor kept plugging away, refusing to allow the Dragons to settle into any kind of rhythm in the second period, and got a reward when Michal Jordan scored from close range to tie the game in the 33rd minute off a feed from Alexander Gorshkov. Curiously, although the game was far more even than in the first period – and Red Star had more opportunities including an effort off the post from Tyler Wong – Gorshkov’s goal was the only marker in the second session.
The Dragons’ power play did its job again at the start of the third. Jason Fram’s shot from the top of the left-hand circle flew in and out of the net off the in-goal camera, but the on-ice officials saw exactly what happened and immediately awarded the goal, just seconds before Alexander Polunin was due to return to the ice. Midway through the frame, another power play chance handed us the initiative once more, and Vojtech Mozik banged in two dangerous point shots without beating Evgeny Alikin in the Amur net.
Again, though, the visitor hit back. The ever-dangerous Gorshkov’s delightful flick pass between his own legs wrongfooted our defense and when a shot crashed back to him off the boards, he fired in the puck and scored via Dmitry Shikin’s back. Red Star challenged the call, but to no avail. That took the play into overtime, with the Tigers starting on the power play after Ethan Werek took a minor on the hooter. Red Star survived that but fell in the final seconds when Denis Golubev’s solo effort settled the outcome in the visitor’s favor.
However, the point from Tuesday’s game moves Red Star level with Neftekhimik at the foot of the table – and the two teams meet on Thursday in a basement battle in Mytishchi … this time with fans in attendance.