16 January 2023
At last, we’re back home. So far in 2023, we’ve only had one game in Mytishchi – and won it handsomely, defeating Vityaz 4-0. Now we’re getting ready for a five-game home stand, including another visit from Vityaz. It could turn into a big week for Brandon Yip. Our captain is currently on 39 points for the season. That’s already his best return for the club, and he is close to setting an all-time Red Star scoring record. Chad Rau’s 40 (20+20) points in our debut season remains the target, but Yipper could easily overhaul it this week. While Brandon is our all-time scoring leader, last week saw Colin Campbell net his first for the club. Hopefully we’ll see much more where that came from in the coming games.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Jan. 17, 1900 Moscow Time)
Last time out: After winning twice in Yaroslavl this season – our first ever victories beside that stretch of the Volga – the Dragons were unable to continue the streak on home ice. Loko came to Mytishchi in December and left with a 4-2 verdict despite goals from Luke Lockhart and Vince LoVerde.
Familiar faces: Alex Perevalov has returned to Yaroslavl after his loan spell with KRS this season and therefore could feature against us in this game. Our goalie Alexei Murygin spent several seasons with Lokomotiv earlier in his career.
Background: So far, 2023 has not been much fun for the Railwaymen. A 6-2 win at home to Severstal is the only highlight to date for Igor Nikitin’s team, which is currently on a worrying slide of just one success in seven games since we last met here on Dec. 28. Some of those losses, one goal verdicts against the likes of CSKA, Salavat Yulaev and Metallurg, may owe something to the vagaries of the schedule. Others, though, notably a 3-5 home defeat against a struggling Spartak, are cause for concern. The upshot is that a team that looked comfortable in second place in the West is now in a three-way scrap against Torpedo and Dynamo Moscow for a top-four finish. Of greater concern to fans in Yaroslavl, the current slide suggests it will be hard for this team to go deep into the playoffs. After reaching the inaugural Gagarin Cup final in 2009, Lokomotiv has endured a long wait for a team of true contenders and there is little evidence that 2023 will be the year we see a big step forward.
HC Sochi (Jan. 20, 1900 Moscow Time)
Last time out: Our December 23 trip to Sochi brought a comfortable 3-0 victory. Cliff Pu opened the scoring early in the game, then Parker Foo scored twice in the third period to seal the deal. Jeremy Smith got the shut-out.
Familiar faces: None
Background: Few outside of Magnitogorsk would begrudge Sochi its 3-2 win over Metallurg in its most recent game. That result ended a wretched run of 21 defeats, setting an unwanted KHL record along the way. However, there’s no room for sentiment in this game. The Dragons inflicted two of those 21 losses on the Leopards, and we’re out to make it four wins from four against this opponent this season. The dangermen for the visitor are likely to be top prospect Matvei Michkov, who is making the most of his loan move from SKA, and fellow forward Sergei Popov. The 22-year-old Popov got the game winner against Metallurg to maintain his scoring streak: despite his team’s struggles, he has 6 (3+3) from his last four appearances.
Vityaz Moscow Region (Jan. 22, 1700 Moscow Time)
Last time out: This game comes barely a week after the Dragons thumped Vityaz 4-0. That was out first win of the season against the Balashikha-based team, with Luke Lockhart (2), Tomas Jurco and Cory Kane on the scoresheet. Matt Jurusik took the plaudits after a fine display to record another shut-out.
Familiar faces: After giving up four goals last time he faced us, it is unclear whether ex-Dragon Dmitry Shikin will get the nod in goal for this game.
Background: Our first three meetings with Vityaz this season ended in defeat, but each time the margins were getting tighter. Game four saw the Dragons shatter that hoodoo, enjoying a 4-0 scoreline. However, the game itself was tighter than the final outcome might suggest. Our total was inflated with two empty net goals, and Juice had a busy time in goal, stopping 38 shots. Considering it was a one-goal game for more than 40 minutes, that contribution was vital in securing the win. So, once again, we can expect a tight affair against one of our most familiar opponents this term. And it’s a game that matters to both teams. Vityaz is up in sixth in the West, but cannot take anything for granted in the race for a playoff place. Meanwhile, your Dragons are still chasing down that possible postseason spot. A 10-point deficit is a lot to make up, but head-to-head match-ups against opponents like Vityaz who are also right in the playoff battle offer a great chance to gain ground on the top eight.