Dragons equal best-ever KHL win

11 October 2022

Barys Astana 0 Kunlun Red Star 5

It’s not every day that the home fans are united in praise of the visiting team. Today, though, our hosts in Kazakhstan were inspired to applaud a fantastic performance from the Dragons. A superb display delivered back-to-back road wins, back-to-back shut-outs and the kind of result that makes opposing head coaches anxious. After all, following our 4-0 victory in Omsk on Sunday, the Hawks dismissed Dmitry Ryabykin from behind the bench. Today, in Astana, we scored one more.

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Captain Brandon Yip, named as the KHL’s top forward for last week, continued his rich vein of form. Today he stretched his goal streak to five games and finished with three points to lead the Dragons to their biggest win since Jan. 2017. Yipper was far from alone. Two days after Matt Jurusik recorded our first shut-out of the season, Jeremy Smith matched that achievement, stopping 28 shots. Our PK was flawless once again and has now denied the opposition on 17 successive occasions. That’s five games without the opposition scoring a power play goal on us.

The game was effectively decided in the space of six minutes of the first period. Red Star scored three unanswered goals in that time: one on the power play, one at equal strength and then a short-handed tally to complete the set.

The opening came on 09:07. Yip quarterbacked the power play, and when he drilled the puck to the slot, Jack Rodewald was on hand to steer it past Julius Hudacek in the home net. Next, Yipper combined with Jake Chelios to lead a flawless rush from one end to the other. With the home defense in disarray, Yip was on hand to steer the puck home at the far post off an inch-perfect Chelios feed.

Hudacek’s evening got rapidly worse when Cory Kane grabbed a shorthanded goal to make it 3-0. The Slovak goalie came a long way from his crease to field a loose puck – nothing unusual on the power play – but his pass was fatally misjudged. Putting the puck straight onto Kane’s stick invited just one response, and our forward wasted no time in shooting into a wide open net. That brought Nikita Boyarkin into the game in place of Hudacek, but there was no change of fortune for our host.

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After an impressive 3-2 win in Kazan last time out, Barys had reason to hope that it could rediscover its form and turn this game around. The Dragons, though, were in no mood to allow anything like that to happen. In the second period we continued to press and even had the home supporters switching allegiance to applaud our efforts after extending the lead midway through the session. The prompt was a well-worked power play goal: Yip found Kyle Wood at the point and our defenseman played a dangerous feed for Zac Leslie to divert the puck beyond Boyarkin. Once again, it was more than the scoreline that was impressive; the quality of our play was equally eye-catching.

There was more to come in the second period when Vincent LoVerde got his first goal in the KHL. His point shot was too good for the goalie, even if the traffic in front of the net was largely created by the Barys defense.

After that, the third period was something of an anti-climax. There was no further scoring. The home crowd had been so kind that it seemed a little cruel to pile on the punishment in the closing stages. And, besides, five was more than enough to secure a third straight win and make it 10 points from the last 12. And that run of form has the Dragons up to eighth in the Western Conference.

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