17 November 2022
This season’s Western Conference is a new challenge for the Dragons. And our guys are still getting used to the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition in this section. The upcoming road trip sees us face three teams currently placed third, fourth and fifth in the West. However, while each of them can make claims to a push for the top positions, all three have obvious weaknesses as well. And that largely sums up the nature of the conference. While SKA marches clear of all comers, there is relatively little separating the other teams.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Nov. 17, 1900 Moscow Time)
Last season: We haven’t faced the Railwaymen often in recent seasons. Our most recent encounter ended in a 3-4 loss in Yaroslavl last October. The return game in Mytishchi was cancelled due to the early end to the regular season.
Familiar faces: Dragons forward Alex Perevalov is on loan to us from Lokomotiv. In Yaroslavl he made five KHL appearances last term, but mostly featured for the juniors. He scored 50 (25+25) points in 42 MHL games. In addition, our goalie Alexei Murygin, who successfully completed his try-out last week, enjoyed some of the best years of his career with Loko. Among his achievements there, he set a record KHL shut-out streak.
Background: Despite climbing to third in the Western Conference, Lokomotiv has a worrying habit this season. Igor Nikitin’s team has enjoyed some memorable wins against the top clubs: it was the first to beat league leader SKA in regulation and picked up an impressive shoot-out win at defending champion CSKA. However, the Railwaymen have come off the tracks against unheralded opposition. Rock-bottom Sochi ended its long losing streak with an overtime win against Yaroslavl, then Lokomotiv blew a two-goal lead and lost to a Severstal team struggling to put a run of form together.
In the summer, Lokomotiv opted not to sign any imports. One of the big additions, forward Ivan Chekhovich, has seen his first months in Yaroslavl disrupted by injury and has yet to produce the kind of scoring that made him a leader at Torpedo. Instead, much of the scoring is coming from Denis Alexeyev (4+17 from 30 games) and Artur Kayumov (7+12 from 29). These are two players emerging into their prime, but for now they are still in the category of rising stars rather than proven performers.
Dynamo Moscow (Nov. 19, 1700 Moscow Time)
Last time out: In early October Dynamo came to the Dragons’ Lair and escaped with an overtime victory. A late Kyle Wood goal earned a 2-2 tie in regulation.
Familiar faces: None
Background: At times, Dynamo has been hugely impressive this season. Alexei Kudashov’s team was challenging SKA at the top of the table in the early weeks of the campaign and can point to big wins against several top clubs. For a team forced to rebuild after a series of high-profile departures in the summer, that’s a major achievement.
However, recently there are signs that the early-season form was a little deceptive. A recent trip to the Far East brought three disappointing losses, including a first ever defeat in Vladivostok. Back in Moscow, Dynamo also went down in a local derby against Spartak. The opposition, lifted by the appointment of a new head coach, powered to an early 2-0 lead and eventually won in overtime. While Eric O’Dell and Dmitry Rashevsky are a threat to any defense, there are question marks over the Blue-and-White defense. An injury to import Brennan Menell merely adds to Kudashov’s problems on his blue line.
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (Nov. 22, 1900 Moscow Time)
Last time out: It’s barely a week since the Dragons suffered a 0-5 loss in one of the most disappointing performances of the season so far.
Familiar faces: Two ex-Dragons had an impact in that recent game. Alexei Kruchinin scored, and Igor Larionov Jr had two assists.
Background: After the heavy defeat in Mytishchi, head coach Greg Ireland made it entirely clearly where our guys had to improve. For all the encouraging signs the Dragons have seen this season, there is still an alarming lack of consistency, especially when it comes to doing the uglier bits of the game.
For Torpedo, by contrast, it seems that the Professor’s lessons are starting to sink in. Igor Larionov’s team is on a four-game winning streak at the time of writing, with 19 goals scored in that time. That run has Torpedo up to fourth in the Western Conference, and its enterprising offensive play is winning plaudits from neutrals throughout the league. Larionov’s son is emerging as a key part of his team. In the last five games, Igor Jr has nine assists.