4 September 2023
Kunlun Red Star 3 HC Sochi 0
After a good start at Spartak, the Dragons kept up their winning form by blanking HC Sochi. There was a mixture of old and new at the back for this game: Jeremy Smith secured his first shut-out of the season, stopping 11 shots in the third period to finish with 29 saves and stifle the Leopards hopes of a fightback. In front of him, though, we had two debutant defensemen: Ryan Merkley and Turner Ottenbreit.
Merkley was signed late in the summer, and we talked about him late last week. Ottenbreit is an even more recent capture. The 27-year-old Canadian brings a sizeable physical presence at 191 cm and 87 kg. He also has extensive AHL experience from 175 games with the Iowa Wild. Back in 2017, he helped Seattle Thunderbirds to the WHL title. Now he’s on a one-year deal with the Dragons, adding to our defensive options.
The defensive debuts got an instant boost. With less than three minutes played, Red Star had the lead. Sochi took a penalty, and we needed just six seconds to fashion a power play goal. A slick tic-tac-toe move saw Brandon Yip steer Spencer Foo’s feed into the net – and yes, that means that Foozy’s hot streak lives on.
Our PP stayed pretty hot, too. Late in the first period the Dragons got a second numerical advantage and this time Devin Brosseau made it 2-0, stuffing home the rebound from a Tyler Wong shot. In total, Kunlun had 21 seconds of power play in the first period and scored twice. How’s that for production?
Eventually, Sochi got the hang of the penalty kill. But the visitor could not prevent a third goal late in the middle frame. Red Star’s Iron Man, Luke Lockhart, scored during a passage of four-on-four play. He dropped the puck for Jake Chelios and advanced to redirect the defenseman’s shot past Mikhail Berdin to make it 3-0.
The visitor tried to find a way back in the third period, outshooting KRS 11-2. However, with Smitty on top form there was never any question about the outcome of this game.
Away from the ice, there have also been questions about whether the club might quit the KHL due to the possibility of IIHF sanctions against Chinese hockey in connection with the Ivan Fedotov contract dispute. Happily, our GM Nikita Feoktistov gave a clear statement to Russian media this morning.
His dismissed “speculation and fantasy” around the Fedotov affair and insisted that the club was working according to the rules of the KHL and the IIHF.
“The club’s priority is to stay in the KHL,” he added. “We have no plans to leave the league.
“If there was something in the IIHF regulations that the [KHL] could face additional sanctions, we would be ready for that. We operate by these regulations and there is nothing written about [this outcome]. People can write what they like about sanctions. But nobody has spoken to us about anything, nobody has approached the Chinese Hockey Federation and we have heard nothing from them.”
The longer term is also secure. “China is one of the main drivers of hockey’s development in Asia,” Feoktistov added. “Right now, I don’t see any sense in the IIHF entering into a conflict with China [over Fedotov]. Right now, it feels like this is just talk.”