Penalty trouble costs Dragons a first loss

8 September 2023

Ak Bars Kazan 5 Kunlun Red Star 1

Well, it was fun while it lasted. The Dragons’ winning start to the season came to an end in Kazan, but despite the loss our guys remain in the leading group with six points. Now, though, we’re joined by Torpedo and tonight’s opponent.

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After a winning start, there was little need for big changes to the team. However, it was good to see Ryan Sproul back on defensive duties after he missed the last two games. And our defense got a thorough examination in the first period. Ak Bars suffered a shock loss at home to Sochi last time out and Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s men began with a point to prove.

The opening frame saw most of the play in front of Matt Jurusik’s net. He faced 12 shots, while we managed just three at the other end. That’s not to say there were no chances: Cliff Pu’s presence on the slot created genuine opportunities, but the home defense marshalled him well.

Despite all the pressure, Ak Bars could only break through on the power play. Dmitry Yudin’s shot through traffic was the only tally of the first period.

Down by one, we knew this was still a game. And, early in the second, Jack Rodewald proved it. It was a classy play: Jake Chelios brought the puck out of defense and sent it wide for Brandon Yip. His feed to the center was met by a perfect Rodewald wrist shot, while Spencer Foo screened Timur Bilyalov’s view.

The goal also ushered in a competitive middle frame. Both teams had chances to get ahead, and there was a steady string of penalties. Ultimately, though, the Ak Bars power play made the difference. Our guys killed Nolan Moyle’s minor, but the home pressure proved too much and Evgeny Svechnikov made it 2-1 shortly after we returned to full strength. Then, Austin Wong went to the box and Stanislav Galiyev added a third. That got under Moyle’s skin and our young center picked up a major for his fight with Konstantin Luchevnikov.

Unfortunately, that was almost the last blow the Dragons landed in this game. The third period was a step too far and Ak Bars enjoyed the bulk of the play in the final stanza. Our PK was busy again, wiping out a long five-on-three situation. However, as in the second period, the home power play generated momentum and Damir Zhafyarov scored just as Turner Ottenbrite returned to the game. A late power play goal from Vadim Shipachyov gave the final score a lopsided look, but also highlighted that in five-on-five play, Red Star was able to test one of the strongest teams in the championship. The Dragons may no longer lead the league, but there are still signs that this team can compete with all-comers this season.

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