Home and away

11 October 2021

This week brings two games with an international flavor, with a trip to Belarus on Tuesday before the Dragons entertain Kazakhstan’s Barys on Friday. There are new faces available, with defenseman Denis Osipov rejoining the club last week at the same time as Cliff Pu, who made his Red Star debut in the home win over CSKA. That result briefly lifted our team off the foot of the Eastern Conference and keeps us in touch with the playoff places. It’s a tight table and at present just four points separate us from seventh-placed Barys.

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Dinamo Minsk (away, Oct. 12)

Last season: The Belarusians had the edge in both encounters last season, but it was close each time. In Minsk, the Dragons went down 0-2, then on home ice we lost in a shoot-out after goals from Hunter Shinkaruk and Slava Leshchenko earned a 2-2 tie in regulation.

Familiar faces: It’s time for our latest reunion with Taylor Beck. The Canadian played 60 games for us between 2017 and 2019, scoring 13 goals and 22 assists. Subsequently, his KHL travels have taken him to Avangard, Metallurg and now Minsk. Newly-recruited Dragon Denis Osipov could make his second debut for Red Star against one of his former clubs.

Background: Dinamo Minsk is a team in form right now. Craig Woodcroft’s men are on a six-game tear, scoring 24 goals in that run. And while the fixture list has undoubtedly help – the opposition on that series has included the relatively modest tests of Amur, Neftekhimik (twice) and HC Sochi – there’s also the not inconsiderable matter of an overtime win at Ak Bars to consider.

It adds up to a rise to fourth in the Western Conference – heady territory for the Bison – although they owe Red Star some thanks for that placing: our victory over CSKA on Saturday kept the Army Men down in fifth as Dinamo kept up its winning run. Players to watch out for include rising star Ilya Usov – the 20-year-old has 6 (3+3) points in the past five games. That puts him on 10 points for the season, up with the team’s scoring leaders Taylor Beck, Tyler Graovac, Mario Kempe and defenseman Lukas Bengtsson.

Barys (home, Oct. 15)

Last season: Our four meetings with Barys last term earned just one point for the Dragons. That came on home ice in December, when a Hunter Shinkaruk goal and 39 saves from Jeremy Smith took us to overtime.

Familiar faces: None.

Background: Life on the road has not been kind to Yury Mikhailis’ team so far this season. Out of six wins so far, Barys has managed just one outside of Kazakhstan. True, it was a belter: a 6-3 success against CSKA, powered by three goals in 110 seconds at the start of the third period. That travel sickness might be partly explained by facing a clutch of the KHL’s top teams early in the season, but it also leaves Barys down in seventh place in the East – somewhat short of expectations after a strong campaign last term.

Recently, though, we’ve seen signs of progress. The latest home stand brought back-to-back shut-outs against Avangard and SKA before Ak Bars found all the answers in Saturday’s 6-3 triumph.

There are no surprises among the big scorers on the team. Nikita Mikhailis and Curtis Valk lead the way with 15 points apiece, while Darren Dietz has 12 points from the blue line.

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