11 January 2023
Dinamo Minsk 2 Kunlun Red Star 6
A hat-trick from Cliff Pu – his first in the KHL – helped the Dragons grab their first win of 2023 in fine style. Wednesday’s trip to Belarus saw the guys snap a five-game losing streak, with Brandon Yip adding a hat-trick of helpers and Tomas Jurco finding the net for the third game in a row. At the other end, Jeremy Smith stopped 29 shots to preserve our lead despite Dinamo’s attempts at a third-period fightback.
Greg Ireland made a couple of changes to the team following the 5-6 loss at Severstal. Vince LoVerde returned to the defense alongside Zac Leslie, while Josh Nicholls was added to the forward line in place of Jack Rodewald.
The new look line-up made a bright start and began the first period with plenty of pressure on Alexei Kolosov in the Minsk net. The young Belarusian was lucky to escape after his early error presented Pu with a sight of goal, and later did well to deny Colin Campbell’s one-on-one breakaway. Pu had another big opportunity, created by Cory Kane and denied by Kolosov, before our guy got his reward for an enterprising first period.
Pu opened the scoring in the 14th minute after collecting the puck on the left-hand boards after Leslie’s hit denied Dinamo the chance to clear its lines. Pu advanced on goal and slipped a shot through Kolosov’s five hole to give the Dragons a deserved lead.
The only complaint from the first period was that our lead was a slender 1-0. Happily, the start of the second saw a couple of quick goals to give Red Star some breathing space. That man Pu snapped home a one-timer from between the hash marks to convert a power play in the 22nd minute, and a couple of minutes later Jurco struck from a similar position – albeit in different fashion – to add a third.
That was the end of Kolosov’s evening as Red Star’s rampant offense chased the starting goalie from the game. It wasn’t long before our guys scored on Konstantin Shostak either. Kyle Wood started a counterattack from deep in our zone and kept pace with the play to collect Brandon Yip’s feed in the right-hand circle at the other end of the ice. Our defenseman produced a finish that any forward would be proud of to make it 4-0.
Dinamo needed a fast start to the third period if it was going to have any chance of recovering a four-goal deficit. The home team got exactly that when Mark Barberio pulled a goal back 16 seconds into the frame. There were more worrying moments to come when our guys had to kill a penalty soon afterwards. However, LoVerde returned to the game with a 4-1 advantage intact and almost immediately saw Cedric Pacquette go to the box to give us a chance to reset and prepare to close out the win.
And Kunlun managed to do more than just shut out the final stages. Craig Woodcroft gambled on withdrawing his goalie early but reckoned without Pu’s sharp-shooting form. A Dinamo attack broke down despite the extra skater, Yip picked out Cliff on the halfway line and his shot flew into the empty net. Vladimir Alistrov added a consolation goal for Dinamo, but it was only fitting that the final word went to the Dragons and another empty net chance saw Parker Foo complete an impressive victory.
The win lifts our spirits ahead of Friday’s home game against Vityaz – a team, like Dinamo, in the thick of the battle for a playoff spot in the West. We’ve lost three times to Vyacheslav Butsayev’s men this season, but on today’s form we are more than capable of putting the record straight this week.