4 January 2022
Kunlun Red Star 1 SKA St. Petersburg 5
After a tough end to 2021, the Dragons began the new year with another tough assignment against a SKA team looking to jump to the top of the Western Conference. And Mytishchi found itself at the center of attention following our visitor’s announcement that Roman Rotenberg would take over from Valery Bragin and serve as head coach, starting from today’s game.
While the pros and cons of that decision were widely debated throughout Russian hockey, Kunlun had its own issues. Head coach Ivano Zanatta was unavailable for today’s game due to illness, meaning Alexei Kovalev stepped up.
Last season, Kovy masterminded a historic win for our guys in Petersburg, but any repeat of that success would need to happen without suspended defenseman Jake Chelios. Colin Joe moved up to the first pair to take his place, Yan Ruinan joined the second duo and Chen Zimeng was named as a seventh D-man. Seventh quickly became sixth, though, with Denis Osipov leaving the game with an injury during the first period.
Amid all that disruption, it was perhaps unsurprising that we had a tough time in that opening 20 minutes. SKA scored on its first power play through Leo Komarov, added a second within a minute when Emil Galimov scored on a breakaway, then fell three behind following a Mat Robinson thunderbolt. Offensively, we had little answer and the intermission arrived with an all too familiar feeling of a game getting away from us.
After that, though, things improved. The middle stanza was far more even and, amid a steady sequence of chances at each end (and the now obligatory highlight reel save from Jeremy Smith, this time robbing Danila Moiseyev of a stone-cold chance), we managed to stem the flow of goals and reduced the deficit late in the session. Alex Riche was the scorer, redirecting Tyler Wong’s shot into the roof of the net to convert Red Star’s first power play of the game.
Unfortunately, that proved to be the highlight of the game. In the third period, SKA once again dominated. Many of the Dragons’ problems stemmed from basics, as we won just three out of 23 face-offs in the frame and thus found ourselves perpetually on the back foot. SKA’s pressure brought more goals. Komarov potted his second of the game –the Finnish international recovered well after being felled by a shot from team-mate Mikko Lehtonen early in the game – before Anton Burdasov’s late power play marker completed the scoring. Once again, Smith had a busy time, making 47 saves but he was unable to completely suppress a powerful offense.
Our 2022 home stand continues on Thursday, when Severstal Cherepovets visits Mytishchi.