Kunlun Red Star 1 Dynamo Moscow 5
A long and difficult season came to an end with another defeat as the efforts of the past few months caught up with our guys. Battling against the odds for so much of the 2020/2021 campaign has been a draining experience and it is perhaps hardly surprising that the final week saw the Dragons slip to a series of rather tame losses. After going down 0-3 against Barys on Thursday, the guys at least managed a goal in front of a 1,300-strong crowd at our last game in Mytishchi. But Dynamo, limbering up for its playoff campaign, was always fresher and faster than our team on the day and eased to a convincing victory.
That’s not to say there weren’t some positives. Gleb Shashkov got his second goal in three games, taking the 24-year-old to four goal and eight points in the most productive season of his career so far. Dmitry Shikin once again produced over 40 saves in a game and could hardly be faulted for the goals that Dynamo scored. And, perhaps most significantly of all, as a team and as an organization, the Dragons came through the toughest year of their history intact. Sure, results on the ice have not been what we wished for, but a year ago, with our team living out of suitcases as it tried to finish last season in the first, frightening days of the pandemic, it was difficult to imagine that we would even be on the ice this term.
As for the game, Dynamo arrived in search of the win that would guarantee third place in the Western Conference and Russian Championship bronze medals. It’s worth pointing out that, in terms of points won, the Blue-and-Whites have the second best record in the West, but SKA claims second in the table by virtue of winning its division while Dynamo trails CSKA. The visitor duly poured forward from the start, and went in front in the eighth minute when Andrei Mironov’s pass from deep in his own zone split our defense and released Ivan Igumnov for a one-on-one with Shikin.
Red Star’s response was swift: Shashkov forced home an Andrej Sustr feed from close range and, despite a bench challenge from Dynamo, there was no evidence of a foul on Ivan Bocharov and the goal stood. But the visitor enjoyed the better of the first period and was unfortunate not to score late in the opening frame as the puck bounced dangerously around Dmitry Shikin’s crease. However, early in the second, the visitor did regain the initiative after killing the remains of a penalty. Vyacheslav Kulyomins’ precise pass created a perfect shooting lane for Alexander Kucheryavenko to fire past Shikin.
Our goalie was given an impossible task on that play but pulled off a string of big saves in the following minutes to keep the score at 2-1. The pressure intensified to the point where Alexei Kovalev had to call a time-out and give his team a chance to regroup. However, it did little to slow the visitor’s progress and Dynamo forced a third goal through Daniil Tarasov midway through the game. This, too, was awarded after a review: Shikin did brilliantly to get his glove to the shot after stopping two previous efforts, but the video showed that his hand was behind the line when he caught the puck.
Up by two, Dynamo had the game all but wrapped up. The third period saw the visitor extend its lead with goals from Michal Cajkovsky and record-breaking forward Dmitrij Jaskin as our campaign drifted to its end. However, despite all the frustrations of a tough year in the KHL, everyone at the club understands that the hard work starts now to prepare for 2021/22 – Olympic year – and the construction of a team that can build on the hard-won experience of the past 12 months and reach the level we are hoping to see.