Dragons display punch, but SKA has the knock-out blow

21 October 2022

SKA St. Petersburg 3 Kunlun Red Star 2

The Dragons travelled to Petersburg with vengeance in mind. Our 3-6 loss against SKA earlier this season was painful not just for the defeat, but for the injury inflicted on Tyler Wong. He has yet to return, a month later, and anybody who has followed us in recent seasons knows just how hard it is to replace his creative flair.

Alexander Nikishin, the SKA defenseman whose reckless challenge caused that injury, was in line for some tough treatment tonight. Devin Brosseau was the man who decided to try and settle a score, getting into a fight with the blue liner late in the first period. That did not go entirely to plan, with Nikishin having the better of the brawl.

In some ways it was a metaphor for the game as a whole. The Dragons were more than willing to ‘have a go’ against a powerful opponent. Unfortunately, a brave effort came up just short, despite some moments of quality from our guys.

Early in the second period, for example, Parker Foo produced an excellent goal to tie the game at 1-1. This was all about Foozy’s movement without the puck. First, he drifted across the SKA zone to get to the far post. Then, after feeding the puck back to Zac Leslie on the blue line, Parker spotted the gap in the home defense and took up a perfect position. Leslie spotted him, drilled in a low pass and Foo was able to steer the puck beyond Alexander Samonov. At first sight, maybe it looked routine, but closer inspection highlights the hockey IQ required to pull off a play like that.

Foo’s goal cancelled out Mikhail Vorobyov’s first-period opener and deservedly kept the Dragons fully in contention in Petersburg. SKA has been in imperious form all season, and it had to pull something out of the top drawer to restore its lead. Damir Zhafyarov was the scorer, displaying his own hockey smarts as he feinted a shot that sent two of our players out of position. That gave the home forward a clear shooting lane and his effort was too good for Jeremy Smith.

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That was not the end of Red Star’s evening, though. Many in the home crowd expected SKA to run away with it from here, but the Dragons had other ideas. Our guys hung around, made life tough for the league leader and got their reward in the final minute of the middle frame. Doyle Somerby made a pass to the slot and Jack Rodewald did well to reach slightly behind him, corral the puck into a shooting position and fire beyond Samonov. Brandon Yip had a helper on that one, collecting another point on the day he was nominated to represent our club in December’s All-Star Game in Chelyabinsk. That’s Yipper’s second call-up for the showpiece occasion.

At this point, we could dream about snatching another memorable win against a KHL powerhouse. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Marat Khusnutdinov’s goal early in the third proved to be the winner as SKA displayed impressive game management to close out the final stages.

Red Star’s road trip continues with a visit to Torpedo on Sunday.

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