KRS Shenzhen 1 Agidel Ufa 3 (0-0, 0-2, 1-1)
In previous seasons, KRS and Agidel have battled it out for top honors. Two of our three playoff finals were against the team from Ufa and history shows we could expect another tough battle this time. However, in the 2022/23 season, tackling Agidel promises to be a daunting task. Today, a brave effort from the Dragons had this game alive until the final seconds before an empty-net goal secured a victory for the visitor.
The Ufa club has impressed all year and deservedly leads the WHL standings. In 28 games this term, our visitor has lost just twice in regulation, with one more shoot-out loss. Moreover, it boasts the best defensive record in the league, allowing just 39 goals so far. Our two games in Ufa back in October saw two shut-out losses, albeit without the attacking threat of Ryleigh Houston, who was injured for those games.
The Lady Dragons went with an unchanged team from the previous game. Although Thursday’s match-up with Torpedo ended in a 2-8 loss, head coach Scott Spencer felt that there were many positives in the girls’ play and persevered with the same line-up against Agidel.
The first period was as tough as we expected. Agidel made it difficult for our forwards to establish much of a presence in the game and, as time wore on, the visitor began to dominate. The first 10 minutes were relatively even, but once Irina Tsatsyna was assessed a minor for high sticking Agidel stepped up the pressure. Karina Zolotaryova was at her best to keep the scoreboard blank through 20 minutes, making 14 saves. Meanwhile, Olga Sosina, so often a thorn in the Dragons’ side, was uncharacteristically wasteful on occasion, squandering a couple of big chances.
At the other end, we had to wait until the 17th minute before getting a good look at Anna Prugova in the Ufa net. Hannah Miller led the rush but was forced around the back. From there, she emerged to set up Kiana Wilkinson for a shot from the right-hand circle that was too hot for Prugova to handle. However, the visiting goalie recovered to freeze the puck in the midst of a scramble on the crease.
Moments later, Prugova’s error in the trapezoid presented the puck to Ryleigh Houston. However, she had to wait for support and the chance faded away.
That might have established some KRS momentum, but unfortunately two penalties in quick succession saw the Lady Dragons finish the opening frame on a 3-on-5 PK. For the final minute of play, Shenzhen was hanging on bravely. Partial relief came seven seconds into the middle frame when Li Qianhua returned to the game but Agidel managed to break the deadlock just as the power play was coming to an end. Veronika Korzhakova put away the rebound after Zolotaryova stopped a point shot from Maria Batalova.
Back at full strength, the Dragons looked for a way back into the game. A neat combination between Miller and Kaitlyn Tougas opened up the Agidel defense but unfortunately Tougas could not find the finish on this occasion. And immediately play went to the other end for Elizaveta Rodnova to double Agidel’s lead.
Midway through the second, KRS again had to deal with a two-player shortage. Moreover, our first defensive pairing of Wilkinson and Tsatsyna went to the box. This time, though, the PK was rock solid and our girls survived relatively comfortably.
That ensured the game remained alive and early in the third period Miller halved the deficit. Tougas fired in a shot which rebounded onto the slot, where Hannah spun to fire home the loose puck from close range. That was the first goal we scored on Agidel this season and, after all the pressure we absorbed, it gave us a way back into the game.
The road back became even clearer with five to play when Agidel’s Anna Shibanova took a slashing call. Red Star created a couple of half chances on that power play, but could not seriously test Prugova as Agidel worked hard to keep that door closed.
With 47 seconds to play, Zolotaryova went to the bench as the Dragons went for broke. It almost worked out, but a dangerous redirect from Tougas flashed just over the top with Prugova beaten. However, when Agidel forced a turnover, Polina Luchnikova sealed the result with an empty net goal.