Ready for action

1 September 2022

A look at the Dragons’ first opposition this season

The Dragons start life in the Western Conference on Friday. Despite a temporary move from East to West, our first opposition has a familiarly far-eastern feel.

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Admiral (Sep. 2, 1900 Moscow time)

Last season: It’s almost a year since the teams last met, with Red Star snapping a five-game losing streak to beat the Sailors 3-1 on goals from Alex Riche, Luke Lockhart and Cory Kane. The return game in Vladivostok was not played due to the early end of the regular season.

Familiar faces: Admiral’s goalie Alexander Lazushin is well-known to Dragons’ fans after three separate spells in our colors. He first played with us in 2018/19, winning 12 of his 39 games. In 2020/21, Lazar made a brief return but featured in only one game. Then, last season, he partnered Jeremy Smith until December before joining the Sailors before the trade deadline. In addition, Admiral forward Gleb Zyryanov played 10 games for the Dragons in 2020/21, scoring twice before joining Dinamo Riga.

Background: Like the Dragons, Admiral had a tough time in last season’s KHL. Both clubs had objective reasons for their troubles: while Kunlun was firmly focused on preparing for the Olympics, Admiral was returning to action after a one-year sabbatical due to financial constraints during the pandemic. Now both teams are hoping for a brighter future. Admiral found scoring difficult last season and has moved to improve its offense by signing Czech forward Rudolf Cerveny, previously with Slovan and Dinamo Riga, Slovakia’s Michal Kristof and Latvian international Nikolajs Jelisejevs. The latter two both played at the Beijing Olympics, with Kristof winning bronze with Slovakia. The new look Vladivostok team won four of its eight pre-season games.

Amur (Sep. 4, 1700 Moscow time)

Last season: We had two meetings with the Tigers last season, both in Mytishchi. Unfortunately, both ended in defeat, with a 0-2 reverse on Sep. 23 following by an incredibly recovery from 0-4 to tie 4-4 on Nov. 15. Brandon Yip, Josh Nicholls, Mikhail Abramov and Ryan Sproul were all on target to salvage a point, but an overtime goal from Rudolf Lenc saw Amur steal the win.

Familiar faces: Several of Amur’s players have experience with Red Star. On defense, Ruslan Pedan played 36 games for us in the 2020/21 campaign, producing 7 (1+6) points. Fellow blue liner Viktor Baldayev was on the same team, appearing 43 times and scoring six assists. Up front, Vadim Pereskokov was part of Kunlun’s rookie season and featured in three playoff games for the club. Ivan Nikolishin was a big part of the 2020/21 offense, with 23 (8+15) points from 59 games while Sergei Monakhov contributed with 13 (1+12) points.

Background: Historically, Amur has enjoyed the upper hand in this Far East rivalry. The Tigers have 16 wins for our 23 meetings, 11 of them in regulation. However, history is unlikely to have much bearing on Sunday’s game: under new head coach Vadim Yepanchintsev, Amur has signed 20 players this summer in a complete rebuild. Many of them followed Yepanchintsev from Ugra, where they helped to win the VHL in 2021. Andrew Calof, who enjoyed a successful spell at Torpedo, is the stand-out import. He’ll be expected to lead a forward line that lost last season’s top scorers, Vladimir Butuzov and Alexander Gorshkov.

Sibir (Sep. 6, 1900 Moscow time)

Last season: Our two games against Sibir last term ended in disappointment. A 1-3 home loss in November was following by a painful 2-7 reverse a month later. As with Admiral and Amur, our scheduled games in Novosibirsk were cancelled due to the early curtailment of the KHL regular season.

Familiar faces: Sibir is the current home of two popular imports from the Dragons’ Den. Trevor Murphy was a huge part of our defense in 2019/20, scoring 27 (10+17) points that season. He returned the following year, continued to perform strongly and got a move to Ak Bars, one of the league’s top clubs. Fellow Canadian Taylor Beck followed a similar path. After joining us from Avtomobilist in the 2017/18 season, he went on to score 35 points in 60 games and earned a transfer to Avangard.

Background: Our head-to-head against Sibir is close: eight wins apiece in regulation (albeit with Sibir taking all four games that went to overtime) and a goal differential of 54-57 in Novosibirsk’s favor. Considering Sibir usually has a team heading for the playoffs, that’s an encouraging record for our guys. This summer brought hints that Andrei Martemyanov is planning a more attacking game than in previous years, and his team scored 25 goals in its nine warm-up games. That promises to pose an intriguing challenge for our new-look defense in a game that could give an early indication of Red Star’s ability to compete for a top-eight finish this term.

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