10 September 2021
Kunlun Red Star 5 Jokerit Helsinki 6
Say what you like about the Dragons, it’s never a dull watch. After trading 11 goals in our home opener against Dinamo Riga on Monday, we shared another 11 with Jokerit in game two in Mytishchi.
Another thrilling game saw Red Star come up narrowly short – but once again there were plenty of positives for Ivano Zanatta to take from proceedings as our guys produced plenty of offense and showed great character to take this game to the final seconds.
The season is underway, but the Dragons continue to recruit. Today’s acquisition was forward Yan Juncheng, also known as Eddie Yan. This 20-year-old Beijing native has played for China’s juniors, captaining the team at the World Championship Division IIA in 2020, and joins us after three years with the Victoria Grizzlies of the BC Hockey League. During those three seasons, Yan’s production has steadily increased and his most recent campaign saw him running at close to a point a game.
Yan was brought into the team for a debut against Jokerit, one of three changes. Jeremy Smith returned in goal ahead of Alexander Lazushin while Chris Seto was back on the team. Zhang Zesen and Colin Joe were absent this time.
Red Star got the lead inside the first five minutes thanks to a refusal to allow Jokerit to settle in possession. Jordan Schroeder thought he had plenty of time to clear his lines, but Brandon Yip hurried to close him down. Panicked, Schroeder attempted a no-look clearance and sent the puck straight to Cory Kane, who darted into the danger zone and beat Janne Juvonen from close range.
Midway through the first period, Red Star got its first power play of the game when Teemu Turunen sat for goalie interference. At first, things went well, with Kane having another good look. However, when Marko Anttila caught Jason Fram in possession on his own blue line, we were hit with a short-handed goal that tied the scores.
In truth, though, Jokerit had enjoyed the better of the first period and could feel somewhat unfortunate to be tied at the intermission. Prior to Anttila’s goal, Jeremy Smith made some good saves to deny John Norman, Markus Hannikainen and Alex Grant, and the visitor continued to press after getting its goal.
Early in the second, Jokerit got its reward. Philip Holm’s shot from the blue line went through a crowd in front of Smith’s net. But, almost immediately, a second short-handed goal of the night put the Dragons back on level terms. This time it started with Ethan Werek battling hard for possession on the boards. Greg Squires followed up that fight to take the puck away from the Finns and he advanced to shoot to the top shelf with Juvonen powerless.
An action-packed start to the session continued with Kalle Kossila restoring Jokerit’s lead after good work from debutant Otto Leskinen. Red Star was close to responding with another short-handed tally when Spencer Foo went clean through on Juvonen’s net, but this time the Finnish goalie had the answers.
So, at last, it was time for a power play to produce a goal at the right end. And, seven minutes into a breathless middle frame, Kunlun delivered. Yipper darted into the left-hand circle before dropping the puck off for Ryan Sproul to shoot from deep. Werek put up the screen on Juvonen and got the redirect to tie it up at 3-3.
Once again, though, Jokerit responded with Holm finding space wide on the right and firing through traffic to make it 3-4. Then, late in the frame, the lively Leskinen launched another raid and Turunen scored on the rebound to open a two-goal lead for the first time in the game.
Unfortunately, that advantage was too great for Kunlun to overcome in the third. Not for the want of trying, of course. Foo reduced the deficit on the power play, snaffling up a feed from Josh Nicholls to wrap up a well-worked passage of play that pulled the Jokerit defense all over the place to create the gap for the scoring chance. However, a power play at the other end gave Jokerit the chance to restore that two-goal cushion when Hannikainen stuffed home a rebound with three minutes to play.
There was still time to make it tense: playing 6-on-5 in the closing seconds, the Dragons reverting to a spot of old-school crashing the net and Yipper stuffed one in amid a flurry of limbs on the crease. That left just over one minute of six-on-five play to find a tying goal but even a final surge – and a brief altercation after the hooter – could not force this game into overtime.
The Dragons return to action on Saturday at home to Sochi. After 22 goals in two games, you know where to come for entertainment.