Making a point

6 December 2021

Traktor Chelyabinsk 3 Kunlun Red Star 2 OT

The Dragons battled to a valuable point on the road at Traktor before falling in overtime. The result lifts our guys a further point clear of basement club Admiral, while Traktor is now tied with Metallurg at the top of the KHL standings.

For our first game on this tour, Ivan Zanatta shuffled his roster. Coach Z restored some familiar lines – Luke Lockhart back with the Foo brothers, Brandon Yip playing with Tyler Wong and Ethan Werek – and replaced some of the youngsters who featured last week with the recalled trio of Alex Riche, Cliff Pu and Josh Nicholls. This shouldn’t be seen as any kind of implied criticism of the homegrown talents who gained such valuable experience against Neftekhimik and Sibir; the nature of helping emerging players means they’ll be rotated in and out of the team as appropriate so as not to risk overloading them.

However, Monday’s team was not all about bringing back experienced faces. Paris O’Brien continued in goal, backed up by Han Pengfei. And 21-year-old O’Brien was immediately pitched into a busy evening. In the first period alone, he faced 19 efforts on target as Traktor dominated the game but failed to open the scoring. Our young goalie was impressive once again and, on the one occasion he was beaten, it took an illegally raised stick from Teemu Pulkkinen to put Lawrence Pilut’s shot beyond O’Brien’s reach.

After weathering that first-period storm, the Dragons got in front early in the second. A first power play of the night for our guys resulted in Yipper scoring off Spencer Foo’s feed. That’s a 10th goal of the season for our captain, who continues to inspire those around him.

However, Traktor is not placed among the KHL’s leaders for nothing and we got a glimpse of what has pushed this team towards the Eastern summit when our host hit back with two goals in 26 seconds. Vladimir Tkachyov potted both of them, first on a power play then at equal strength, to send the home team into the intermission with the advantage.

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Right after the break, though, Kunlun tied it up again. The loss of Parker Foo to a high-sticking minor did not greatly harm our team: Luke Lockhart was alert to a misplaced pass in center ice and jumped on the loose puck, marching forward to set up Spencer Foo for a close-range finish. And, with the scores level, Red Star had chances to win: midway through the third, Spencer went close again and late in regulation a power play chance saw us finishing the game on top, but unable to convert that into a winning goal.

Even in overtime we had chances, with Yip shooting wide off an odd man rush. But after 63 minutes, Tomas Hyka grabbed the winner, limiting us to a solitary point for our efforts. Our next game sees us remain in the Southern Urals for another test against high-flying opposition at Metallurg on Wednesday.

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