Biryusa Krasnoyarsk 0 KRS Vanke Rays 3 (0-1, 0-1, 0-1)
KRS Vanke Rays lead the series 1-0
Sometimes, it’s not easy to realize just how good this Vanke Rays team is. Week after week, game after game, victory follows victory. It can all start to feel a bit routine. But the reality is that something quite remarkable is being created here. KRS switched effortlessly from regular season into playoff hockey, recording an 18th successive competitive victory with a thoroughly professional performance.
The visitor dominated in Krasnoyarsk from start to finish, taking the verdict with a goal in each period and another shut-out for Kimberly Newell.
Newell, whose six shut-outs in the regular season saw her tied with today’s opponent, Darya Gredzen, made 19 stops to move ahead of her young rival and backstop the Dragons to an assured victory. At the other end, two goals from Rachel Llanes led the scoring, with Hannah Miller getting the other one. Megan Bozek had two assists.
Biryusa arrived expecting an onslaught and set up to frustrate the Dragons’ offense as far as possible. In the opening stages, the home team even managed a couple of counter-attacks, with Valeria Pavlova and Sofia Lifatova getting half chances. But KRS repelled those early raids and began to pose more of a threat in front of Gredzen’s net. A crazy series of ricochets and deflections had the young goalie in trouble and the opening goal came soon afterwards.
It started with Bozek turning defense into attack. Miller moved down the right-hand channel into the zone and dropped the puck for Llanes to rifle home a shot from the top of the circle. With eight minutes played, we were off and running in this year’s Women’s Hockey League playoffs.
After that, we saw a lot of controlled hockey. Sticking to the systems and stifling the opposition, the Vanke Rays not only set a course towards their latest win but made it almost impossible to see how Biryusa – by no means a weak team, as its performance in the regular season attests – could make inroads.
Typically, the Dragons tighten the screws in the second period of their games and that was how things played out today. If the first period was impressive, the second brought a flurry of chances and another goal as KRS took control.
The second score of the afternoon arrived on the power play, when Miller put away the rebound from Bozek’s shot. But before and after, home goalie Gredzen was hard at work keeping her team in contention. Check out the huge stop she made to deny Jessica Wong early in the frame, or the smart save that halted Alex Carpenter’s solo rush. ,
Biryusa’s opportunities were largely limited to its power play, which appeared once, shortly after Miller’s goal. However, the penalty kill is well-drilled and built on its 93.8% success rate from the regular season to thwart the home team here.
Llanes got her second of the game midway through the third period. She advanced into the Biryusa zone on a two-on-one rush with Wong and opted to shoot herself, picking out the top corner from the right-hand dot to leave Gredzen with no chance.
And there was no real chance of a fightback from the home team, which found itself unable to make much of an impression in the Vanke Rays zone. Not even a late power play could bring a consolation effort for Biryusa as Brian Idalski’s team made a fluent, winning start to post season.
The action continues tomorrow in Krasnoyarsk, with the teams meeting again. Victory for the Rays would seal this semi-final series in two games and return us to the grand final where Agidel or SKIF await.