Biryusa Krasnoyarsk 1 KRS Vanke Rays 7 (1-1, 0-3, 0-3)
With the tying goal in this game in Krasnoyarsk, Alex Carpenter confirmed her position as the Women’s Hockey League scoring leader for the second season running. And she did so in some style, potting a hat-trick to move to 55 (29+26) points, eclipsing her total from last season. It also took her beyond Tornado’s Anna Shokina, who finished the regular season with 52 (26+26). Alex secured the point and goal-scoring crowns with one game left in the regular season, consolidating her position as the most potent attacking threat in the competition.
The end of the Rays’ regular season campaign is a dress rehearsal for next week’s playoff semi-final. With just two games left in the Women’s Hockey League schedule, neither KRS nor this week’s opponent, Biryusa, can change their finishing positions. And that means, next week, the league-leading Dragons will be taking on fourth-placed Biryusa as the race for the cup hots up.
However, these remaining games were no phoney war. Several players on both sides had individual honors to play for. As discussed, Carpenter came into the game on 52 (26+26) points and had her eye on the overall scoring races. In addition, the two goalies, Kimberly Newell and Biryusa’s Darya Gredzen, were tied on six shut-outs apiece going into Friday’s game. Either of them could finish as the outright league leader on that metric this season. On defense, Megan Bozek could, potentially, finish as both leading point scorer and leading goalscorer among the WHL’s blue liners. At the start of play she was one point behind Anna Shibanova overall, and two goals behind Anna Savonina on that chart.
The early stages were uncharacteristically sluggish for the Vanke Rays. Instead of asserting their game in the opening minutes, the game developed into an even battle. And Biryusa – for the second time this season – even managed to get ahead when Ksenia Rakcheyeva opened the scoring in the 12th minute. There were more problems to come, with the Lady Dragons having to kill a 3-on-5 penalty in a first period that was not going to plan.
However, when the pressure is on, big players step up to the occasion. And 19 seconds before the intermission, the Dragons’ top line tied the game. Bozek’s point shot thudded off the back boards, Hannah Miller sent the puck to the slot and Carpenter slotted home her 27th goal of the season. Alex extended her productive streak to nine games, Hannah’s to 10.
Throughout this season, KRS has been strong in the second period of its games and Friday was no exception. The girls started the second period well, and after getting its first power play of the game the visitor took the lead when that powerful top line clicked once again. Bozek to Carpenter, then Llanes to Miller to put the puck in the net. And with the teams back at full strength, the Dragons soon added to that lead when Alena Mills executed a neat spin and shot from a central position. And midway through the frame, Mills got her second of the game, putting the result beyond doubt.
From that point on, the Vanke Rays continued to dominate the game but found Gredzen in impressive form. Twice, the young Biryusa goalie even defied a 5-on-3 power play for the Rays to keep the scoreline respectable. It was only late in the game that Brian Idalski’s team added to its tally, with Carpenter adding two more goals on either side of a Leah Lum short-handed effort in the 58th minute.
The final game of the WHL regular season follows at the same time on Saturday, but the more meaningful action will be on March 3. That’s when the playoffs get started and the race for the cup enters its decisive phase as KRS begins its best-of-three semi-final series here.