SKSO Yekaterinburg Region 0 KRS Vanke Rays 5 (0-1, 0-3, 0-1)
This game was bottom against top and the gap in class between the teams was all too apparent from start to finish. SKSO is very much a development team, looking to encourage the next generation of sporting talent in the Urals to maximize their abilities and – hopefully – go on to represent both region and country at a high level. As such, life in a professional league is a huge test for a team that is, by its nature, built on emerging talent.
Perhaps the best-known name to emerge from SKSO is goalie Valeria Merkusheva, currently starring for SKIF and Team Russia. She’s already frustrated our girls a couple of times this season. Today, we encountered another young goalie with plenty of potential in the form of Ravilya Aynullova. The 19-year-old stood up well in the face of intense pressure from the Vanke Rays, finishing the game with 63 saves on a day when the Lady Dragons mounted 129 attempts on her net and had 68 on target. That adds up to two goal attempts every minute, and at least one save a minute from the teenager. At the other end, Kimberly Newell’s latest shut-out required just 13 stops.
With that kind of dominance, the result was never in serious doubt. From the moment Megan Bozek scored on the wraparound in the fourth minute, it was clear that KRS was far too strong and there was no prospect of a shock. But Aynullova performed courageously to keep the scoreline respectable, making save after save as the action at times resembled an attack-vs-defense training exercise. In the first period alone, the Vanke Rays outshot SKSO 21-2 and it was largely down to Aynullova’s excellence that the score was just 1-0 at the intermission.
There was little change in the second. The Dragons continued to attack, SKSO continued to work hard on defense. But the resistance could not last forever and three further goals took the game away from the home team. Rachell Llanes set up Hannah Miller for a second in the 27th minute, Emily Costales stuffed the puck home from close range after 32 minutes and Alex Carpenter fired home a fourth late in the frame. Briefly, there were signs of life from the home offense, with a two-on-one break by Taisia Konshina and Regina Yumaguzhina providing a rare test for Kimberly Newell in our net.
The home team also came close in the third period when Anastasia Shabalina hit the post on another foray into Dragons’ territory. But the scoring continued at the other end, with Leah Lum making it 5-0. Carpenter was denied a second by the crossbar in the final seconds.
There was an unpleasant incident late in the game, when Alina Bobyleva’s hard hit on Alexandra Vafina left our forward injured after she fell into the boards. Vafina had to be helped from the ice, and Lindsay Agnew was quick to stick up for her team-mate, getting into a fight with Kristina Sergeyeva that saw both players take double minors for roughing.
Wednesday’s win in Verkhnyaya Pyshma saw KRS leave the ice with a seven-point advantage over second placed Agidel, although our rival from Ufa was about to start its evening game at home to Tornado as this game came to an end.