SKSO Yekaterinburg 1 KRS Vanke Rays 3 (1-0, 0-0, 0-3)
Two goals at the start of the third period turned this game around for the Lady Dragons and set the team up for a fifth successive victory. Wednesday’s win also moves the girls up the table, overtaking Biryusa and moving into fifth place in the standings.
After Tia Chan’s shut-out in Tuesday’s meeting between these teams, Yuqing Wang got the start today. It’s the 27-year-old’s third appearance between the piping this season, having previously featured in a 0-5 loss to Agidel and a 6-0 win over Ice Wings. The Harbin native is one of the most experienced goalies in China, having represented her country in seven World Championship campaigns dating back to 2013.
However, Wang found herself beaten early in this game when Anna Timofeyeva opened the scoring midway through the first period. It was a goal out of nothing: Irina Tsatsina’s long, lofted pass found Timofeyeva in the left-hand circle and her instinctive wrister flashed into the far corner of the net. It was also a goal somewhat against the run of the early play. If yesterday’s game saw SKSO make a fast start in the hopes of catching the Dragons off balance, today saw our girls come out strongly in the opening exchanges only to be hit on the counter-attack.
The home team’s cause was not helped by frequent penalties. Yesterday, SKSO only visited the box in the very last second of play. Today, though, there was a steady string of fouls. After the goal, there were four infringements in the first period, including a major penalty on Lidia Malyavko. The Vanke Rays built up the pressure but could not find a way past home goalie Irina Kostina.
It was a similar story in the second period, albeit without the penalties. KRS outshot SKSO 18-3 but Kostina was in superb form to protect her team’s narrow lead.
In the end, though, our power play made the difference. So far this season, the Dragons’ PP has been very much a work in progress. Six power play goals represented the lowest return in the league, and a strike rate of 11.5% ranks ninth out of 10 teams (the contrast with the PK is striking – 93.9% success is comfortably the best in the league, and four short-handed goals meant that prior to today we were twice as likely to score when the opposition had the numerical advantage).
However, at the start of the third period, everything clicked into place. In the second minute, the Dragons punished Tsatsina’s offense, with Qinan Zhao stepped up from the blue line to fire home a pass from Anna Fairman. That was the 24-year-old’s first goal in the WHL; previously she got a goal for the Vanke Rays in our first season of CWHL action back in 2017/18. Three minutes later, another power play saw Anna Segedi stretch the lead, steering home Kassy Betinol’s feed to the back door.
SKSO tried to find a way back into the game, but the Rays’ defense was too strong and Wang was in good form between the pipes. In the last minute, Maddie Woo’s empty net goal sealed the win.
That concludes the Vanke Rays’ tour of the Urals – and completes our program of road games for 2022. There are four more home games to come, with our friends from Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg making a quick return visit this weekend and next week, then the WHL season pauses after Dec. 2. The long break gives plenty of time to prepare for the Olympics before the championship resumes in late February.