KRS Shenzhen 2 Tornado Dmitrov 5 (0-2, 1-2, 1-1)
The long wait for a Shenzhen goal is over. Hannah Miller’s power play goal in the 39th minute ended a dreary sequence of four goalless games for the Dragons.
The goal owed much to Kaitlyn Tougas’s efforts. She battled hard at the near post to get a shot away and, in the process forced Tornado goalie Sofia Larova to drop her stick. Then Kaitlyn continued to fight behind the net, getting the puck out to Miller in a shooting position in the right-hand circle. Hannah’s initial effort was blocked, but she made sure she was first to the rebound and forced it home with Larova helpless. After 294 minutes, 30 seconds, the Dragons were breathing fire once again.
Sadly, Miller’s goal was not enough to snap the losing streak that has dogged KRS at the start of this season. Tornado was already up 4-0 by the time she beat Sofia Larova. But it did usher an improvement in the final stages of the game with Tougas getting a second late on.
After a tough start to the season, the Lady Dragons added new recruits in the build-up to the double header at home to Tornado. Defender Irina Tsatsyna, once a Tornado prospect, joined from SKSO. The 20-year-old was second in scoring for her team last season, despite playing her first seven games for Tornado. Her 18 (5+13) point haul from the blue line suggests a handy two-way presence. Today she slotted into the first defensive pair alongside Kiana Wilkinson.
We also added goalie Irina Kostina to the ranks. The 24-year-old was with SKSO until the end of last season, playing 36 games in three campaigns for the outsider from Yekaterinburg. Kostina was on the bench today as back-up for Wang Yuqing but got her chance in the 25th minute when Wang was called to the bench.
New faces can only help. However, leading scorer Ryleigh Houston is still not available for selection. That leaves a big gap in our offense and, once again, that was all too evident in this game. Despite another hardworking display from our girls, often there was too little danger for visiting goalie Larova. She faced just two shots in the first period as Tornado threatened to blow the Dragons away from the start.
A lack of discipline was part of the problem. Both of the first period goals came on the KRS penalty kill. In total, we had 12 penalty minutes in that opening frame. That destroyed any momentum Shenzhen tried to create and made it all too easy for Tornado to spend extended periods pressing our net. Goals from Anna Savonina and Polina Arkhipova were the result.
In the middle frame, Shenzhen did better at keeping a full complement of players on the ice. Unfortunately, Tornado continued to control the game, adding two quick goals at the start of the period through Alevtina Polunina and Karina Akhmetova. On 24:07, Scott Spencer put Kostina into the game, wisely withdrawing Wang from the firing line.
That change helped to calm the game. Not only did Kostina keep the visiting offense at bay, our forwards began to see more of the play. That meant less pressure on the team, fewer penalties, and a more competitive performance all over the ice. Miller’s goal was the logical reward for all that as we reached the second intermission on a positive note.
Even the blow of allowing a fifth goal right at the start of the third period – Arkhipova getting her second of the game – could not crush the first signs of Red Star’s recovery. The final frame was evenly contested and, late on, brought another goal for the home team. This time, Tougas was the scorer. Miller fired in a powerful one-timer which Larova struggled to handle, Tsatsyna returned the puck to the danger zone and Wang Jiaxin did the hard work around the net to get it back to Tougas on the slot. Her shot, the third in quick succession, gave the visiting goalie no chance.
And so, despite another loss, the Dragons could take some tangible positives from Tuesday’s game. There is still much work to do, but this performance, particularly in the latter stages, provides a foundation on which to build.