1 February 2023
CSKA Moscow 7 Kunlun Red Star 4
Brandon Yip got his 40th point of the season today, making this our captain’s most productive campaign for the club. Yipper’s tally also matches Chad Rau’s club record haul from our rookie year in 2016/17.
The big moment came midway through the first period. The Dragons were on the power play, Zac Leslie exchanged passes with Cliff Pu before firing in a point shot, and Yip was lurking on the slot to redirect the puck beyond Vsevolod Skotnikov in the home net. It was a first goal since Dec. 6 for Brandon and it takes him to 40 points from 50 games. By comparison, Rau’s 40-point season took 60 appearances.
That goal made it 2-0 to Red Star after a lightning start against the defending champion. Although CSKA was looking to confirm its place in the playoffs with a win today, the Dragons took the early initiative. We went in front after 78 seconds, Devin Brosseau chasing down a lost cause behind the net and setting up Colin Campbell on the slot.
The home team came into the game after allowing a second goal. Mikhail Grigorenko grabbed a power play tally to halve the deficit in the first period, then Takhir Mingachyov tied it up right at the start of the second. However, anyone who expected last season’s Gagarin Cup winner to march on to victory unopposed was in for more surprises. Red Star’s offense continued to create chances, with Campbell looking for a second of the night and Tyler Wong embarrassing Nikita Nesterov before shooting just wide.
Thus it was no surprise that the next goal was not, in fact, the gamebreaker for CSKA, but saw the Dragons deservedly regain the lead. Jake Chelios found a mighty slapshot from the left-hand point, giving Skotnikov no chance. That’s Jake’s third of the season.
Unfortunately, CSKA responded quickly to that challenge. A minute later, Grigorenko tied it up with his second of the game. Then Maxim Mamin put the home team in front for the first time in the game. That completed a flurry of three goals in as many minutes and we went to the intermission down 3-4.
An early power play in the third saw Wong agonizingly close to tying it up once again before CSKA took the game away. However, there was still one last scare for the home team. Mingachyov made it 5-3, but Campbell’s second of the night had us back to a one-goal game. Considering the way the Dragons scored twice in the last five minutes on the way to a shoot-out win over this opponent in October, there was every reason to hope for another blockbuster finale. Unfortunately, though, CSKA learned from experience. Pavel Karnaukhov quickly restored the two-goal lead and Maxim Sorkin finished the job with another tally a minute later.
The result seals a playoff place for CSKA. For the Dragons, post-season is now merely a theoretical possibility. However, there are many positives to draw from this regular-season campaign. Games like today’s, where the Dragons threw down a real challenge to one of the KHL’s top teams, show how much progress has been made. And while results are not always going our way, we can learn from adversity and look forward to coming back stronger.