Fast start for on-loan defenseman

17 August 2023

Kunlun Red Star 3 AKM Tula 2 SO

Sometimes, it’s good to get the introductions out of the way quickly. Nikita Parfenyuk, our on-loan Belarusian defenseman clearly thinks so. The 19-year-old, who joins us for the season from Dinamo Minsk, made his first appearance today and marked the occasion with a goal in the second minute.

Parfenyuk has some solid experience prior to entering the Dragons’ Lair. He helped Yunior Minsk win the Belarusian championship in 2021 and spent much of the last two seasons playing OHL hockey with the Oshawa Generals in Canada. The youngster is clearly regarded as one for the future in Belarus after signing with Dinamo until 2026; for now, he’s looking for game time with us.

Nikita wasn’t the only “new” face to feature in Thursday’s game. Jeremy Smith started in goal, making his first appearance since returning to the club on a three-year deal. In addition, fellow netminder Alexander Lazushin agreed to a one-year term and played the third period – and beyond – in today’s game. With two reliable veterans and the promising Matt Jurusik available for the last line of defense, our rearguard should be in safe hands for the coming season.

Meanwhile, it’s fair to say that the rest of the team is a work in progress. That’s no bad thing: we’re still a couple of weeks away from the season opener and at this stage, the players and management should absolutely be experimenting, establishing an identity, and testing different combinations. In that context, results are secondary to getting the ice under players’ skates and raising levels of fitness and performance.

Therefore, a sometimes uneven display against our VHL opponent from Tula can be understood. There were, of course, bright spots. Parfenyuk’s goal, Spencer Foo among the points again for the fourth game running, a typically reliable display from Smitty and some hard work from Lazushin in a difficult third period.

However, there were some frustrations as well. After getting off to a great start, the Dragons ran into penalty trouble and handed the initiative to AKM. Ultimately, that cost us when Yegor Yakovlev (not the renowned Metallurg defenseman) tied the scores at the start of the second. After that goal, the Dragons generated momentum of their own but could not get back in front until Foo set up Ryan Sproul to make it 2-1 early in the third.

Then Lazushin found himself under pressure but stopped almost everything that came his way. He was beaten just once, by Gleb Petrov in the 52nd minute, as the game went to overtime.

The extras saw some resilience from Red Star, not least when Doyle Somerby’s penalty left us shorthanded for the last 22 seconds. Curiously, in the final second of the extras, former Dragon Igor Saprykin left the Tula net to enable Ivan Kulikov to play in the shoot-out. That tactic did not pay off, though. During the first five rounds, Brandon Yip and Jack Rodewald were on target but the teams could not be separated. Into sudden death, Rodewald scored again to give Kunlun the win.

Our guys are back in action Saturday when we entertain Vityaz.

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Kunlun Red Star