Dragons back on top

10 September 2023

Kunlun Red Star 3 CSKA Moscow 2 OT

Remember last season? Two victories over CSKA even as the Muscovites marched to a second championship? Today we got a happy reminder of those triumphs as the Dragons continue to soar at the start of the 2023/24 campaign. Jack Rodewald’s OT winner sends our guys back to the top of the standings, a point clear of Metallurg and Avtomobilist.


After suffering the first loss of the season in Kazan, the Dragons made a couple of changes. Jeremy Smith returned in goal, giving Matt Jurusik some rest. Doyle Somerby resumed his defensive duties, while forward Mikhail Abramov made his first appearance of the season on the fourth line.

In the early stages, CSKA got on top. The visitor had an early power play, and turned that into the opening goal on three minutes. An attempted clearance was intercepted on the blue line and the turnaround saw Pavel Karnaukhov get the only goal of the first period.

However, there were signs that KRS could stay in the game, with Alex Riche intercepting the puck in the CSKA zone and advancing on Ivan Fedotov. That was our guys’ best chance of the first period, but it served notice that the game was far from done.

One of the highlights of the season so far has been the Dragons’ power play. Today it clicked once again. Midway through the second period, on only our second PP chance, captain Brandon Yip tied the game. His redirect in front of Fedotov’s net steered Spencer Foo’s shot into the net to tie the game. Moreover, with the scores level, the balance of play changed: not even a pair of successive CSKA power plays could see the visitor regain its early dominance.

That power play struck again in the third period. Cliff Pu sent the puck back for Ryan Merkley, and our summer signing set off on a mazy rush into the right-hand circle. His pass found Rodewald between the hash marks and the finish was perfect. Kunlun up 2-1, 12 minutes to play.

Rodewald’s first goal wasn’t quite enough to win it. Nikita Nesterov tied the scores, albeit aided by a freakish double deflection off and Merkley. That was harsh on Smitty, who went on to finish the game with 48 saves despite that misfortune. The best – certainly the most important – came late in the third when Vitaly Abramov fired from point-blank range and our goalie robbed him of a winning goal.

That meant overtime. Last season proved that the Dragons can burn CSKA in the extras and that happened once again here. Sergei Fedorov, the visiting head coach, is fond of going all in during overtime, removing goalie Fedotov from the game and looking to force the pace with an extra skater. That can work well, but only when CSKA’s players keep hold of the puck. Today, Smitty pulled off another big save to deny Sergei Plotnikov and our guys reacted fastest. Somerby got to the puck and fed it to Rodewald. From deep in his own zone, Jack launched the puck down the ice and into the net to snatch another memorable win over the Muscovites.

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