27 August 2022
Kunlun Red Star 3 Spartak Moscow 2 SO
The Dragons began their Mayor of Moscow Cup campaign with a shoot-out win over Spartak – but could reasonably claim to have won the game three times over.
Red Star was 25 seconds away from victory in regulation, only to be pegged back. Then the guys opened a 3-1 lead in the shoot-out before being dragged into sudden death. Finally, though, Brett Pollock claimed the winner on his Kunlun debut.
Pollock, 26, became our latest signing this week. The Canadian forward inked a one-year deal having spent the previous two campaigns in Germany and Sweden. To help him settle in at his new club, he joined a line full of KRS experience with Cory Kane and Brandon Yip.
Another new arrival, 19-year-old defenseman Dmitry Kostenko, found himself up against familiar faces. The youngster joins us on loan from Spartak.
Greg Ireland’s new look team began the game strongly and had much the better of the first period. Our reshaped defense did a great job at restricting Spartak’s scoring opportunities and protecting Jeremy Smith in his first pre-season game. It also delivered the opening goal, on a power play in the ninth minute. A face-off win by Jack Rodewald saw Zac Leslie tee up Kyle Wood for a point shot that gave Alexei Krasikov no chance in the Spartak net.
The only blemish came midway through the frame when Dmitry Zlodeyev tied it up for the Red-and-Whites. Unfortunately, Red Star’s superiority was not rewarded further and the teams were level at the intermission.
In the second period, we saw more of Spartak as an offensive force. But we also saw how coach Ireland’s hard-work ethos is translating onto the ice. Solid play from the D-core kept our goal intact, and there were notable interventions such as Jake Chelios’ deft poke check to rob Pavel Tkachenko. Smitty also lived up to his reputation as a top goalie with a scattering of big saves.
Late in the game, it looked like the Dragons had snatched a winner. Pollock was heavily involved, finding Cliff Pu in the right-hand channel. Pu, returning to the club he joined partway through last season, angled in a shot from out wide and Krasikov was unable to react. With less than five to play, KRS led 2-1.
But Spartak rallied to save the game in the final minute. Boris Mironov withdrew his goalie and the extra skater made the difference. Fyodor Svechkov’s marauding move down the left picked out Pavel Kukshtel in front of the net to tie the game.
Overtime was goalless, with the Dragons killing another penalty. Traditionally, shoot-outs have not been a Kunlun strength in recent seasons, but there was an impressive start here. Pu potted the first attempt, then trialists Kristian Afanasyev and Vladimir Mikhasyonok made it three from three. Victory was within touching distance once again, but Spartak managed to tie it up and Kukshtel extended the game for the second time. In sudden death, though, Red Star got it over the line. Smith stopped everything that came his way, with a striking glove save from Spartak’s captain Roman Lyubimov probably the pick of the bunch. Then Pollock produced his game-winning shot.
The action in Moscow resumes Saturday morning against Vityaz. Victory would clinch top spot in our group and set up a gold-medal game on Sunday.