2 September 2023
Spartak Moscow 3 Kunlun Red Star 4
Opening day win? Completed it, mate! The Dragons made a great start to the new season, shooting down a fancied Spartak team to bring Viktors Ignatjevs victory in his first competitive game as our head coach. Red Star continued its promising pre-season form, with further contributions from our leading summer scorers, to edge a win by the odd goal in seven.
For the first game of the season there were several KHL debutants on the Dragons’ team. Nolan Moyle centered our first line, alongside Alex Riche and Colin Campbell. Austin Wong joined his brother Tyler on the third line, with Devin Brosseau completing that trio. On-loan D-man Nikita Parfenyuk was in the fourth pair with Zach Yuen. Meanwhile, there was a familiar combination on our second line with Brandon Yip, Cliff Pu and Spencer Foo combining. Jeremy Smith got the start in goal.
During pre-season, Brosseau and Foo were our leading scorers. It took less than seven minutes for that to continue into the competitive action. Devin, who had nine points in the summer, opened our account for 2023/24 on 4:16. Doyle Somerby won possession in our zone, Tyler Wong released Brosseau down the left and he advanced on Patrik Rybar’s net, feinted past a lunging defenseman and fired in a shot. His attempt hit the bar, but bounced into the net via the back of the luckless Rybar, with Austin Wong on hand to ensure there would be no reprieve for Spartak.
A couple of minutes later it was 2-0, and our first power play of the season was on target. Jack Rodewald dished off a pass to the top of the right-hand circle, Cliff Pu aimed a wrister at the net and Foozy slid in to steer the puck beyond Rybar. That’s a nine-game hot streak for Spencer, including his pre-season appearances.
It all added up to a great start to the season, all the more so considering that Spartak went unbeaten through August and eased to a 4-1 victory over the Dragons when we met at the Mayor of Moscow Cup. However, there was a wobble at the end of the first frame when Spartak pulled one back on the power play with summer signing Michal Cajkovsky on target.
Nothing daunted, the Dragons responded immediately. Campbell and Riche led the charge into enemy territory, and Jake Chelios followed up from the rearguard to stuff the puck home at the near post and restore that two-goal cushion.
This is a new-look Spartak team compared with last season, and another new Red-and-White signing reduced the arrears right at the start of the second period. Nikolai Goldobin made it 2-3 and ensured the game remained very much alive. However, the middle frame also saw some solid game management from KRS, limiting Spartak’s attacking chances and doing a good job of protecting Smitty’s net. Through 40 minutes, our guys blocked 16 shots, ensuring that although Spartak had more than twice as much time on offense, the shot count was a relatively even 21-15.
Red Star’s next shot on goal proved significant. At the start of the third period, Jason Fram struck to make it 4-2. This time Foozy was the architect, racing onto a Brandon Yip stretch pass and leading Cajkovsky down a blind alley before switching the play for the on-rushing Fram to score at the back door.
Subsequently Spartak tried to step up its offensive game, but repeatedly ran into a white-jerseyed wall in front of Jeremy Smith’s net. Despite a late goal from Pavel Poryadin, the home team fell foul of a well-disciplined defense as Red Star closed out a winning start to the season.