KRS Vanke Rays 5 Tornado Moscow Region 1 (2-0, 2-0, 1-1)
Friday marks the first day of the Chinese Year of the Ox and the height of the Spring Festival. For the Lady Dragons, far from China this season, it was time for a celebration of our own – a 10th successive WHL victory, with Alex Carpenter’s hat-trick leading the way.
Prior to the game there was encouraging news from goalie Noora Raty. A week ago she picked up an unfortunate injury during our exhibition game against Team Russia, but happily the doctors reported that it would not require surgery. Noora headed back to her native Finland to recuperate – and enjoy some well deserved time with family and friends after more than a year away from home – and even has an outside hope of a return to the ice before the end of the season.
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old netminder has every confidence that her colleagues can finish the season with another WHL title, writing on her Instagram: “Another good news is that we have such a strong group of women together this year and one goalie going down won’t make any difference in the end result. This group is 🔥 and I have all my trust in them to get the job done again this season even if I couldn’t come back on time.”
In Raty’s absence, Kimberly Newell continued as our starting goalie. In particular, she faced the challenge of silencing Anna Shokhina, the WHL’s leading scorer this season. Shokhina has an impressive 42 (22+20) points, despite her team’s indifferent form in the current campaign.
However, this game would be dictated by our offense. The opening goal came inside the first four minutes, and it was the familiar combination of Megan Bozek and Alex Carpenter responsible. Megan’s point shot was too hot for the visiting defense to deal with and the rebound ended up on Alex’s stick for her 17th goal of the season.
The game was entertaining to watch, and there were chances at both ends – including two in a matter of seconds during a frantic passage of end-to-end action. First, Carpenter raced onto a broken play and went head-to-head with Anna Alpatova but the Tornado goalie denied her. Then the action went straight to the other end and Anna Shokhina shot against the post with Newell beaten.
Right before the intermission, the Rays made it 2-0. There seemed to be little danger when Alpatova padded a long-range effort to the corner, but Emily Costales kept up the pressure, chasing down a lost cause and forcing play behind the net. Alexandra Vafina stole possession from Karina Akhmetova and fired home a shot from behind the goal line, bouncing the puck into the net off Alpatova’s stick.
In the second period, the Lady Dragons added two more. Bozek and Carpenter combined again midway through the frame to make it 3-0, with Megan powering down the right-hand channel before feeding Alex for a finish from between the hash marks. Then, late in the frame, our fourth of the day had an element of good fortune about it. Alena Mills fired in a rising shot from the blue line which looped up off Rachel Llanes’ stick and dropped into the net. Alpatova had to contend with Hannah Miller’s screen as well as the unpredictable flight of the puck and had little idea what was happening until the goal was awarded.
That prompted a goaltending change at the intermission, with Eva Gubareva taking over from Alpatova. However, she was beaten early in the third period as Carpenter completed her hat-trick with a power play goal, redirecting a shot from Bozek beyond the reach of the understudy goalie.
Tornado got a consolation goal shortly after that with Shokhina – who else? – finding a way past Newell. But that was never going to be enough to affect the final outcome as the Vanke Rays marched to yet another victory. The teams meet again tomorrow in Stupino.