7 August 2021
Vityaz Moscow Region 1 Kunlun Red Star 5
A day after battling to a tie in Podolsk, the Dragons were back in action against the same opponent – and today they were breathing fire. An impressive performance produced a dominant 5-1 victory in regulation, with two-goal Tyler Wong leading the way.
Alexei Kovalev, continuing as head coach prior to Ivano Zanatta’s arrival, used the same roster again, with only a couple of small tweaks to the lines. Vityaz, meanwhile, made bigger changes. Goalie Anton Todykov took over from Ilya Ezhov and there were six alterations to the skaters. Most notably, Daniel Audette debuted for his new club.
This game, though, was all about the Dragons. From the first whistle, our guys took the game to Vityaz. Within a minute, we were on the power play. The home survived that scare, but soon fell foul of the officials once again. This time, Red Star cashed in with Ryan Sproul stepping up from the blue line to find Wong on the doorstep for the opening goal.
Midway through the opening frame, Sproul was involved again to release Brandon Yip down the left channel to make it 2-0. That’s exactly the kind of finish we’ve been looking forward to seeing from our captain, who has clearly returned to the team in top form.
After the intermission, Vityaz hit back with a goal from defenseman Viktor Antipin, but that did little to disrupt Red Star’s progress. The home team had to kill a 3-on-5 situation when Vyacheslav Sapayev picked a fight with Luke Lockhart and went further behind once it returned to full strength. Alex Riche, a player who deserves a chance to prove himself after two seasons wrecked by injury and the pandemic, made it 3-1 with a close range finish after Spencer Foo’s shot was saved.
Early in the third, the Dragons put the game well beyond reach with two goals in a minute. First, Josh Nicholls skated clear of the home D before giving Todykov no chance from up close. Then Wong potted his second of the day, with a move so slick that the videographer in the Vityaz Arena was unable to keep up with it!
This time, the result was unambiguous. However, pre-season is all about preparation and both teams wanted to play a full five minutes of overtime and practice their penalty shots. The Dragons took the unusual decision to keep their defensemen on the bench throughout the five minutes of 3-on-3 extras – even after Greg Squires took a penalty and left us defending a 3-on-4 set-up. Our old friend Slava Leshchenko scored a consolation goal for Vityaz on that power play and the home team also took the honors in the shoot-out (although props to Yang Hu for his neat finish in the middle of all that). But that was very much the after-party: the serious business was all about a dominant Dragon display.