Salavat Yulaev Ufa 5 Kunlun Red Star 4
After allowing three goals in 73 seconds early in this game, Red Star looked to be in for a long afternoon in Ufa. But hockey is a 60-minute game – and against Salavat Yulaev this season, it has often been a 65-minute battle. And Red Star used the remainder of its time wisely, producing a superb comeback to tie the scores despite trailing 0-4 midway through the second period. Two goals from Jason Fram led the way in a fine team performance before a late blow cost us a share of the spoils.
That late drama seemed a long way off in the early stages. Despite the Dragons’ bright start, Salavat Yulaev scored on its first power play when Sakari Manninen’s shot took a wicked deflection off Fram and deceived Jeremy Smith. Things quickly went from bad to worse: Danil Bashkirov doubled the lead almost immediately and the onslaught continued as Alexander Kadeikin added a third on 6:56. That led to Dmitry Shikin coming off the bench to replace Smith, a decision that our bench rarely resorts to but one that, on this occasion, was urgently needed to shake things up on the ice.
It almost had the desired impact straightaway: Salavat Yulaev took two penalties in quick succession, but an extended power play with a few seconds of 5-on-3 play in the middle did not yield that goal we needed to get back in contention. Not for the first time in recent games, we went to the intermission looking more than competitive on most of the stats … except the crucial one about scoring goals.
The second period started to unfold a similar story. Once again, there was plenty of work for Tarasov but, once again, an Ufa power play brought the next goal. This was a tough one to take, with Markus Granlund wrestling with Anton Lazarev behind the net before the puck emerged on to Kadeikin’s stick to make it 4-0. Shikin’s frustration was all too apparent: our goalie pulled off a fantastic diving save to deny Teemu Hartikainen earlier in the power play but was unable to get through the latest Ufa penalty unscathed.
That stop from Hartikainen – another highlight reel moment in a season that has not been short of them – proved something of an inspiration. Once back at full strength, the guys redoubled their efforts on offense and began to reap some deserved rewards at last. Late in the frame, two quick goals put Red Star on the scoreboard. First came Sean Collins, arriving at the back door to score after Hunter Shinkaruk’s shot was blocked. Then, proving that this was no mere consolation exercise, Spencer Foo reacted fastest to the rebound from a Ryan Sproul point shot, stuffing the puck home despite the attentions of two defensemen and the Salavat Yulaev goalie. On the home bench, it was Tomi Lamsa’s turn to look concerned about the turn of events.
Having pouched two goals in a minute late in the second, the Dragons were not going to let the momentum drop. Early in the third, Fram smashed home the loose puck after Lockhart and Foo battled hard on the slot. Home goalie Tarasov lay prone on the ice and Lamsa challenged the call, but the video review confirmed there was no contact with the goalie from our players and the goal was given.
Then came the pick of the bunch, with Fram getting his second of the game in fine style to tie the scores. Lazarev and Foo combined to open up the Ufa defense once more and Jason linked up with the forwards to collect Spencer’s drop pass to the left wing and fire an angled shot past Tarasov. Four goals in just under seven minutes – admittedly with an intermission in the middle – turned this game around completely and there was everything to play for in the closing stages.
However, the final blow went against us. Koledov delivered with his booming slapshot and Ufa regained the lead. This time, Salavat Yulaev held on to secure a nerve-jangling win. But after such a brave fightback, our guys could leave with their heads held high – all the more important after playing in front of some very special supporters.
During Saturday’s game, the Dragons enjoyed some vocal encouragement from the players and staff of the KRS Vanke Rays, our women’s team. They are in town for back-to-back Women’s Hockey League games against Agidel Ufa on Sunday and Monday – two match-ups that are likely to decide who takes top spot in the regular season WHL table. While the guys won’t be able to stay and return the favor as we travel home for our game against SKA on Monday, we’ll be following the girls closely as they gear up for their playoffs in defense of the championship they won last season.