18 November 2021
Kunlun Red Star 1 Avangard Omsk 4
The scoreline might suggest another heavy loss to the defending champion, but this was a much-improved performance after Saturday’s disappointment in Balashikha. For long periods of the game, the Dragons were equal to Avangard and it was not until the final minutes that the visitor stole away with the points.
Once again, we welcomed our guests from the International Ice Hockey Federation, who are continuing to run the rule over our progress towards the Olympics. That also meant the same personnel on the ice, although this time we started with Brandon Yip on the second line alongside Luke Lockhart and Ethan Werek. That was switch effected during the Amur game that triggered our fightback from 0-4, so it made sense to make it official here. Mikhail Abramov, who was also instrumental in that comeback, went to the third line with Josh Nicholls and Cory Kane.
It was that third line that came closest to giving us the lead when Nicholls had a great chance at the start of the second period. The opening stanza tonight featured more effort than flair from both teams, and finished goalless – thanks in no small part to a great stick save from Jeremy Smith as Avangard got on the power play late in the frame. Josh’s early opportunity heralded something of a change at both ends, and within a few seconds the puck was in our net. Immediately, Ivano Zanatta challenged the call – and he was vindicated: as Nikolai Prokhorkin slotted home, Vladimir Bryukvin clearly impeded Smitty as the visiting forward barrelled across the paintwork like an angry cyclist at a pedestrian crossing. However, there was no reprieve on Avangard’s next power play, with Oliwer Kaski shooting home the opening goal.
Our challenge, now more than ever, was to solve our old friend Simon Hrubec. The Czech international posted back-to-back shut-outs ahead of this game, including Avangard’s 5-0 win against us on home ice. For two periods, he was imperious once again, and when Nikita Soshnikov doubled the visitor’s lead it looked like a very long way back. However, it took just 40 seconds to get back into contention with a goal that Hrubec would love to have back. There seemed to be little danger when the puck came around the backboards and reached Chelios on the point. He might have been the only person in the building to spot the narrowest of shooting lanes and found a gap that goalie could not see through traffic. 1-2, and the game was still alive.
It remained in the balance until the 57th minute, when Pavel Dedunov extended the visitor’s lead. And, as the Dragons looked for another famous fightback, Arseny Gritsyuk score an empty net goal to secure the points for the Hawks. That’s Gritsyuk’s third goal on us in a week – a young man we’ll be happy not to see again until next season!
This game concludes our brief home stand. The team is next in action on Saturday at Vityaz, looking for a repeat of our 4-2 victory at the start of October.