KRS Shenzhen 1 Dynamo Neva 7 (0-1, 0-3, 1-3)
(Dynamo leads the series 1-0)
The Lady Dragons’ playoff campaign got off to a rocky start at home to Dynamo Neva. A hat-trick from our former forward Alexandra Vafina led the visitor to a convincing win, bolstered by an effective power play performance from the opposition.
For KRS, Ryleigh Houston grabbed a consolation goal early in the third period and goalie Karina Zolotaryova produced some big saves – especially in the first period – to provide some bright spots on a disappointing day.
In our regular season meetings, we alternated heavy losses to Dynamo with narrow wins over the Petersburg team. Last month we left that sequence with a 5-4 win on the road and today it seemed that the Blue-and-Whites were out to repeat some of their early-season blow-outs. In the first period it took some great goaltending from Zolotaryova to keep the score down as the visitor dominated the play and outshot our girls 15-2.
Unfortunately, she was undone by a brilliant solo effort from Vafina late in the frame, and there was worse to come when Oxana Bratishcheva doubled the lead at the start of the second.
However, there were chances for Shenzhen to get back into the game. Our first power play of the day produced some big opportunities in front of Diana Farkhutdinova’s net. First, Irina Tsatsyna’s great work down the left-hand channel enabled her to fizz a dangerous feed across the crease. Fellow defender Kiana Wilkinson was waiting for the puck, but steered it agonizingly wide of the target. It was tempting to imagine how that might have ended if one of our forwards had been on the end of the pass and, seconds later, we found out: Tsatsyna set up Hannah Miller, and her goal bound shot forced Farkhutdinova into a fine glove save.
However, amid all that offense, Zolotaryova also came up big at the other end when a defensive breakdown almost gifted Bratishcheva a short-handed goal. Then, back at full strength, the post saved us when Polina Bolgareva fired in a dangerous shot.
At a time when Red Star looked capable of making a fight of it, a bad bounce proved to be the game-breaking moment. With Dynamo on the power play, Vafina looked to get the puck to the slot and saw it deflect off Du Sijia’s skate and into the net. Worse followed when the visitor got a 5-on-3 advantage and added two more goals either side of the second intermission. The second of them brought up Vafina’s treble.
There was something to cheer at last when Miller’s feed from behind the net set up Houston for a snipe that Farkhutdinova could do nothing to stop. At 1-5, it was too late to save the game, but it offered some small consolation. However, the last word went to Dynamo with two more goals before the final hooter.
This best-of-three playoff series continues next week in St. Petersburg. The teams meet again on Monday and, if necessary, the decider will be played on Tuesday. And don’t assume this is a foregone conclusion: twice in the regular season the Dragons followed heavy losses to Dynamo with wins over the same opponent in the next game. On Monday we need to do that once again to continue our season.