16 September 2021
Salavat Yulaev Ufa 5 Kunlun Red Star 1
Tyler Wong’s first goal of the season was the highlight of a difficult game for the Dragons. Not only is it great to see Wonger off the mark, but this was a great piece of play. It started with plenty of hard work in the corner to keep the pressure on the Ufa defense. Then Jason Fram got the puck on the blue line. His pass found Zach Yuen, who produced a lovely, instinctive feed behind his back, straight on to Wong’s stick for a one-timer that gave Alexander Sharychenkov no chance. The marker came seconds after Salavat potted its third of the night and served notice that the game might not be done.
In the event, it merely delayed the inevitable. A well-worked move from one end of the ice to the other ended with Pyotr Khokhryakov making it 4-1 before a tiring team ran into penalty trouble and allowed Sergei Shmelyov a goal on a double power play – much to the frustration of goalie Alexander Lazushin. The brief flicker of hope was fully extinguished.
It was perhaps no surprise that the final score got away from the Dragons. Up against the undefeated league leader and the most powerful offense in the KHL so far this season, Red Star had to work hard from the opening seconds to deprive Salavat Yulaev of a fast start. Our defense held firm as the home team poured forward in the opening exchanges, bravely blocking shots and doing everything to keep the goal intact.
Unfortunately, all that pressure takes its toll. Having ridden the early storm and reached a point where the team could anticipate getting through the first period unscathed and regrouping, that hard work was undermined by a defensive error. On this occasion, it was a loose clearance from Vic Bartley that went straight to Alexei Pustozyorov and enabled the youngster to race in on goal and open the scoring. It was a tough blow to take, but the guys still made it to the intermission with the game very much alive.
Early in the second, Ufa got a second when Shmelyov sent Nikolai Kulemin through on goal but subsequently the play was more even. After being outshot 12-2 in the opening frame, the second was 11-11 and our guys were asking questions of the home team. A bit more composure in front of goal, a chance on the power play, and maybe there was a way back into the game.
Sadly, it proved otherwise. The third period opened with a flurry of goal action – Vladislav Kartayev extending Salavat Yulaev’s lead, Wong getting us on the board then the home team taking the game away and sealing a sixth successive win this season. For the Dragons, the learning curve continues with a trip to Traktor on Saturday.