2 January 2023
The opening action of 2023 brings a road trip for the Dragons. Two of our next three games are at teams just above us in the top eight: with the season approaching its end, good results at Vityaz and Severstal would go a long way towards reigniting our own playoff hopes. In between those games, we head to Dynamo Moscow hoping to improve on a historically poor record against a team battling for a top-four finish.
Vityaz Moscow Region (Jan. 3, 1700 Moscow Time)
Last time out: Our most recent game against Vityaz came in early December and ended in a 1-3 loss
Familiar faces: It’s all about the goaltending. Vityaz have Dmitry Shikin and Igor Saprykin in their netminding stable. Shikin is the more prominent ex-Dragon, producing some big games for us during the 2020/21 season when he shared the starting role with Jeremy Smith. Saprykin played a cameo role with us in the past two seasons, and is currently third choice behind Shikin and Maxim Dorozhko.
Background: As the battle for a top-eight finish intensifies, Vityaz is showing signs of hitting form at the right time. Vyacheslav Butsayev’s team has tended to blow hot and cold this season, but it wrapped up 2022 with a couple of impressive victories. A 4-1 road win at Severstal was significant, since it deprived an immediate playoff rival of points. It also snapped a three-game skid and earned the Balashikha-based club some breathing space in the race for the top eight. Next came SKA, and an even more impressive performance. Vityaz jumped to a 5-2 lead in this game, but seemed to be crumbling when the league leader hauled itself level at 5-5 midway through the third period. However, Vityaz dug deep, stemmed the tide of SKA goals and hung around to win it in overtime thanks to a Vladimir Galuzin goal.
Dynamo Moscow (Jan. 6, 1300 Moscow Time)
Last time out: Historically, the Dragons have a tough time against Dynamo and this season is no exception. In three games so far, our best result is an OT loss on home ice on Oct. 3.
Familiar faces: None.
Background: The Blue-and-Whites are currently battling for a top-four finish in the West. Currently, Alexei Kudashov’s team is fifth, but trails Torpedo purely by virtue of having fewer wins in regulation this season. It’s tight between those two, and entirely possible that they will meet in the playoffs in a couple of months’ time. For many, that’s something of a surprise. Dynamo spent the summer rebuilding after the departure of key players such as Vadim Shipachyov and Slava Voynov. However, a fresh young roster has done well this season, picking up eye-catching wins against the likes of CSKA and SKA, and also stringing together a six-game streak at the end of 2022. The acquisition of American defenseman Brennan Menell during the season has added an extra layer to the team’s arsenal: in his last five games, Menell has made seven assists. This season has also seen the emergence of Maxim Dzhioshvili, who has 20 (11+9) points so far and got his first international call-up for Russia at last month’s Channel 1 Cup.
Severstal Cherepovets (Jan. 8, 1700 Moscow Time)
Last time out: Severstal has come to Mytishchi twice this season, edging a shoot-out verdict in October and winning 5-3 in November.
Familiar faces: None.
Background: In recent seasons, Andrei Razin’s Severstal has stepped up a level. In the past, Cherepovets hoped to make the playoffs, but in the last couple of campaigns the focus has been on breaking into the second round. So, this season, with the Steelmen struggling to get a foothold in the top eight, has been an unwelcome surprise. To the club’s credit, nobody is hitting the panic button. Razin has built up extensive trust in Cherepovets and remains behind the bench. That faith is getting its reward, with a strong finish to 2022 lifting Severstal back into the top eight, three points clear of Dinamo Minsk. Five wins in the last seven games, plus an OT loss, are steering this team back to where it wants to be.