Dragons make their point

14 October 2023

Kunlun Red Star 3 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 4 OT

A much-improved KRS performance saw the guys earn a gutsy point at home to Neftekhimik. Despite trailing 0-2 midway through the first, the Dragons battled back to force overtime but could not quite get this one over the line.


It may not be coincidence that today’s result – bringing our first point since Oct. 1 – came on a day that we were able to bring players back into the team. Viktors Ignatjevs could call on Zac Leslie to man the defense again, while Anton Shenfeld and Alex Riche returned to the forward line. That also meant that Jason Fram could resume his more accustomed blue line role after a long spell as a stand-in forward. It’s also worth noting that Saturday’s action came after a two-day break: the first time in six gruelling weeks that our team has enjoyed more than 48 hours of rest with neither a game, nor travel, to drain our energy.

Admittedly, the start was not promising. Neftekhimik may be struggling the Eastern Conference, but our visitor could point to signs of improvement after a 3-8 hammering at Metallurg early this month. Indeed, the Wolves took at least a point from each of the last three games, taking Avtomobilist and Sochi to overtime on either side of a shut-out win over Vityaz sandwiched.

That confidence was clear from the visitor’s start, which brought two goals in a minute before the midway point of the first period. Vladimir Bryukvin opened the scoring before Alexander Dergachyov potted on the PP.

However, a penalty on Bryukvin opened the door for the Dragons, and five minutes before the intermission, Brandon Yip got us on the board. Leslie was instrumental, thumping in a shot that bounced back off the boards for Captain China to find the open net from a tight angle. Lifted, Red Star came close to tying the game before the intermission, but Filipp Dolganov denied Luke Lockhart on the rush.

Not even a penalty kill at the start of the second period could slow the Dragons’ progress. Instead, a wayward pass from Neftekhimik’s scoring leader Andrei Belozyorov enabled Doyle Somerby to turn defense into attack. His stretch pass released Riche, who dished off a perfect feed for Colin Campbell to tie the game with his second goal of the season.

There was more to come. After a power play goal and a shorty, it was time to complete the set with a marker at equal strength. Turner Ottenbreit’s shot bounced away from Dolganov and Parker Foo added to his first-period assist with the go-ahead goal. Meanwhile, you remember we talked about Fram returning to defensive duties? That didn’t prevent him emerging here as a de facto center to provide the traffic that stopped the goalie from getting a clear view of Parker’s shot. Versatility. It’s a virtue.

Red Star began the third period on the power play, but was unable to capitalize on the rule change that moved the face-off into the D-zone for the team on the PK. Instead, we saw the second short handed goal of the game as Bryukvin tied it up at 3-3.

That proved to be a big moment in the game. Despite a brave effort in the third, Kunlun was unable to get back in front. Fatigue played a part: it was noticeable that as the game wore on, it was harder for our guys to maintain the attacking threat that had served so well earlier. As a result, overtime proved a step too far: three minutes of constant pressure from Neftekhimik ended with Bulat Shafigullin getting the winning goal.

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