9 January 2022
Kunlun Red Star 0 Traktor Chelyabinsk 4
The Dragons welcomed Traktor to Mytishchi for the first of two back-to-back games and had a point to prove. Defeat against Severstal last time out set an unwanted club record of 12 successive losses. In response, Ivano Zanatta recalled Ethan Werek and Rudi Ying to the line-up. On defense, Chen Zimeng replaced Zhang Pengfei and there was also a return for Guo Jianing on the fourth line. From the team that played Thursday, Zhang Zesen, Yan Yuncheng and Zhang Cheng sat this one out.
There were encouraging signs in the first period. For the first time since Dec. 26, we made it to the intermission without falling behind. Not for the first time, Jeremy Smith takes much of the credit for that as he stopped 19 shots in the opening frame. But this was a team effort: the guys had the discipline to stay out of the box, the workrate to restrict Traktor’s opportunities largely to the outside. There was a goal threat at the other end. Tyler Wong showed early menace and midway through the session, Alex Riche made an interception in the visitor’s zone and carved out a dangerous chance. Sadly, he was squeezed out of a shooting position before he could fully test Roman Will.
Will had to be alert again early in the second when Brandon Yip jumped out of the box and onto the rush, getting a one-on-one chance against the Czech international. It might have been the opening goal, but instead the shot went wide of the target.
Traktor made the most of that reprieve, heading down the ice to open the scoring through Nikita Tertyshny. The 23-year-old potted his 22nd of what has become his break-out season to give the visitor the lead. And once in front, the men from Chelyabinsk demonstrated how they’ve climbed to the top of the KHL standings: two goals in the 33rd minute took the game away from the Dragons and Vladimir Tkachyov’s power play marker late in the middle frame ended any realistic prospect of a fightback.
That’s not to say the third period saw the Dragons surrender. Our defense remained resilient, preventing Traktor from adding to its lead even when we were reduced to three skaters for a spell. Once again, Smith stopped over 40 shots in another hardworking display. Even when one slammed into his helmet from Teemu Pulkkinen, our goaltending Iron Man shrugged off the blow and kept on working.
And keeping up the hard work is all the guys can do as we prepare for our rematch with Traktor on Monday. After that, there are just four more games before the Olympic break.