4 November 2021
HC Sochi 1 Kunlun Red Star 3
This was a big day for lots of reasons. For the first time this season, we won back-to-back games. We picked up a second victory of the campaign over Sochi. Two points was enough to lift our guys off the foot of the Eastern Conference. And, on a personal note, captain Brandon Yip recorded his 100th point in the KHL, while goalie Jeremy Smith made 40 saves for a game-winning performance between the piping. Spencer Foo’s three-point haul also played a huge role in securing the win.
Wednesday’s win followed a different script from Monday’s much-needed success at Neftekhimik. In that game, the guys battled back three times before winning it in the closing minutes. Here, despite intense home pressure, we led for almost the entire game, opening the scoring in the eighth minute and quickly regaining the lead after the home team tied it up early in the middle frame.
Smith’s evening started early, with a flurry of shots arriving at his net almost from the opening face-off. But while he was keeping Sochi at bay, a rare opportunity at the other end gave Red Star the lead. Tyler Wong started and finished the play, Spencer Foo kept it moving in the corners before finding Brandon Yip. Our captain took the puck behind the net and returned it to the crease for Wong to open the scoring. That brought up 100 points in the KHL for Yipper and gave us a lead to defend.
Almost immediately, we found ourselves on the penalty kill and Smith had to be alert to deny Ivan Mishchenko and Nikita Zorkin. The danger passed, and despite Sochi’s statistical superiority our defense blocked 10 shots and Smith made 15 saves to preserve that 1-0 advantage.
Early in the middle frame, Smith was beaten at last when Amir Garayev brought the home team level. But this was only a temporary setback – within 90 seconds Red Star was back in front thanks to a Spencer Foo shot that found the five-hole of former Kunlun goalie Magnus Hellberg and squirmed into the net.
At the other end, there was no let-up in the pressure. Smith stopped 20 more shots in the middle frame and was at his best to produce a double save late in the session to preserve our lead.
In the third period, the game was far more even. Hellberg had to make a couple of good saves to keep Sochi in contention, while our defense was able to limit the home team to just five shots on target throughout the final stanza. The game remained on a knife-edge until the last minute when Wong and Foo combined to set up an empty net goal for Ryan Sproul and seal the victory.