No Hallowe’en treats for the Dragons

31 October 2023

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 Kunlun Red Star 0

Hallowe’en brought more tricks than treats for the Dragons as our guys suffered a 0-3 loss on the road. This was a game that summed up too many of our recent problems: penalty trouble, giving up a short-handed goal and failing to grab any early initiative. That said, against an opponent that invariably gives us a hard time, Tuesday’s result was rather closer than many recent encounters.

The line-up was similar to the team that faced Traktor last week. The only change in personnel saw Kyle Wood return in place of Jason Fram on defense. That meant no role for Jeremy Smith once again, with Ruslan Yerokhin continuing as back-up to Matt Jurusik. Viktors Ignatjevs did switch up the lines, promoting the McMillan-Pulkkinen-Spencer Foo trio to the first line for today’s game.

Our host came into the game on a run of poor form and was clearly under instructions to start on time today. In the opening minutes, Red Star struggled to stay in the game, and Jurusik’s excellence in goal was crucial. All too often in these situations, the Dragons find themselves down by an early goal or two; today, that didn’t happen. Indeed, as the opening frame wore on, Avtomobilist picked up penalties and we saw some presentable chances on the power play. The best off them involved the top line, with some slick passing to set up Spencer for a powerful shot that forced a good save from Vladimir Galkin.

006 31 10 2023 Kolchin

At the start of the second period, with the score still goalless, Red Star got its third penalty of the game. Unfortunately, the curse of the short-handed goal struck again. Our attack broke down, Avto got possession and launched a classic two-on-one counter. Stepan Khripunov was the ultimate beneficiary, beating Jurusik to open the scoring.

That ushered in a middle frame with the home team again well on top. Midway through the session, a power play chance saw Avtomobilist double the lead. Brooks Macek went for a trademark shot from the left-hand circle, the puck got caught up in traffic and Alexei Makeyev was on hand to bang it in from the slot. At the other end, Red Star’s counterattacks were less common, but Luke Lockhart kept Galkin alert late in the frame.

Although the home team has not always been effective this season, Avto knows a thing or two about game management. KRS needed a fast start to the final frame to dislodge their grip on the game, but instead faced a penalty kill as the third got underway. After surviving that, our guys found it tough to break down an opponent that was now content to yield possession and focus on holding our forwards to the perimeter and protecting Galkin’s net. There was only one moment of real danger for the home goaltender, but although a 54th-minute scramble left him sprawling across the ice, nobody could stuff the puck over the line.

The final word came in the final minute. Jurusik went to our bench as we tried to save the game with a sixth skater. Instead, though, Avtomobilist won back possession and Andrei Obidin put a third goal into the empty net. It just goes to show: Hallowe’en is a western tradition that has yet to be fully embraced in China.

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