Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 KRS Shenzhen 0 (0-0, 2-0, 0-0)
Despite a third loss, this was a much-improved performance from the Lady Dragons. Head coach Scott Spencer kept faith with the team that lost heavily to Biryusa last time out, selecting the same skaters we saw on Tuesday. And we were rewarded with a far stronger defensive display that highlights just how badly our pre-season disruption hurt the team as the WHL campaign got underway.
Any athlete will tell you that there is no substitute for going out and competing. It’s the only way to ensure full fitness and a proper understanding of strategies and tactics. Without that essential preparation, the kind of defensive breakdowns that plagued our opening two games will be all too frequent.
Now, with that experience in place, there are visible signs of progress. After allowing 20 goals in two games, Shenzhen limited Torpedo to just two in game three. And this Torpedo team is hardly a makeweight in the championship. Last season, playing as SKIF, it topped the regular season standings. Since then, the club has rebranded and moved under the auspices of Nizhny’s KHL team, also called Torpedo.
This was the first home game under the Torpedo banner, and our host wanted to get off to a flying start. Instead, it hit a roadblock in the shape on Wang Yuqing. Our goalie was heroic in the opening frame, stopping 19 shots to take us to the intermission deadlocked. And she was backed up by some brave defense as the Dragons ran into penalty trouble midway through the session. Qu Yue was assessed a major for boarding, then Hannah Miller followed her into the box. Despite a full two minutes of 3-on-5 penalty kill (wrapped into a bigger package of five minutes short-handed) our girls dug in and continually denied Torpedo an opening.
Unfortunately, that resistance was broken at the start of the second period when Olga Prokapenko got the first goal of the game. Soon after that, we had to kill another 3-on-5 penalty. However, the Dragons also began creating a few chances of their own. Kaitlyn Tougas flashed a dangerous shot narrowly wide, and the rebound almost dropped for Miller to tie the game. On another night, it could so easily have been 1-1; instead, Torpedo extended its lead when Prokapenko got her second.
In the final frame, the home team made little attempt to extend its lead. Shenzhen was very much in this game, and there was no scope for reckless adventures at either end of the ice. In the event, a professional display from Torpedo ensured that it finished 2-0, but there was much encouragement to be found for our girls.
However, the final moments of the game brought an unwelcome concern. Defender Liu Zhixin, one of the most experienced players on our team, went back to protect the empty net as Torpedo broke out in search of a third goal. Unfortunately, off the play she collided with Prokapenko and had to be helped from the ice at the end of the game. Hopefully Liu will make a quick recovery ahead of tomorrow’s rematch.