Kunlun Red Star 4 HC Sochi 2
The number 88 takes on a special resonance in Chinese culture during the Spring Festival. Why? Well, the Chinese symbol for happiness closely resembles the digit 8, so it’s easy to read ‘double eight’ as ‘double happiness’. In honor of this tradition, KRS reduced ticket prices to 88 rubles for Tuesday’s home game against Sochi – and Vojtech Mozik provided plenty of happiness with a goal double (plus an assist for good measure). That, in turn, completed the double over Sochi this season after our 4-3 success beside the Black Sea in December. And Kunlun enjoyed double victories for the first time in 2021, following on from last week’s success in Helsinki with another win here.
Not many people would have picked out Mozik as the man to pace the scoring in this game. Up to now in his Red Star career, his defensive contribution has been more important than his offensive role. However, the big Czech always has points in his repertoire: in his previous KHL play with Vityaz he was close to 0.5 per game and he rattled along at a third of a point in two AHL seasons with the Albany Devils. Today’s three-point haul represented a 50 percent boost in his scoring production this season but is far from unprecedented in his career.
However, students of Chinese culture will also be familiar with the concept of yin and yang, the balance of two opposing forces. Thus, before the success of victory, Red Star had to deal with its share of misfortune. Today, that arrived in the seventh minute when Sochi opened the scoring. Our defense found itself overstretched and Daniil Miromanov had a straightforward task to smash the puck beyond Jeremy Smith’s despairing dive. Yin-yang, despair-delight, struggle-success.
The opening goal was somewhat against the run of play, and the Dragons deservedly drew level late in the frame. Spencer Foo sent the puck back to Mozik on the blue line and his shot flew through traffic to tie the scores. Initially, the goal was credited to Tyler Wong, and his contribution deserves acknowledgement. Wonger’s presence on the slot unsettled the defense and screened goalie Ivan Kulbakov as the shot found its target.
Having played his part in tying the scores, Wong went close to putting Kunlun ahead early in the second period. His first attempt cannoned back off the boards and bounced onto the crease; a second effort was blocked by a relieved Kulbakov.
However, Red Star was in the ascendancy and the second period was going our way. Mozik’s good afternoon continued when he scored the Dragons’ second goal, putting us in front in the 35th minute. But while the defenseman’s finish was emphatic, check out the lovely little ‘through-the-legs’ feed from Anton Lazarev to send him through on goal. Ethan Werek’s drop pass at the start of the play was none too shabby either. Definitely a goal to look out for on the highlight reels this week.
That was just the start of a flurry of goals at the end of the middle frame. A Sochi power play gave our visitor the initiative once more and a neat passing move presented Vasily Glotov with a shooting chance similar to Miromanov’s and he produced a similar result.
But Mozik’s day was not over. Another KRS power play encouraged the defenseman to get forward yet again and he continued to torment the Sochi rearguard. This time he got the puck to the slot where Ethan Werek held off the attentions of Rafael Batyrshin and stuffed it home from close range to restore Red Star’s lead just before the second intermission.
In the third period, Sochi was unable to mount the kind of charge that might be expected from a team hoping to save the game. Instead, Red Star continued to enjoy the better of the play and pressed forward in search of more goals rather than sitting back to defend the lead. That enterprise was rewarded in the final seconds when Ryan Sproul scored into the empty net with a shot from his own goal line; Ivan Nikolishin picked up his second assist of the game after regaining possession deep in our zone.