Battling Dragons miss out in Khabarovsk

13 September 2022

Amur Khabarovsk 2 Kunlun Red Star 1

The Dragons suffered a third straight loss on the road, but head coach Greg Ireland was keen to emphasize the positives from a battling display in Khabarovsk.

After going down by a narrow 2-1 margin, Ireland commented: “We didn’t play badly, it was a very competitive game. In the first period we had problems at the start but then we found the tempo we needed and began creating chances. Overall, it was a good game from our point of view.”

Red Star’s game plan suffered an early blow when Amur scored inside two minutes. Youngster Yaroslav Likhachyov is on loan in Khabarovsk this season and his ‘owners’ at Lokomotiv will doubtless be watching closely as he makes his first steps in the KHL. Today he opened the scoring with his third goal in senior hockey after starring in last season’s Junior Hockey League.

It could have been worse, but Jeremy Smith was back to his old tricks. He pulled off several big saves and the best came late in the first period when he absolutely stole a goal from Amur’s Vladislav Barulin. The home team was pressing on the power play when Igor Rudenkov let fly with a point shot. Smitty got behind that one, but seemed to be out of position when Barulin recovered the rebound and had an open net to aim at. Our goalie had other ideas, reaching behind him to pull off a spectacular glove save and slam the door shut for the Tigers’ offense.

That preserved a one-goal game until the end of a first period that the home side enjoyed rather more than we did. However, with the scoreline still tight, there was everything to play for in the remaining two sessions. The middle frame saw Red Star raise its game. Defensively, we limited Amur to just two shots at Smitty. That’s yet more evidence that our commitment to a team-first ethos is paying off; as a unit, we are allowing far fewer shots on goal this term.

The flip side, where work remains in progress, is at the other end. Scoring has not come easily so far and despite having the better of the second period the Dragons were unable to get past Evgeny Alikin. That changed early in the third when Jake Chelios smashed home a point shot after Tyler Wong led a breakout from our zone. Recent signing Devin Brosseau also had an assist on the play, collecting his first point in the KHL.

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Amur’s Alikin was unable to react to that Chelios thunderbolt and for a good chunk of the third period Red Star was in the ascendancy. Even a penalty for Zac Leslie midway through the session could not shake the Dragons’ momentum.

Unfortunately, though, a defensive error undid all that hard work. Attempting to clear our zone, we coughed up the puck for Ivan Nikolishin, one of our former players. He pounced on the chance and set up Rudenko for what proved to be the winning goal. There was still time for a brave effort to save the game but despite a late surge our expedition to the Far East was destined to end in disappointed.

Greg Ireland and his team are still awaiting their first points on the road this season, but our next action is back in the familiar surroundings of Mytishchi where Sochi is the visitor on Friday evening.

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