Zero quit Dragons grab shoot-out success

19 September 2023

Amur Khabarovsk 1 Kunlun Red Star 2 SO

The Dragons dug deep to snap a three-game losing streak with a battling shoot-out win in Khabarovsk. Despite a depleted offense – no Foo brothers, no Cory Kane due to injuries – and a long wait for a goal (55 minutes on the night, over 135 minutes since our previous marker against Torpedo), the guys hung tough and grabbed the W.

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Not for the first time, Jeremy Smith did everything to give us a chance to win. He stopped 56 shots in the game, and won four of his five duels in the shoot-out. That helped us to spoil Amur’s home opener and rebuild some belief after a tough week.

Much of Red Star’s early progress this term stemmed from a strong power play. Prior to today’s game, our guys were running at almost 30% with a man advantage. So, when Yegor Korshkov sat for roughing in the fourth minute, this was a great chance to grab an early lead. Wood and Rodewald both went close with efforts that flashed narrowly wide, but Amur held on.

After that promising start, things got tougher. Our penalty kill was put to the test in the seventh minute and Amur took control of the play for much of the remainder of the opening frame. We got to the intermission goalless, but Smitty had to stop 20 shots along the way.

Early in the second, Amur made the breakthrough it had threatened. Cam Lee’s shot was redirected into the net by Dmitry Shevchenko to open the scoring. The home team continued to press, but we don’t call our goalie the hardest working man in hockey for nothing. Once again, he caught plenty of rubber and had 43 saves by the second intermission.

At the other end, we were asking questions on the counterattack. A lovely feed from Ryan Merkley released Rodewald but Dmitry Lozebnikov got the angles right in the Amur net and the shot went wide. Soon after, new signing Daniil Tarasov was close to opening his account for the club with an effort from the slot that drew a big save from the home goalie. In terms of creating opportunities, we had quality, if not quantity, but could not tie the game before the second break.

After soaking up so much pressure, the start of the third brought a rare opportunity to dictate the tempo. Amur ran into penalty trouble, Ivan Mishchenko took a double minor and then our former defenseman Viktor Baldayev followed him into the box. The prospect of a long five-on-three advantage prompted Viktors Ignatjevs to call a time-out and plot a strategy that could turn the game around. Unfortunately, Amur’s defense was alert to our plans and the Dragons were unable to find a way through.

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But the game was not done. With five minutes left, Red Star tied the scores thanks to Zac Leslie’s first of the season. Merkley fired the puck to the danger zone and veteran home defenseman Yakov Rylov made a horrible mess of dealing with it as it bounced around the slot. Ever obliging, Zac helped him out by pouncing on the loose puck and putting it tidily into the net to take the game to overtime.

In the extras, the Dragons got a great chance to grab the winner when Shevchenko went to the box. However, we couldn’t take advantage and the opportunity came to a premature end when Cliff Pu was penalized for tripping.

The shoot-out saw Smitty dominate the home forwards once again, while at the other end Luke Lockhart and Alex Riche unlocked Lozebnikov to snatch a valuable victory. Onwards to Admiral!

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