24 November 2022 recap, Vanke Rays, WHL, Ванке Рэйз, ЖХЛ
KRS Shenzhan 6 Beliye Medveditsy Chelyabinsk 2 (3-0, 1-1, 2-1)
The Lady Dragons moved to within one point of the playoff places after posting a seventh consecutive victory. Thursday’s success over the Polar Bears also brought a first ever WHL goal for Li Qianhua and a hat-trick for Kaitlyn Tougas.
Li, a young defender from Qiqihar in the Heilongjiang province, got her big moment in the 15th minute. Hannah Miller sent the puck back to her, and Li showed great composure and impressive stick handling to navigate past an opposing player before firing home from between the hash marks. The gleeful celebration said it all: this was a big moment for a rising star of Chinese women’s hockey.
That was the second goal of the game as the Dragons quickly took control of this encounter.
It isn’t all that long since we played this opponent in Chelyabinsk. However, since then the Polar Bears have made changes. Head coach Igor Znarok left the club this week, and today was a first game in charge for new boss Denis Afinogenov. He’s a familiar figure in this league, having led Agidel for several years. When he left Ufa in the summer, he had three championship wins to his credit, and a similar number of silver medals.
His first task at Beliye Medveditsy was to try and get the franchise’s first ever win over KRS. However, it quickly transpired that, at least in this regard, we had a case of ‘meet the new boss; same as the old boss’. Shenzhen took control of this game in the first period and never looked to be in any danger of losing against the league’s seventh-placed team.
The visitor ran into penalty trouble early on and was forced to kill a 5-on-3 power play for the Dragons. That ensured that Red Star had the early momentum and even though the PP did not deliver, it took just three seconds of equal-strength play to bring the opening goal. Defender Irina Tsatsyna got into an advanced position before playing a diagonal pass to Miller in the opposite circle. With no defense to close her down, Shenzhen’s captain had no trouble firing home the first of the game.
Li’s goal came next, then Kaitlyn Tougas added a third before the intermission. That goal came on a double power play, with the visitor’s Viktoria Kulishova sitting out a major penalty. Miller was involved again, keeping the play alive before setting up Tougas for a close-range finish over a sprawling Milena Tretyak in the Chelyabinsk net.
The visitor managed to survive the rest of that penalty and, in the second period, showed greater attacking intent. Helped by some improved discipline, Beliye Medveditsy took the game to KRS at times in the middle frame and Karina Zolotaryova had some work to do to protect our lead. At the other end, though, the Shenzhen offense always posed a threat. When Tougas released Ryleigh Houston in the 29th minute, Houston’s pace and precision handed Chelyabinsk a serious problem. She evaded the opposing defense and flipped the puck over Tretyak’s shoulder to make it 4-0.
After the visitor pulled one back late in the middle frame, Red Star responded with a goal 15 seconds into the third. Tougas got her second of the game after Houston returned the assist from her marker a few minutes earlier. Then, though, our girls faced some pressure. Back-to-back penalties on Houston and Fan Xing had us defending a 3-on-5 penalty kill. However, the next power play goal went our way, as Tougas completed her hat-trick midway through the final stanza. It wasn’t quite the final word – Viktoria Fyodorova grabbed a late consolation effort at the other end – but it completed Tougas’ treble. She’s now third in championship scoring with 31 (16+15) points from 21 games.
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