16 November 2023
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 5 Kunlun Red Star 4
Thursday was a day of landmarks for the Dragons. As a club, we celebrated our 1,000th goal in the KHL. On an individual note, Brandon Yip made his 300th appearance for the club. Captain China is only the second player in our history to reach that milestone, following Luke Lockhart.
It was a set to be a memorable day, and it turned into exactly that. The teams served up an epic battle in Yaroslavl and the disappointment of a barely-deserved loss is tempered with the knowledge that there was some excellent hockey in a battling 60-minute performance against one of the league’s top teams.
On a special day, we got off to a fast start. Within two minutes, Red Star had the lead. Kyle Wood moved quickly to get to the point and prevent Stepan Nikulin taking the puck out of the Lokomotiv zone. Then he fired the puck into the danger zone where Georgy Ivanov and Alexander Yelesin got in the way, leaving Sergei Murashov unsighted as the puck went past him.
Our PK was called into action after that, but the next penalty but Kunlun on the power play for the first time in the game. And that brought the historic 1,000th KHL goal for the club. Tyler Wong was the scorer, drifting into space at the back door to receive Wood’s feed and apply a routine finish. For the second time in the game, Wood was involved in a goal; for the second time in the game, Yelesin was caught out of position at the crucial moment.
Lokomotiv responded as expected. A well-drilled, efficient team will always get scoring chances and Denis Alexeyev pulled one back in the 15th minute. It’s worth noting that, once again, Jeremy Smith’s excellence between the pipes kept the Dragons in the game. Loko scored just once off 22 first-period shots on goal (by contrast, we were running a 25% conversion rate for our shots). In the middle frame, the disparity was even more pronounced. Midway through the period, Loko was up 11-2 for shots and shortly afterwards Nikulin made one count to tie the game.
Once again, though, the Red Star power play came to the rescue. Sergei Andronov sat for a minor and it took just 25 seconds to parlay that into a goal. There didn’t seem to be all that much danger when Wong fed the puck back to Zac Leslie on the blue line. However, when the defender strode forward to release his shot, it was too much for Murashov to deal with and the Dragons were back in front.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t take that lead into the second intermission. With 90 seconds remaining in the period, Maxim Shalunov tied the game for a second time.
Six goals through 40 minutes made a mockery of claims that Lokomotiv plays negative hockey, and the scoring continued in the third. Our guys began the session on the PK after Teemu Pulkkinen took a major for kneeing. But even a labor shortage could not slow the Dragons’ progress: Andrei Sergeyev’s lazy no-look pass went straight to Jack Rodewald, and he went through to add to Murashov’s unhappy evening.
Once again, though, Loko hit back. Daniil Tesanov made it 4-4 in the 47th minute of an absorbing battle. Then penalty trouble undid the Dragons. Alex Riche took a double minor for high sticks, Devin Brosseau followed him into the box for tripping and we had to kill a three-on-five. That proved too much, and Sergei Andronov’s power play marker was a hammer blow for our guys as we fell behind for the first time in the evening.
There were still four minutes to play, and we spent the last couple with six skaters in a desperate battle to snatch the tying goal our performance deserved. But it wasn’t to be: a brave performance and some historic achievements were not enough to add to our points tally.