10 November 2023
Barys Astana 1 Kunlun Red Star 2
This was some time in the making. The Dragons got their first victory in regulation since Sep. 6 thanks to a late goal from Kyle Wood. Today’s triumph in Kazakhstan also brought us back-to-back wins for the first time since the opening week of the season. Altogether, it moves our guys to 25 points, just three adrift of SKA in eighth place.
Red Star arrived in Astana lifted by a historic victory over Dynamo in Wednesday’s game. Following that result, head coach Viktors Ignatjevs made a couple of changes. Jeremy Smith returned in goal, while Alex Riche and Cliff Pu joined the fourth line in place of Jason Fram and Zach Yuen. There was also change in the coaching staff: Mark Kumpel stepped down as assistant coach and Andrei Parfenov replaced him. Andrei, 52, is familiar to the KRS setup after working as head coach of our Heilongjiang junior team in 2018/19. More recently, he was behind the bench in Slovakia, where he led Humenne to the second division championship and promotion last season.
Barys has endured a difficult season so far. The Kazakh team grabbed a shoot-out victory when it came to Mytishchi last month but lost six out of seven games after that. Galym Mambetaliyev remains as interim head coach after replacing Andrei Skabelka on Oct. 7. After more than a month with neither the security of a permanent promotion, nor the appointment of a full-time replacement, it’s tempting to suggest that uncertainty rules within the club.
Today, the home team got some help early in the game. Red Star had to kill one penalty almost immediately after Turner Ottenbreit sat for holding on 73 seconds. That produced little danger for Smitty, and a second home power play saw Luke Lockhart come close to opening the scoring with a short-handed effort after a counterattack saw him shoot against the crossbar.
However, once back at equal strength, Red Star fell behind. Kirill Savitsky claimed the breakthrough, redirecting Adil Beketayev’s shot. That was the only goal of the first period, which was a bit hard to take. We matched Barys for shots on goal – and in most other stats – without finding a way to score on Eddie Pasquale.
In the second period, the play did not change so much. Once again, the piping saved Barys with Teemu Pulkkinen hitting the post. But in the third, we got the rewards we deserved.
It turned into a big session for Wood at both ends of the ice. Early in the frame, he made a vital intervention, backing up behind Smith to prevent Barys doubling its lead. Then our defenseman came back to grab a sensational game-winning goal in the 57th minute. The play started with Riche, who took the puck off #81 out on the left-hand boards. He fed the puck back to the blue line, where Wood strode forward to wire a shot into the top corner from the top of the right-hand circle.
In between Woody’s two big moments, Brandon McMillan grabbed a tying goal in the 49th minute. Brandon got our game-winner in Moscow two days earlier, and made it back-to-back goals with a power play effort, applying the crucial touch to Ryan Merkley’s shot and beating Pasquale at last.
That late goal rush secured another memorable Red Star win. Now our guys move on to Omsk looking to make it three-in-a-row and match our best streak of the season.