7 January 2022
Kunlun Red Star 1 Severstal Cherepovets 7
It was another difficult day at the office for the Dragons. Short-staffed on defense again due to the injury Denis Osipov suffered against SKA, our guys had a hard time containing Severstal’s forwards and fell to a disappointing loss. The one bright spot was a landmark for Spencer Foo, who got his 75th point for the team.
Head coach Ivan Zanatta was back behind the bench after missing Tuesday’s game due to illness. However, Osipov’s absence forced changes to his roster for today’s game. Happily, Jake Chelios returned from suspension to plug that gap. Among the forwards, Ethan Werek and Rudi Ying missed out, with Zhang Cheng and Zhong Wei coming into the team. Luke Lockhart was reunited on a line with the Foo brothers after that combination was broken up on Tuesday.
Our opponent arrived on a disappointing run of just two wins in nine games, a sequence that dates back to early December and has pushed Andrei Razin’s men out of the battle for a top four finish. A fast start, an early goal, and the Dragons could hope that Severstal’s confidence would shatter. With just 28 seconds played, Yegor Morozov’s foul handed Red Star the initiative, but the subsequent power play did not accrue.
Failing to capitalize on that early opportunity proved costly. Once back at full strength, Severstal quickly opened the scoring. Kirill Pilipenko has hit a rich vein of form and his opening goal made it four games in a row that he has found the net. He ended the first period with his second goal of the night; in between, Kirill Timashov was also on target and Red Star was in trouble once again.
The second session began in a similar fashion to the first. Again, the Dragons’ power play was unable to find the net and again Severstal responded with goals at the other end. Nikita Guslistov was instrumental, making one for David Dumbadze and scoring another himself. Later, Joonas Nattinen made it 6-0.
With two seconds to go in the middle frame, the Dragons got on the scoreboard at last. This time, the power play produced: Spencer Foo won the face-off, the puck went back to Ryan Sproul and the defenseman crashed home a shot from the top of the left-hand circle. Foozy’s helper brought up that individual milestone in his 152nd game.
Despite that consolation goal, the third period was little more than a formality. The most notable moment for our guys came late on when Zhang Cheng came close to forcing home his first KHL goal in a big scramble in front of Vladislav Podyapolsky’s net. By then, though, Severstal had added to its lead. Guslistov, a talented youngster struggling with a difficult second season after his breakout last term, scored his second of the night to make it 7-1 and put the finishing touch to his team’s biggest victory since Jan. 2014.
Defeat ended even a theoretical chance of KRS making the playoffs this season. Again, though, due to the physical, emotional and financial strains of running the team in ‘exile’ in Mytishchi, our overriding challenge has been to keep the team on the ice and continue to give opportunities for Chinese players to experience top-level hockey in the build-up to the Olympics. That process continues at the weekend when table-topping Traktor comes to town for the first of two games in three days here.