Jurusik returns in fine style

9 December 2022

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 0 Kunlun Red Star 1

They say your goalie is half your team. Today, Matt Jurusik had a good go at proving that point – and them some. Out injured since Oct. 19, he returned to our line-up today, adding some ‘juice’ to the roster. And what a return! Forty-seven saves later, Matt took the player of the game honors from all observers after blanking Lokomotiv and stealing a 1-0 verdict.

20221208 KHL Lokomotiv KRS16

The stats give some idea of the kind of pressure the Dragons had to endure, especially after a fairly even first period. Lokomotiv had 82 attempts on goal, 47 of which required Jurusik’s intervention. The home team spent more than 21 minutes with the puck in our zone, while our forwards largely had to feed off scraps at the other end for 40 minutes. The Railwaymen also had a commanding advantage on the face-off spot.

However, there is only one statistic that really matters. That’s the one at the top of the page. 1-0. A second victory in Yaroslavl this season. An end to a four-game losing streak that dates back three weeks to our previous win over Lokomotiv. And, after waiting our entire history to get a ‘W’ next to this particular stretch of the Volga, two of them in quick succession.

Not all the credit can go to Jurusik, of course. As head coach Greg Ireland has observed before, goalies can stop you losing games, but you need someone at the other end to put the puck in the net. Today that was Jack Rodewald. He struck on our only power play late in the first period. Loko’s Denis Alexeyev slipped as he looked to bring the puck out of the corner, and Jack was on it like a flash. He darted in from the boards, stick-handled his way past Sergei Andronov on the slot and, just when it seemed that the chance had gone, Rodewald’s great reach managed to corral the puck and slide into the open side of the net.

20221208 KHL Lokomotiv KRS05

Our D-core also deserves praise for the way it stood firm in the face of Loko’s pressure. Doyle Somerby typified the commitment on view, putting his body on the line to block seven shots. Luckily, there’s a 10-day break for those bruises to heal before the KHL program resumes on Dec. 19. In total, the Dragons blocked 19 shots from Lokomotiv. Somerby also led the team in time on ice, clocking more than 23 minutes. He ended up with a few extra shifts after Zac Leslie was ejected from the game late in the second period.

Zac tangled with home forward Daniil Tesanov in front of our net as Loko tried to build an attacking position from the blue line. The initial contact looked fairly innocuous, but Leslie may have felt the young Loko forward took a dive. Certainly, he reacted angrily as Tesanov tried to get to his feet and a second shove in the opponent’s back probably persuaded the officials to hand out a match penalty after reviewing the incident on video.

That made life even tougher in the third period, with a major penalty to kill and then a key member of the defense unavailable. But a courageous defensive effort did enough to repel Loko’s best efforts and seal another memorable victory. Now, we get a well-earned break (except for Brandon Yip, who is off to the All-Star Game at the weekend) before returning to action on Dec. 19 in Kazan.

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