Positives for Dragons in pre-season finale

28 August 2022

CSKA Moscow 4 Kunlun Red Star 1

The Dragons went to their second successive Mayor of Moscow Cup Final and put up a good fight before succumbing to last season’s KHL champion. Although Sunday brought our first loss of pre-season, Greg Ireland’s team acquitted itself well against its toughest opponent of the summer.

For much of the first period, the action was evenly matched. Indeed, Cliff Pu might have opened the scoring early on when he broke clear and fired in a testing shot that forced a good glove save from Alexander Sharychenkov. The CSKA netminder was later named top goalie of the tournament and he had to demonstrate his qualities more than once in the early stages of the game.

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Shortly after Pu’s chance, CSKA got in front. Nikita Nesterov’s point shot was diverted over Jeremy Smith’s shoulder by Vitaly Abramov. That was enough to separate the teams at the first intermission.

If the break offered a chance to regroup, the start of the second period proved costly. Despite the offensive power available to CSKA, the Muscovites rarely managed to slice through our defense. However, in the 22nd minute Pavel Karnaukhov produced a fantastic solo move that carved our back line open. Then a backhanded feed enabled Andrei Svetlakov to double the lead.

At this point, Sergei Fedorov’s team was able to dictate the play. CSKA’s coach admitted that KRS gave his team a good game but felt that his players were able to use the momentum picked up with those two goals to limit further opportunities for our guys. And he had a valid point. Against a vastly experienced roster, the Dragons found it tough to open a way back into contention. Even when we had a chance on the power play, it didn’t go to plan and Maxim Sorkin potted a short-handed goal to take the game away.

The third period started in similar fashion, with Pavel Karnaukhov scoring after just nine seconds. But Red Star heads did not drop. Not only did our guys avoid taking any further damage, they even managed to claw a goal back thanks to Luke Lockhart’s neat short-handed finish. In the closing stages there was enough pressure on CSKA to generate a 5-on-3 power play. Five became six as Smith sprinted to the sidelines, but even a PP on steroids wasn’t enough to reduce the deficit further.

Despite the final disappointment, this was a great tournament for Red Star. The team proved that it is more competitive this season and that gives plenty of grounds for optimism ahead of Friday’s home opener against Admiral. There was also an individual achievement: defenseman Zac Leslie, who wore the ‘C’ in today’s game, was named best defenseman of the tournament.

In other news, the Dragons today confirmed that enforcer Garet Hunt is returning to the team. Hunt, now 34, was on the roster in the 2019/20 campaign. That season, he had one assist in 28 games but also compiled 63 penalty minutes. Numbers like that are characteristic of his career, although there is more to Hunt’s game than his tough-guy image might suggest. Last season, playing for Romania’s Corona Brasov, he scored at more than a point in game in both the national championship and Hungary’s cross-border Erste League. As a youngster, Hunt also helped the Vancouver Giants win the 2006 WHL title and his uncompromising style made him a fans favorite in the ECHL with Stockton Thunder.

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