Late heartache for Lady Dragons | KRS Vanke Rays

Late heartache for Lady Dragons

27 November 2022 , , , ,

KRS Shenzhen 3 Beliye Medveditsy Chelyabinsk 4 (0-0, 1-0, 2-4)

The Lady Dragons missed the chance to move into the top four after suffering a last-minute loss to Beliye Medveditsy. Victory on Friday would have seen Shenzhen move ahead of Tornado into a playoff spot. And, when Kaitlyn Tougas opened the scoring early in the second period, things were looking good for our girls.

However, the third period saw a powerful response from Chelyabinsk. Incoming head coach Denis Afinogenov has not been with his team long, but as befitting one of the most experienced and successful coaches in this league, he has made an impact on his players. And that impact translated into Beliye Medveditsy’s first ever victory over KRS thanks to a goal from Ekaterina Lebedeva 26 seconds before the hooter.

The result leaves Shenzhen in fifth place, one point behind Tornado and one ahead of Torpedo. Those two teams meet tomorrow in Nizhny Novgorod as the playoff race picks up pace.

Unfortunately, pace was something lacking from the early stages on Friday’s game. In the first period, the Dragons were not themselves. The game was sluggish and there were few chances to test Milena Tretyak in the visitor’s net. Although the home team enjoyed more of the game and limited the Polar Bears to just a couple of shots on goal, there was little sign of the speed and finesse usually associated with our play.

At the start of the second, though, things picked up. A power play invited KRS to attack and Tougas potted her 17th goal of the season when she rifled home a Ryleigh Houston feed from beyond the goal line. Tougas currently leads the league in goals and her form has been a big factor in the Dragons’ rise from the foot of the table.

The visitor took two more penalties in the first part of the middle frame, and that helped KRS look comfortable in defense of that lead. However, in the latter half of the session, the Polar Bears unsheathed their claws and began to put pressure on Karina Zolotaryova.

That pressure paid off at the start of the third period. Viktoria Kulishova’s slap shot converted a 5-on-3 power play to tie the scores early in the session. Then Alina Garipova put Chelyabinsk up 2-1.

The visitor’s lead did not last long. A penalty on Alina Matveyeva put KRS back on the offensive, and Ryleigh Houston tied the game when she was able to get from the corner to the slot and beat Tretyak.

As the game went into the closing stages, the teams again traded quick goals. Maria Nadezhdina restored Beliye Medveditsy’s lead, but Hannah Miller tied it up within a minute as our top line capitalized on a defensive error.

Now it was anyone’s game. The last five minutes were frantic and both goalies had to make important saves to keep the teams deadlocked. On 59:26, Afinogenov called a time-out, perhaps sensing that one last push could grab the winner. Eight seconds later, he was proved right: whatever he said on the bench translated into a winning play on the ice as Lebedeva potted the decisive goal.

The Lady Dragons now have a long wait for their next WHL engagement. The girls get a rest until Jan. 18, when they entertain Torpedo. Next up, though, the Women’s All-Star Game next weekend sees Zhao Qinan poised to make history when she represents Shenzhen. Our defender will be the first Chinese-born player to take part in the showcase event in Chelyabinsk on Dec. 4.

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