Back in action

2 September 2023

It’s showtime! The KHL season gets underway for the Dragons with a trio of tests against teams likely to be among our direct rivals for a Western Conference playoff spot. We start with a short trip to Spartak before our opening home action in Mytishchi pits us against Sochi and Dinamo Minsk.

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Spartak Moscow (a), Sep. 2, 1400 Moscow Time

Last season: The Dragons won three out of four games against Spartak last season. At home, we had a 3-0 victory and a shoot-out success, while November’s trip to Moscow brought a 3-1 verdict. All of Red Star’s goals came in the third period with Jason Fram cancelling out Ilya Talaluyev’s opener for the host before Ty Schultz and Brandon Yip scored twice in a minute to give Red Star the win. Jeremy Smith had 48 saves.

Familiar faces: Our season opener is set to be something of a reunion. Igor Ulanov, who was on the Dragons’ coaching staff in 2020/21, has been with the Red-and-Whites for some time. In the summer, he was reunited with Alexei Kovalev, our head coach in that pandemic-hit 2020/21 season. Kovalev, like Ulanov, will work as an assistant to Alexei Zhamnov. Meanwhile, among the playing staff, Spartak forward German Tochilkin and defenseman Dmitry Kostenko both spent last season on loan at KRS. Tochilkin is the only one likely to feature tomorrow: the 19-year-old had 6 (4+2) points in 21 games with us last season.

Background: It’s a new look Spartak this season. Alexei Zhamnov, who we saw behind Team Russia’s bench at the Beijing Olympics, is the new man in charge and he’ll be expected to deliver an improvement on last season’s struggles. The previous campaign saw Spartak repeatedly change the coaching staff without ever coming close to a winning formula. This season, though, there’s enhanced firepower. The Red-and-Whites added Metallurg duo Nikolai Goldobin and Alexander Burmistrov, Neftekhimik’s leaders Pavel Poryadin and Ansel Galimov, plus Ivan Morozov, who played with our own Spencer Foo with the Henderson Silver Knights in last year’s AHL. Slovak Olympic medallist Michal Cajkovsky adds depth to the ‘D’, while former Salavat Yulaev goalie Andrei Kareyev will challenge another Slovak, Patrik Rybar, for the starting role.

HC Sochi (h), Sep. 4, 1930 Moscow Time

Last season: Sochi came to the Dragons’ Lair three times last season, and left without a single point. We enjoyed a 3-1 win in September, a 5-2 success in November and a 5-1 verdict in January. Parker Foo took a particular liking to the Leopards, scoring four goals in those three games. Tyler Wong had 1+3.

Familiar faces: None

Background: After a horror-show of a season last term, Sochi is hoping that head coach Dmitry Kokorev saw enough in the closing stages to be able to turn his team around. The Leopards were rock bottom in 2023, but have some interesting summer acquisitions. The likes of Kirill Rasskazov, Borna Rendulic and Michal Kristoff may be not among the upper echelon of KHL stars, but they all bring solid experience of performing effectively at the level that Sochi wants to reach. However, this is still a young roster, and one that lost several of its stronger players during last season’s struggles. Our home opener is a game we’ll be hoping to win well, sending a clear message about our own playoff prospects to the rest of the league.

Dinamo Minsk (h), Sep. 6, 1930 Moscow Time

Last season: Our four games against the Bison yielded just one victory – but the 6-2 success on Jan. 11 was one of our best performances of the season. Cliff Pu was the star man, potting a hat-trick. He got the first two as the Dragons jumped to a 4-0 lead, while Tomas Jurco, Kyle Wood and Parker Foo were also on target.

Familiar faces: It’s a quick reunion with his former clubmates for our on-loan defenseman Nikita Parfenyuk. However, the 21-year-old is not exactly part of the furniture at Dinamo: he joined the Dragons barely a month after completing his return to his homeland following two seasons in the OHL with Oshawa Generals.

Background: With the experienced Dmitry Kvartalnov behind the bench – the winningest head coach in KHL history, albeit without yet lifting the Gagarin Cup – Dinamo could be a different proposition this season. The Belarusians made the playoffs in the last three seasons under Craig Woodcroft but are hoping to go further for the first time in the KHL era. Forward Vladislav Kodola was in great pre-season form after his return from Dynamo Moscow, Canadian defenseman Kodie Curran has KHL experience from a season with Metallurg and there are high hopes for a clutch of signings from the AHL – goalie Dylan Ferguson, D-man Yanni Kaldis, and forwards Sam Anas and Gemel Smith.

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