11 January 2022
Kunlun Red Star 2 Traktor Chelyabinsk 4
A much-improved performance from the Dragons gave KHL leader Traktor a fright in our second meeting in three days. After Saturday’s 0-4 loss in Mytishchi, Ivano Zanatta welcomed Zach Yuen back from injury and put him into our third defensive pair. After missing almost two months Zach, one of our heroes from the first season, played 150th KHL game. Jeremy Smith got a well-earned rest as Paris O’Brien got the start in goal.
After five minutes, it looked like Red Star might face another long evening. Traktor scored twice in that opening flourish, with Alexei Byvaltsev and Yegor Fateyev making early inroads. However, even in the midst of those goals, there was evidence of greater offensive intent from our guys: Parker Foo came close to tying the game before Fateyev got the second, and even at 0-2 we went out and pressed our high-flying opponent.
Three power plays helped Red Star to gain momentum in an encouraging first period. It wasn’t enough to get us on the scoreboard, but it kept Emil Garipov busy in the visitor’s net and Tyler Wong had a good chance towards the end of the period. The Dragons looked dangerous shooting from the point or the slot and it was something of a mystery that Traktor’s goal remained intact in the opening frame.
The second period continued in similar fashion, with Kunlun more than holding its own at both ends of the ice. Scoring was still a problem, though, and our territorial advantage counted for little when Sergei Telegin made it 3-0 midway through the game. Little did he know at the time just how important the goal would be.
Red Star’s strong play was forcing Traktor into the penalty box – and a 5-on-3 power play gave us the chance we’d been waiting for. Dragons captain Brandon Yip did the honors, converting Wong’s feed at the second attempt to sound our goal horn. Kunlun finished the middle frame on the up, and would begin the third with another power play.
Traktor responded by digging in on defense. That penalty was killed – but only just. Tomas Hyka had barely left the box when a face-off win in the visitor’s end set up Jake Chelios to make it 2-3. Suddenly, with 18 minutes to play, it was very much game on. For the first time since Dec. 26, this was a game that was going the full 60 minutes.
Sadly, the gap was just too big to bridge. Traktor isn’t leading this league for nothing and Anvar Gatiyatullin’s team produced a strong third period to protect its lead. O’Brien had to be alert to deny Vyacheslav Osnovin’s attempted wraparound, while Marcel Sholokhov went close on the breakaway. At the other end, a penalty on Nick Bailen set up one more push for the Dragons, but Traktor’s D held firm and in the final moments Maxim Shabanov applied the coup de grace with an empty net goal to end our hopes.