Beliye Medveditsy Chelyabinsk 0 KRS Shenzhen 4 (0-2, 0-1, 0-1)
Chelyabinsk is a happy hunting ground for our Dragons: both our games here last season ended in victory against one of the WHL’s newest teams. In 2022/23, the Polar Bears bring a bit more bite than we’ve seen in the past. However, with KRS in improved form of late, wins in our two games here this week would move us ahead of our opponent into sixth place in the standings.
Scott Spencer named an unchanged line-up for this game with recent signing Karina Zolotaryova continuing as understudy behind starting goalie Irina Kostina. Our starter, fresh from her first shut-out of the season last week at SKSO, continued in similar vein today. She made 29 saves, only to be robbed of another shut-out with five minutes to go.
At the other end, it was greatly encouraging to see the scoring shared around the team. While our ‘Canadian’ strike force of Kaitlyn Tougas, Ryleigh Houston and BC-born Chinese national Hannah Miller has deservedly picked up the plaudits this season, there is more to the Dragons than quality imports. Today, we saw two goals from Chinese-born players, a third from a Russian prospect introduced to the league by KRS and, of course, a scoring contribution from that top line.
The opening goal arrived in the 14th minute of a first period that was slow to ignite. In the early stages, neither team was able to generate much danger around the net. However, after KRS got its first power play of the day, the momentum shifted irresistibly in our favor. Chelyabinsk killed Ekaterina Prozorova’s penalty, but within 30 seconds Shenzhen had the lead. The opening goal was made in China: Qu Yue’s move down the right pulled the home defense towards her, and she placed a perfectly weighted pass into Pi Yunlin’s path between the hash marks. Pi picked out a one-timer that kept low and slithered past Milena Tretyak in the home net. Tretyak, by the way, is no relation to the legendary Soviet goalie Vladislav, but familiar to long-time Dragons fans after her spell with us in 2020/21.
As the intermission approached, Red Star got another power play and parlayed that into a second goal. Vasilisa Gudymenko might be just 16 years old, but don’t assume she’s going to step down from a physical battle. Today she worked her position on the slot perfectly, taking away Tretyak’s eyes and redirecting Irina Tsatsyna’s shot into the net.
Despite a 2-0 lead at the intermission, Shenzhen had work to do. Beliye Medveditsy out-shot our girls 10-8, but more worryingly the home team absolutely dominated on the draw, with the Dragons winning just three out of 16 face-offs. That stat, with all its implications for the balance of play, improved greatly in the middle frame and greater control of the game ensured that Chelyabinsk struggled to find a way back into contention. Underlining that point, Kaitlyn Tougas extended Shenzhen’s lead late in the frame with a short-handed goal, converting a breakaway that she created for herself.
Any doubts about the outcome were removed at the start of the third period when Red Star added a fourth. Again, this was a purely Chinese affair. Qu had her second helper of the afternoon, setting up Wang Jiaxin for an excellent shot that gave Tretyak no chance.
The only disappointing note on a good day for the Dragons came in the final minutes when Alina Narudinova denied Kostina a deserved shut-out. Her goal was little more than a consolation for the home team, though, as Shenzhen secured the win. The teams meet again on Wednesday, and victory for KRS would lift the girls to sixth in the standings.