KRS Vanke Rays 2 Dynamo Neva 1 (1-0, 1-1, 0-0)
Sometimes, the stats don’t tell the story. In this game, league leader Dynamo Neva dominated for
long periods, outshooting the Vanke Rays by a big margin, but paid the price for failing to turn that
control into goals. Kimberly Newell produced a stellar performance, stopping 35 shots to give us a
chance to win. And, at the other end, goals from Emily Costales and Kassy Betinol ensured that we
took that opportunity despite managing just 18 shots at Diana Farkhutdinova.
Today’s visitor included a familiar face: Alexandra Vafina has been a driving force for Dynamo this
season, leading the team in scoring with 19 points so far. Sasha, of course, played for the Dragons
last season before the Russian international left as we moved into the final stages of China’s Olympic
preparations. Not for the first time this season, our girls were up against opponents who are likely to
cross our paths again in Beijing next year; Dynamo’s head coach, Evgeny Bobariko, was also behind
the bench for Team Russia at the recent World Championship.
Apart from those pre-sentiments of the Olympics, this two-game series against Dynamo will tell us a
great deal about how the Rays are shaping up in this season’s championship. The Petersburg club
has leapt to the top of the table this season. And that’s hardly a default position after the reshuffle
of our roster created a vacancy among the leaders: Dynamo is also clear of defending champion
Agidel and perennial challengers SKIF and Tornado. Prior to this game, it boasted the best defense in
the league, allowing just 14 goals in 12 games, and lost just one in 12 in regulation.
Midway through the first period, though, the Vanke Rays found a way through that formidable
defense. Prolonged pressure on Farkhutdinova’s net already saw one shot hit the post, but the girls
recycled the puck and Kaitlyn Tse’s point shot was tipped home by Costales.
That was the only goal of the opening frame, thanks largely to more good work from Newell. She
stopped 13 shots as Dynamo looked to get back into the game and would face a similar workload in
the second period. Before that, though, KRS doubled its lead at the start of the middle frame. Two
icings in quick succession drained the energy from the Dynamo defense and Leah Lum won the puck
on the back boards and set up Betinol in the circle. Her initial shot looped up onto the roof of the
net, but Kassy showed great anticipation to get to the rebound first and stuff it home.
Dynamo pulled a goal back shortly after that, with Fanuza Kadirova steering the rebound from
Anastasia Chistyakova’s shot over the line – albeit only just – to reduce the deficit following a video
review. Subsequently, though, there was no further scoring.
The game remained in the balance until the very end. The Rays’ cause was not helped by three more
penalties in the third period, which enabled Dynamo to maintain its momentum. But they reckoned
without Newell, who was in imperious form in our net. Throughout the final frame, she calmly dealt
with any danger that came her way, culminating in a spectacular blocker save to deny Polina
Bolgareva in the final play of the game. That attack came with Dynamo playing 6-on-4 and, once
again, the quality of the Dragons’ defense was clear during the final 90 seconds or so as we killed
Jessica Wong’s penalty. Although the table-toppers could deploy two extra skaters, our four
remaining players kept their shape and did a terrific job of keeping the visiting power play to the
outside. It was only in the final 15 seconds of the game that Dynamo fashioned much by way of
shooting chances, and by that time Newell ensured that it was too little, too late.
The teams meet again in Mytishchi tomorrow with the Rays looking to break into the top five with a