Facing last season’s finalists

8 September 2023

Table-topping Dragons take on 2023’s top dogs

It’s been a fantastic start to the season, with the Dragons topping the KHL standings after three wins from three games. That represents our club’s best-ever start to any season since we began in 2016, and has the guys looking ahead to the next games with even greater enthusiasm. Sure, there are tough tests to come, but in its current form, Red Star can face any opponent with confidence. So, let’s see who’s up next.


Ak Bars Kazan (a), Sep. 8, 1900 Moscow Time

Last season: Our games against Ak Bars last season ended in defeat. However, if you back two years to Sep. 2021, you’ll find our last victory in Kazan – a 4-3 comeback win that upset the odds early in that season.

Background: This game pits a veteran head coach against a relative rookie. Our own Viktors Ignatjevs has just three games behind the bench in the KHL so far, while at the weekend his opposite number Zinetula Bilyaletdinov marked 1,200 games in Russia’s top division. Coach Bill’s track record of success is unsurpassed, and his team began this season with yet more silverware when it defeated CSKA 5-2 to lift the Opening Cup.

But Ak Bars can be beaten. On Wednesday, HC Sochi travelled to Kazan for a game where few gave the Leopards a chance. Yet the struggler produced a rousing performance to grab a memorable 3-1 victory. That could be a mixed blessing for our guys: on the one hand, it shows that there is nothing to fear from Ak Bars; on the other, we’ll need to be prepared for something of a backlash from our Friday night host.

Friday’s game also pits two of the early-season scoring leaders against one another. Dmitrij Jaskin, AK Bars’ high-profile summer signing from SKA, was always expected to score heavily. But after three games, he’s tied with our own Devin Brosseau on 5 (3+2) points. And, by the way, our man has the better plus/minus with +3 against -1.

CSKA Moscow (h), Sep. 10, 1600 Moscow Time

Last season: CSKA might have won last year’s Gagarin Cup, but the Muscovites never managed a win in Mytishchi. In September, Zac Leslie’s overtime goal gave us a 2-1 verdict. Then, a month later, Alexander Perevalov scored twice in the last five minutes to salvage a 4-4 tie, then the on-loan youngster potted the shoot-out winner in one of the best games of the season.

Background: The opening week of the season hasn’t really gone to plan for CSKA. The defending champion talked bullishly about an unprecedented hat-trick of titles, but the on-ice action has not backed up that big ambition. Losses at home to Ak Bars and Metallurg came either side of a victory over Admiral – not disastrous, but nothing like the standards we’ve come to expect from Sergei Fedorov’s team.

The return of goalie Ivan Fedotov, the subject of a trans-Atlantic transfer wrangle, was hailed as a boost for the team. So far, though, it feels more like an unwanted distraction: Fedotov played the Opening Cup loss against Ak Bars but hasn’t gotten on the ice since. Alexander Sharychenkov stepped in for the Admiral and Magnitka games.

However, this is not a team to be dismissed on the basis of a couple of disappointing results. After all, most of the championship-winning line-up is back, with goalie Adam Reideborn the only notable absence from last year. The D-core – Nikita Nesterov, Fredrik Claesson, Darren Dietz and Yaroslav Dyblenko – remains intact, while the offense is also well-accustomed to playing together. Sooner or later, CSKA is likely to hit its top form: but hopefully, that will be some time later than Sunday afternoon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Captcha loading...

Kunlun Red Star