27 September 2021 SKIF, Vanke Rays, WHL
KRS Vanke Rays 0 SKIF Nizhny Novgorod 2 (0-0, 0-1, 0-1)
The Vanke Rays’ tough start to the season continues with back-to-back games against SKIF, another
of the top teams in the Women’s Hockey League. In last year’s regular season, the girls from Nizhny
Novogorod finished level on points with second-placed Agidel, and their playoff series against the
eventual champion went to three games with each one decided in a shoot-out. As in our opening
games this would be another big test for our new-look team.
Friday’s OT victory against Agidel secured the Lady Dragons’ first goals points of the season; today
we saw changes on the roster as more players got game time in the WHL. For many of our China-
based contingent, this is vital: COVID wiped out any chance of action last season and, while the
nucleus of the national team was able to train together, there’s nothing like full-blooded competitive
hockey to build a strong, competitive team. Monday’s new faces included 19-year-old goalie Tia
Chan, a Chinese heritage player most recently involved at University of Connecticut. On defense,
Vivian Lu took the seventh spot from Qinan Zhao to make her Rays debut. Like Chan, Lu has NCAA
experience; in her case with Brown University.
There was changes among the forwards as well. A new-look top line saw Rachel Llanes joined by
Emily Costales and Maddie Woo, while 29-year-old Harbin native Minghui Kong joined Leah Lum and
Xin Fang on the second line. The Anna Segedi – Taylor Lum – Kassy Betinol combination that did so
well against Agidel was retained on the third line, and the fourth saw Mengying Zhang join Wen Lu
and Rui Zhu as Dani Castino missed out.
Of the new faces, Chan made the biggest impression. Our young netminder was in the thick of the
action throughout the game, and performed superbly under pressure from a strong SKIF offense.
She finished with a wholly commendable 29 saves, including some big ones in the first period when
the Rays ran into penalty trouble. The pick of that bunch, arguably, came late in the session to deny
Oxana Bratishcheva with an outstretched glove.
KRS had a few chances of its own, the best probably falling to Llanes when Costales set her up for a
one-timer that brought the best out of Valeriya Tarakanova.
Chan’s solid debut continued into the middle frame, with a notable stop to deny a one-on-one early
in the session. But penalties took their toll and eventually SKIF got the lead on the power play when
Angelina Goncharenko fired home from long range. Chan, heavily screened, had little chance to
react to that one.
As a team, though, the Rays did react: the latter half of the second period saw our offense pick up
the pace and start taking the game to SKIF. Unfortunately, Tarakanova kept coming up with the
answers, and we went into the third period with a goal to recover.
The final frame saw chances at both ends and, with a little more composure in front of the net, KRS
could have at least got a tie from this one. However, in the closing stages, SKIF’s superior finishing
punished us once again as Maria Nadezhdina scored the killer second goal. After a close game today,
tomorrow’s rematch – same time, same place – promises another big battle.
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