Hunt wins the battle, but Admiral wins the game

11 September 2022

Admiral Vladivostok 3 Kunlun Red Star

Poor finishing cost the Dragons in a 1-3 loss in Vladivostok. Despite plenty of good chances, particularly in the first period, our guys were unable to find the net until the final minute when Parker Foo managed a consolation goal.

Jeremy Smith replaced Matt Jurusik between the piping for this game, young Liam Ross saw his first action on defense and Josh Nicholls returned to the team. Garet Hunt was also back in action after serving his one-game ban, while Jack Rodewald sat out the first of a two-game suspension following his ejection from Friday’s trip to Sibir.

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Hunt’s enforced rest did nothing to mellow his ferocious competitive spirit. Once again, our hard man was quick to step up for his team-mates. This time he faced Admiral’s shaven-headed Mark Verba, who called him out after a foul by Cory Kane. Verba, though, was no match for our peacemaker. Hunt dropped his opponent to the ice after a bout that wouldn’t disgrace an MMA cage.

The game, though, was less satisfying for Red Star. After defeating Admiral in our home opener, we were returning the favor as the Sailors played their first game on home ice in front of a 5,000+ crowd. For long periods there was little to choose between the teams: in the first, for example, the Dragons narrowly led the shot count while our host had slightly more possession. But when it came to the big moments, Admiral’s execution was more effective.

Team captain Libor Sulak played a big part in that. The Czech defenseman got the opening goal as the first period drew to a close. Unusually, this wasn’t a booming point shot from a blue liner; Sulak was able to bring the puck through our zone and beat Smith from close range. Early in the second, Sulak was involved again, setting up the passing play that led to Evgeny Grachyov doubling the lead.

Down by two, Kunlun had a problem. Goals have been hard to come by this season and since that opening 3-1 win over Admiral we suffered two shut-out losses in three games. Here, again, the effort and enterprise were clearly visible, but the finishing remains a work in progress. There was better news on the penalty front. After giving up four goals to Sibir’s PP last time out, today’s game saw KRS take just 15 penalty minutes. Seven of those came in the aftermath of the Hunt-Verba bout and were cancelled out by similar calls on the opposition. It was only in the closing moments that Michal Kristof added a power play tally to the score.

That wasn’t the end. In the closing stages Greg Ireland replaced Smith with a sixth skater. The aim was not so much to save the game – three goals in two minutes was always a tall order, even with an extra player – but to try to generate some offense and get the team on the scoreboard. That move paid off. Foo’s close-range finish, stuffing the puck into the net amid a flurry of shots and sticks on Nikita Serebryakov’s crease, won’t be winning any beauty contests. However, it represents a valuable morale boost ahead of our third and final game on this Far East trip when we go to Amur on Tuesday.

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Kunlun Red Star