10 October 2021
Kunlun Red Star 2 CSKA Moscow 1
It’s amazing what a team can learn in a week. On Monday, CSKA proved too strong for us in a 4-1 win – albeit a less convincing success than the scoreline might suggest. Tonight, we showed how we’d studied the detail of that game and responded with a victory of our own in Mytishchi.
There were changes to the line-up, most notably a debut for new signing Cliff Pu. The 23-year-old Chinese heritage player was prolific in the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights and the Kingston Frontenacs and joins us after picking up 10 points in 16 AHL appearances last term. He joined Tyler Wong and Ethan Werek on our third line. In addition, Jeremy Smith returned between the piping and repaid Ivano Zanatta’s faith with 33 saves to frustrate the Army Men.
That gave the Dragons every chance to grab the win and, with three minutes to play, we took that chance. It started with CSKA’s Mikhail Grigorenko getting into trouble when he needed to make a simple clearance. Josh Nicholls stole the puck and sent it back to Ty Schultz on the blue line. Schultz found Cory Kane on the doorstep, but there was still plenty of work to be done to beat Ivan Fedotov in a close-up duel. The celebrations told their own story: this was a big goal, setting up a big win.
There was still drama to come, however. Immediately after we took the lead, a penalty on Nikita Khlystov invited CSKA to hit back. However, our defense showed great resilience to turn away the danger, killing the penalty and stymying the visitor’s late storm.
It all added up to a memorable finale. But long before that, the game started with a bang. CSKA took an early lead through defenseman Nikita Nesterov. However, there was never much to choose between the team and Red Star levelled it up on the first power play of the game. Tyler Wong was the scorer, although he may not have known much about the ricochet saw him deflect the rebound into the net after Fedotov blocked Alex Riche’s shot.
Subsequently, both teams created chances in a highly competitive game. Kunlun showed great discipline to stay out of the box, taking just two penalties all night and denying CSKA’s dangerous power play the chance to thrive.
Saturday’s win moves the Dragons off the foot of the Eastern Conference. Moreover, the team is just three points outside the playoff places in a congested championship table. We’ll be looking to close that gap further on Tuesday when we play our next game, away to in-form Dinamo Minsk.