Leslie leads Red Star revival

9 February 2023

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3 Kunlun Red Star 2 OT

A battling Red Star performance saw the Dragons recover from a bad start to force overtime in Ufa. Goals from Parker Foo and Zac Leslie salvaged a 2-2 tie, before Alexander Chmelevski gave the home team the additional point in the extras. That’s the fourth successive OT goal from Chmelevski, who is becoming something of a specialist in 3×3 play.

After victory at Severstal last time out, the Dragons arrived in Ufa with a couple of changes to the line-up. Jeremy Smith returned in goal, replacing Matt Jurusik, but the most impactful change was the return of Zac Leslie. He and Doyle Somerby returned to the defense in place of Vince LoVerde and Kyle Wood.

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However, the opening stages did not go well. Salavat Yulaev took an immediate grip on proceedings with two goals in a minute. Danil Alalykin opened the scoring on 3:04 and Artyom Pimenov doubled the lead of 3:57. The only consolation for Kunlun was that we still had 56 minutes of the game to try to put things right.

Despite that early shock, the Dragons kept battling. Greg Ireland called a time-out right away to refocus his team. And the rest of the first period saw some dangerous moments around the Ufa net. Brandon Yip hit the post and then forced a big save from home goalie Ilya Ezhov. Then, late in the frame, Tomas Jurco released Colin Campbell but his one-on-one rush brought another stop from the netminder.

Our offense continued to ask questions in the second period. There were big breakaway chances for Tyler Wong and Parker Foo, but at the other end the home forwards kept Jeremy Smith busy. Smitty came up with two more big stops in quick succession to keep us in the game.

Then came Foozy’s 30th point of the season, midway through the second period. Red Star was enjoying its second power play of the game when Zac Leslie moved the puck along the blue line to Jurco. The Slovak fired in a diagonal feed and Foo was perfectly placed between the hash marks to steer the puck beyond Ezhov and halve the deficit.

That was Leslie’s first contribution of the game, but he would make an even bigger one in the 59th minute when he grabbed the tying goal. The same trio that created the opening goal was back together. Foo delivered a big hit in the corner, preventing Salavat Yulaev from clearing the puck. Jurco picked up the place and moved the action to the center of the zone, where Leslie was poised to sweep home the tying goal. That takes our D-man to 38 (8+30) points for the season and, with a couple of weeks to go, Leslie could be the third KRS player to compile a 40-point campaign.

Unfortunately, though, the Dragons could not force the win in the extras. Salavat Yulaev took the bold step of removing goalie Ezhov in favor of a fourth skater. The extra attacker made the difference, helping Chmelevski pot the decider after 100 seconds.

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