Winning start for the Dragons

11 August 2023

Lada Togliatti 2 Kunlun Red Star 3

A blistering start and a rousing finish saw the Dragons make a winning start to pre-season. Our guys’ opening game at the Lada Cup ended in a 3-2 victory over host club Lada, with Jake Chelios potting the game-winner with two minutes to play.

Viktors Ignatjevs handed first appearances to new signings Nolan Moyle and Austin Wong. For both, this was a first taste of pro hockey after previously playing at college level. And for both, it was a chance to test themselves against an opponent that has greater depth than its recent VHL history might suggest. Lada boasts significant KHL experience, including former SKA man Andrei Altybarmakyan, much-traveled goalscorer Sergei Shumakov and Gagarin Cup winner Mikhail Fisenko. With the wily coaching nous of Oleg Bratash behind the bench, there are high hopes for the Motormen on their return to the big league.

Despite all that promise, it took just 26 seconds for Kunlun to open the scoring. The home defense was caught napping when Kyle Wood dumped the puck in, Doyle Somerby found it all too easy to retain possession and fire to the back door where Devin Brosseau finished it off.

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That was just the start. Our guys continued to push, and a minute later we doubled the lead. Spencer Foo potted his first goal since returning to the club, taking up a good position on the slot and stuffing the puck home after Cliff Pu tested home goalie Alexander Trushkov.

Ignatjevs and his coaching staff could hardly have asked for a better opening to the game or the tournament. But Lada was determined to show that it had something in its locker. The home team fought back, halving the deficit midway through the first period and tying the game in the second. Altybarmakyan and Yegor Babenko were on target to make it 2-2.

It was beginning to look like overtime would be required to separate the teams. After the early flurry of scoring, goals proved harder to come by in the latter half of the game. Matt Jurusik worked hard to keep Lada at bay and finished the game with 24 saves from 26 shots. Moreover, he finished with the W thanks to that late Chelios tally. The decisive goal was a reward for the ever-popular tactic of doing simple things well. Jake collected the puck at the point, fired it towards the net, and, with goaltender Trushkov unsighted, saw his effort squeeze inside the near post to win the game.

This four-team tournament continues tomorrow with KRS in action against Neftekhimik. The Wolves kicked off their program with a similarly hard-fought victory over Khimik, giving Saturday’s showdown the feel of a potential title decider.

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