Resilient Dragons shoot down Spartak again

4 November 2022

Spartak Moscow 1 Kunlun Red Star 3

The Dragons roared to a second victory of the season over Spartak, turning this game around thanks to three third-period goals.

After back-to-back home losses, head coach Greg Ireland wanted to refresh his roster and scratched five players from the team that was beaten by Dinamo Minsk last time out. Cliff Pu, Parker Foo, Brett Pollock, Alex Riche and Devin Brosseau all made way, with Guo Jianing, Liam Ross, Josh Nicholls and Ivan Lisin coming in to replace them. Among the reshuffled lines, Garet Hunt was moved up to the second line: we’ve seen more than once this season that our enforcer is not limited to a bottom six check-and-grind role. Today he partnered Nicholls and Luke Lockhart.

Perhaps it took time for those new combinations to bed in. The first period was not one of our best. Despite enjoying almost two minutes of a five-on-three power play (Maxim Krovyakov and Artyom Demkov were Spartak’s offenders), the opening frame saw the home team enjoying the bulk of the possession. Happily, Jeremy Smith was on top form to stop all 17 of the shots that came his way. At the other end, when the Dragons did get forward, they gave home goalie Patrik Rybar something to think about: of 11 goal attempts, nine were on target.

In the second period, that pattern of play did not change all that much. Smitty continued to keep Spartak out as KRS killed a couple of penalties. However, the Red-and-Whites forced the breakthrough in the 40th minute when Ilya Talauyev redirected an Alexander Bryntsev shot beyond Smith’s grasp.

At that stage, it was hard to argue that Spartak represented poor value for its lead. The home team spent almost 10 minutes more than us on the attack (14:37 against 4:50) and led the shot count 31-17. Certainly, if Alexander Khokhlachyov had taken a good chance at the start of the final frame, it’s unlikely we would be celebrating a victory tonight.

ERM 15

However, as we’ve seen so often this season, the 2022/23 Dragons are a more dangerous beast than in previous years. Even in adversity, there is a belief and a unity about this team that makes it unwise to count them out of any game. Moments after Khokhlachyov’s failure, Jason Fram tied the game. Our very own Mr Versatile was pushed onto the offense today and combined nearly with Ty Schultz to claim his first goal of the season.

Schultz, inspired, popped up a few minutes later to fashion an imaginative go-ahead goal. Tyler Wong’s pass from the corner seemed to be heading behind our defenseman, but Ty improvised his way to goal, combining football skills with deft stick handling to leave Rybar bamboozled.

That goal came during a passage of 4-on-4 action. When it ended, Brandon Yip returned to the game and immediately extended his on-going productive streak. This time, the goal came on a quick turnaround: Jack Rodewald got the puck out of our zone, Fram picked out a pass that opened up the ice for Yipper and the captain’s finish made it 3-1. Both Yip and Rodewald have contributed points in each of their last seven games.

More importantly, Yip’s goal, coupled with Smith’s terrific goaltending, ensured there would be no way back for the home team. Spartak continued to enjoy the territorial advantage, but there was little belief that it could change the outcome. Long before the hooter, it was clear that this would be the Dragons’ day.

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