KRS Vanke Rays 4 Agidel Ufa 1 (0-1, 1-0, 3-0)
Champions never quit. And your KRS Vanke Rays proved that point in game two in Mytishchi, digging
deep to turn around the game and the series in defense of its Russian Women’s Hockey League title.
Despite falling behind in this must-win game, our Lady Dragons rose magnificently to the occasion,
silencing the Ufa offense and finding its goalscoring form to record a convincing victory.
After losing the opening game, Brian Idalski reshuffled his team for this one. A new-look first line had
Michelle Karvinen and Ryleigh Houston centered by Susanna Tapani. Leah Lum joined Emma Nordin
and Michela Cava on the second line, as Rachel Llanes lined up alongside Alena Mills and Samantha
Cogan on the third.
It was a big call from the coaching staff – and it delivered in fine style. Despite falling behind,
somewhat against the run of first-period play – that refreshed strike force produced the goals to
turn the game around and keep the WHL final series alive into a winner-takes-all showdown back
here in Mytishchi tomorrow lunchtime.
First, midway through the second period, Karvinen got the tying goal. This one owed much to Kaitlyn
Tse’s work on the blue line, holding the puck for long enough to draw in the defense’s attention in
anticipation of a point shot, then steering a diagonal pass to the right-hand circle. The disconcerted
defenders allowed Karvinen time enough to set herself and rip a wrister beyond Anna Prugova in the
From that point on, it was largely a question of how the Rays could make their on-ice superiority
count. At times, there was still a lack of fluency in the girls’ play – this team is in its first few days
together and is still learning its systems – and that meant that an opponent used to each other’s
company was dangerous. But the momentum was increasingly one way and the dam burst at the
start of the third period with that top line taking complete control of proceedings.
The Rays almost snatched the lead on the first shift before a minor penalty on Karvinen momentarily
applied the brakes. Back at full strength, though, the Lady Dragons picked up the pace once more.
That revamped top line clicked in fine style, with Houston circling out of the corner to put a pass
straight on to Tapani’s stick. The Finn’s one-timer from between the hash marks left Prugova
clutching at thin air and, for the first time in the series, the defending champion had the lead.
It wasn’t long before the same line extended the advantage. Karvinen surged into the Agidel zone,
Houston again went beyond the goal line and got a pass back to the slot where Karvinen was poised
to finish it off. And, when a beleaguered Agidel fluffed a line change the subsequent home power
play – which saw KRS put five forwards on the ice – enabled Tapani and Houston to combine for
Alena Mills to make it 4-1 midway through the final frame.
It all added up to a comprehensive win, banishing memories of the bad bounces that presented
Agidel with a somewhat fortuitous opener midway through the first. After the puck got caught up in
the ref’s skates, Elina Mitrofanova’s feed to the slot cannoned off Abi Thiessen and crept past
Kimberley Newell. That was a tough one to swallow, but adversity bred inspiration and, ultimately,
victory. Now it’s all to play for tomorrow.