KRS Vanke Rays 3 Dynamo Neva 1 (2-1, 0-0, 1-0)
A second successive victory over Dynamo Neva consolidated the Vanke Rays’ position at the top of the WHL standings – and the Lady Dragons once again looked impressive on the power play to see off their playoff-chasing opponent.
However, this game was rather different from yesterday’s comfortable 5-0 triumph. Dynamo clearly absorbed the lessons from that encounter and returned to Stupino with a more aggressive outlook. The opening exchanges were evenly matched, and Kimberly Newell had to be alert to contend with the threat posed by the likes of Polina Bolgareva and Fanuza Kadirova. Then, midway through the first period, a penalty on Megan Bozek gave the visitor an opportunity to press harder. Yulia Smirnova tested Newell again, before Evgenia Dyupina did well to bring the puck out of the left-hand corner and get to the net. Smirnova stuffed it home from close range and, after a video review, the goal was awarded.
Galvanized by that setback, the home team began to assert itself – and stepping up the pace forced penalties for Dynamo and goals for us. In the 16th minute, with Bolgareva in the box, Alex Carpenter once again showed her class. An unstoppable surge took her all the way around the net then, eschewing the solo wraparound attempt, she found space to pick out Leah Lum at the back door for the equalizer.
Dynamo tried to hit back at once, but Newell had the answers to Kadirova’s solo rush and, with the intermission approaching, another power play saw KRS take the lead. This one started with Rachel Llanes’ determination at the net, recycling a play that seemed to be stifled. Jessica Wong teed up Bozek for a thunderbolt, and Hannah Miller had the strength and courage to get into the flight path of that bullet and redirect it beyond Nadezhda Morozova in the Dynamo net. Two goals in little over two minutes transformed the mood on the team – and probably went a good way towards rewriting Brian Idalski’s instructions at the break.
From that point on, the game followed a familiar pattern. With a lead to preserve, the Lady Dragons were able to hold the opposition at arm’s length and limit the opportunities for Dynamo to get back into contention. After 12 shots on target in the first period, the visitor was limited to just seven in the next two with scoring chances dwindling almost to nothing. At the other end, Llanes applied the finishing touch with a third goal late on, firing home from a central position after Carpenter’s powerful rush down the right turned defense into attack. Two assists from Carpenter in today’s game moves our leading scorer to 36 (16+20) points for the season, placing her fourth in the league for points.
Today’s win extends the Rays’ lead over Agidel to four points at the top of the WHL table. That gap could be cut once again on Thursday, when the second-placed team from Ufa travels to Yekaterinburg to play lowly SKSO, but our girls return to action on Friday with the first of two games at home to Tornado, our opponent in last season’s playoff semi-final.