Farewell to Mytishchi?

18 February 2023

Kunlun Red Star 1 Barys Astana 2 OT

Today marks the end of the Dragons’ home games this season. Out of playoff contention, the visit of Barys ran down the curtain on our regular season schedule in Mytishchi.

Moreover, it could be the end of the team’s association with this Moscow Region town that we have called home since the pandemic struck back in 2020. Recent developments back in China give us renewed hope that next season we will be able to return home for next season. After all, Shenzhen is primed to host the IIHF Women’s World Championship Division IA tournament in April, and if international sport can return to China without a hitch there’s every reason to believe that our club can once again welcome our KHL opponents to the People’s Republic.

But it would be wrong to talk about leaving without acknowledging everything that Mytishchi has provided for us during our temporary exile. We’ve had three wonderful years here, we’ve seen some memorable hockey and made some great friends. For both the men’s and women’s teams, it won’t be easy to say goodbye for the last time.

Therefore, although today’s game meant little in terms of the KHL season – both the Dragons and the visiting Snow Leopards are out of playoff contention – there was every incentive to finish on a high note.

Unfortunately, that did not quite come off. Things may have been very different if the officials took a different view of Brandon Yip’s first-period shot. Yipper fired in a wrister from an acute angle and found the gap between Nikita Boyarkin’s shoulder and the near post. However, as the goalie flung himself towards the puck in vain, he dislodged the net from its moorings. Careful study of the video saw the play whistled down, even though in real time it looked like the puck crossed the line. There were other chances, most notably when Parker Foo hit the crossbar, but the opening frame finished goalless.

In the second period, Barys got in front through captain Linden Vey. However, our guys continued to battle and the game was tied late on. Jack Rodewald reacted first to the rebound after Boyarkin padded away a shot from Jason Fram. That makes it three points in three games for Rodewald since he returned from injury. Also, oddly enough, Jack’s assist in his final game before he got hurt means this hot streak dates all the way back to Jan. 8. Sport has little use for ‘what-ifs’, but the loss of key players to injury at various times this season has undoubtedly harmed our progress.

Rodewald’s goal pulled us into overtime. However, Colin Campbell took a penalty in the final shift of regulation time and that gave Barys the initiative for the extras. The visitors’ PP took some time to break down our defense, but Nikita Mikhailis eventually found a way through to give the Kazakhs the points and head coach Andrei Skabelka his 300th KHL victory.

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