Teemu at the double

27 November 2023

Sibir Novosibirsk 3 Kunlun Red Star 2

Two goals from Teemu Pulkkinen provided the highlight from the Dragons’ trip to Siberia. Our Finnish forward was assisted on both plays by Brandon McMillan, indicating once again the potential in a partnership put together on the team during the course of the season.


Unfortunately, on this occasion that two-goal show wasn’t quite enough. After losing in Mytishchi, Sibir rebounded with back-to-back home wins and today our host added a third successive victory. The quirks of this season’s schedule didn’t help: a single road game in the midst of a home stand is unusual enough, but when that game involves a flight deep into the heart of Siberia for a one-off engagement, it takes a toll on our players’ physical and mental preparation.

On the plus side, our guys went into the game with renewed belief after grabbing a 1-0 win over Ak Bars in the previous engagement. That persuaded Viktors Ignatjevs to go with an almost unchanged roster. Apart from Matt Jurusik rotating into the team in place of Jeremy Smith, the Dragons lined up with the same offensive combinations and defensive pairings as we deployed last time. Sibir, meanwhile, was without leading scorer and former Dragon Taylor Beck, who missed out due to illness.

And there was no sign of lethargy at the start. Red Star surged forward from the opening face-off and home goalie Anton Krasotkin – who continues to get the nod ahead of veteran Anton Khudobin – had a couple of big saves to make in the opening moments of the game. Any neutral observer would surely have backed the Dragons to open the scoring, and fast, but it wasn’t to be. A Sibir counter set Vladimir Mikhalyov away and his shot took a wicked deflection off Ryan Sproul’s skate and went into our net. Sometimes, there just ain’t no justice.

Disappointed but not defeated, Kunlun had the better of the rest of the frame. By the intermission, we outshot Sibir 10-7 and held our own in every other indicator. Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite enough to tie the game in the first period, with Krasotkin continuing to impress.

In the second period, Red Star began by peppering the Sibir net from distance and steadily got closer and closer to the target. There was a brief pause while Luke Lockhart remonstrated with Maxim Sushko for a foul on Tyler Wong. This is the kind of protest we enjoy: instant retribution, a few meaty blows and the opponent pinned to the ice. Best of all, Sushko took a minor penalty for his crude shove on Wong, giving Red Star a power play.


Up stepped Pulkkinen. The Finn found space between the hashmarks and blasted home a one-timer off Ryan Merkley’s feed to tie the game. With the scores level, Wonger then created a classy moment of his own, deking past the D to get a good look at Krasotkin, only for his balance to fail him at the last. He shot wide of the target as he fell to the ice.

However, after scoring on the power play, the Dragons then allowed a power play goal at the other end. Sergei Dubakin seems to like playing against us: his goal today was his third in our two meetings this season. With all due respect, we can’t be too sorry that we won’t see him again in this regular season.

The lead did not last long this time. Within two minutes Pulkkinen had his second and the scores were level once more. This one came at equal strength: Cliff Pu drilled the puck to the back door, McMillan got it back to the slot and Teemu got there first to stuff it home. With the roar of a true Finnish lion, Pulkkinen celebrated hauling us back on terms ahead of the second intermission.

After fighting back twice, there was no need for great alarm when Artyom Mikheyev made it 3-2 for Sibir at the start of the third. However, by now the strain of the journey was beginning to tell. Our guys refused to give up but struggled to regain the zip that characterized their earlier play. Chances came less frequently and Sibir was able to close out the win.

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