16 November 2021
Kunlun Red Star 4 Amur Khabarovsk 5 OT
It’s not the first time we are encouraged to talk about the Dragons’ fighting spirit. And Monday’s game against Amur highlighted just how important mental strength and resilience is to this team. Midway through the play, we were down 0-4 and looked to be in serious trouble. Indeed, the game was in danger of becoming a rout – hardly the kind of performance that might reassure anybody with doubts about this team’s ability to compete. In response, Ivan Zanatta called a time-out, reshuffled the lines to put Brandon Yip with Luke Lockhart and Ethan Werek, and was rewarded with a fightback full of character.
Our captain kickstarted it, of course. When Werek ran into trouble as he moved into the Amur zone, Yip was on hand to take the puck and advance on Evgeny Alikin to get us one the scoreboard. Almost immediately, we had a second goal when Mikhail Abramov – the player who was moved into Yipper’s spot with Cory Kane and Josh Nicholls – produced a defense-splitting pass to set up Nicholls for 2-4. Then Yip went close again before the intermission as Amur found itself shaken and the momentum of the game turned upside down.
The visitor tried to slow the pace at the start of the third, hoping that it could quietly close out the final stanza and secure the win. But the Dragons were roaring and the pressure paid off. Two goals in 90 seconds midway through the frame put us level: Abramov and Ryan Sproul were the scorers. No neutral observer could fail to be impressed by the courage and fighting spirit our team displayed, clawing its way back from 0-4 to tie the game.
The fightback secured a point as we tied in regulation. Unfortunately, Monday’s Olympic sub-plot was not destined to end in its own ‘Miracle on Ice’. Instead, Amur grabbed the ‘W’ thanks to Radan Lenc’s overtime goal. Nobody, though, could doubt that the Dragons had played a full part in an absorbing, high-quality game of hockey – and as Baron de Coubertin famously pointed out as he established the modern Olympic movement, it’s the taking part that counts.
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