Dynamo Neva 3 KRS Shenzhen 2 (0-0, 2-2, 1-0)
(Dynamo wins the series 2-0)
It wasn’t quite to be. Despite a brave performance on the road in St. Petersburg, Shenzhen’s season came to an end after a narrow loss against Dynamo Neva.
Throughout this season, one of the Dragons’ calling cards has been a habit of bouncing back after a loss and giving the same opponent plenty to think about in the next game. Dynamo knows this all too well, having twice lost to our girls within 24 hours of a victory over Shenzhen.
Today, looking to recover from a 1-7 reverse in the opening game of our playoff campaign, the Lady Dragons once again rebounded with a fantastic performance. Up against one of the top contenders for this year’s championship, Shenzhen withstood some early pressure, got in front and then got back into the game after allowing two quick goals in the second period. At the start of the third, only the thickness of the post denied Ryleigh Houston what would have been the 3-2 tally and potentially a game-winning advantage.
Instead, though, a courageous performance came up narrowly short. Defeat here brings an end to our championship defense, and it remains to thank the players, coaches and staff for their efforts in a challenging but entertaining season.
The first period saw Karina Zolotaryova again coming to the fore. Dynamo, eager to finish off the series as quickly as possible, pushed hard for the opening goal and outshot Shenzhen 12-2 in the opening stanza. However, Karina stopped everything that came her way to ensure the teams went into the intermission deadlocked at 0-0.
Then came Irina Tsatsyna’s big moment at the start of the second. The Petersburg-born defender has been a potent force on our blue line this season and today she grabbed a clutch goal in her hometown. It was a classy snipe, a precisely-placed wrister off Houston’s cross-ice feed. Diana Farkhutdinova had a clear view of the shot, but could do nothing to stop Tsatsyna’s one-timer from the right-hand circle.
Now there was every hope that Red Star could extend the season at least into a series decider on Tuesday morning. However, those hopes took a serious blow just after the midway point. First, Polina Bolgareva tied the scores, then a power play chance saw Oxana Bratishcheva give Dynamo the lead. In keeping with the high level of play from both teams, the two goals came from fantastic shots that flashed into the corners of Zolotaryova’s net to give our goalie little chance of making a save.
It was time to dig deep. With the season on the line, our top line responded with a tying goal just before the second intermission. Kaitlyn Tougas sent the puck into the corner and Hannah Miller chased it down. Mi Le went around the back of the Dynamo net, turned sharply to cut Liana Ganeyeva out of the play, then whipped in an unstoppable shot to tie the game at 2-2.
At the start of the third, the Dragons got a great opportunity to regain the lead. A two-minute power play invited our girls to ramp up the pressure on the Dynamo net. It didn’t always go smoothly – one dangerous breakaway saw Zolotaryova pull off a great save to deny Alexandra Vafina – but even after our host returned to full strength, Red Star’s momentum kept pushing us forward. The girls came agonizingly close to a go-ahead goal when Houston burst into the right-hand circle and flashed a shot off the outside of Farkhutdinova’s post.
Unfortunately, Shenzhen never got quite as close again. Midway through the session the prolific Bolgareva made it 3-2 to the home team, and that slender lead endured until the very end. Kunlun pressed for a season-saving tally until the last second, but on this occasion it wasn’t to be.
The conclusion of the Women’s Hockey League season is not quite the end for 2022/23. Many of our players will be involved in Team China’s World Championship Division IA campaign, which is due to take place on home ice in Shenzhen. However, this tournament has been postponed from its planned dates in late April and a new schedule is set to be announced shortly in conjunction with the IIHF and the Chinese Ice Hockey Assocation.