Drama till the end, a high-scoring game with loads of goals and very little defence on both sides meant that Dinamo Riga would finally earn their first win of the season with the final score of 6:5 against Kunlun Red Star. Players with experience stepped up - Rudolf Ceverny scored two as well as 20-year-old rookie Patriks Ozols who earned his first career goal in the KHL to help his team seal the victory.
‘’The feeling is good right now, we showed our character. The most important thing right now is that we have two points’’ the 20-year-old defenseman said post-game. ‘’At the end of the third something happened once again we didn’t concentrate enough and those two goals just fell in for them, it’s a good thing that we held on to the lead.’’
Dinamo Riga and Kunlun Red Star have had some close battles on the ice. Last season in two meetings Riga had the upper hand 5:3 regulation win at home while on road the guests managed to waste a 3:1 lead to eventually come on top in OT, when Denis Parshin got the game winning goal. The new season has started rough for Dinamo, they began the season on the road losing to Lokomotiv and CSKA Moscow at the beginning stages of the game. Offensively there can barely be any complaints, while on both occasions coach Sergei Zubov and his players insisted that they have to improve their defensive game, work on zone exits as well as up their quality in the final minutes of the game. Kunlun Red Star started their season with a 5:1 loss against Neftehimik but bounced back and earned their first win of the season against the strong Ak Bars Kazan team. There is also a former Red Star and now Dinamo Riga forward Hunter Shinkaruk, who certainly would be interested to prove himself and have extra motivation to defeat his former team or at least have an individually strong showing. Young Latvians Filips Buncis, Karlis Cukste drew in the line-up for the first time this season.
If there was anything that would suggest an entertaining game it clearly was a quick and early goal by Kunlun just thirty seconds in with the first shot of the game. Wong stole the puck from Lukas Radil in the neutral zone, quickly got it to Spencer Foo who left the puck to Jake Chelios allowing him to absolutely rip a hard shot past Dinamo goalie to make it 1:0. Kunlun also dominated the game on the face-off dot having an early advantage there as well as along the boards Riga found it hard to get their hands on the puck.
Riga played more of a physical hockey using their bodies to make sure their opponents felt their hits. Half-way through the first Dinamo picked up the pace showcasing entertaining hockey and creating scoring chances of their own, however another mistake and it appeared that Spencer Foo had scored, while Riga’s goalie Mattsson was down on the ice in visible pain. Video review followed - and the call on the ice was overturned, no goal due to the net being dislodged, Kunlun received a chance to take a penalty shot because prior to the shot Alexander Protapovich tripped the opposing forward. Matej Machovsky replaced injured Johan Mattsson who went straight to the locker room. Matej stopped the penalty shot keeping his team down by just a single goal.
Guests hit the post on their own attack straight after, moments later another opportunity came on man advantage. Brandon Gormley received a pass from Hunter Shinkaruk, a shot from the blue-line to tie the game. Riga’s powerplay went up to 50% as they had now scored on four out of eight opportunities so far this season. As the end of the first approached, Dinamo killed a penalty of their own which meant a tie with one goal a piece after twenty minutes of a very entertaining game. Kunlun appeared to have scored during a delayed penalty with dying seconds but the goal was waived-off due to time having already ran out.
Debutant Karlis Cukste found himself in the penalty box to begin the second period following the hooking penalty which was taken at the end of first period. Red Star quickly took care of things, scoring yet another early period goal - Cory Kane held up Gormley, not allowing him to get back in time to cover Lucas Lockhart who put the puck into an empty corner of the net after the puck quickly cycled around the zone to reach the goal scorer. Penalties kept costing Dinamo goals - Shinkaruk was sent to the box and Ethan Werek doubled his team's lead on powerplay. Rudolf Ceverny got one for his team at mid-point of the game with a perfect shot under the crossbar from the right face-off dot - he was left there all alone and was able to use his opportunity after which Alexander Lazushin expressed frustration with his teammates. The goal appeared to have given spark for Dinamo as they began creating more and more scoring chances that opened up the game and once again an eventful coast-to-coast hockey could be witnessed. Kunlun had a four-on-one and then a three-on-one attack but Matej Machovsky stood sharp in his net. With a little under four minutes remaining in the second Dinamo Riga youngster, the 2001 born Patriks Ozols retrieved a loose puck and with a simple wrist shot and tied the game up. That was his first career KHL goal. ‘’I just came out on the ice from the bench, saw that the puck rebounded off of the net and I just went for it - it turned out great,’ the goal scorer admitted with a huge smile on his face.
Special teams also continued to play a huge part - it was audible that Sergei Zubov demanded one-timer shots from his players during one of conversations on the bench and Emile Porier delivered - a one-timer on power-play gave Riga their first lead of the game. 4:3 lead for Dinamo after forty minutes of hockey.
Riga successfully killed off back-to-back penalties early in the third but for the most part they were the team that created the most dangerous chances and it paid off. Fourth-line did a great job to wear out opponents and Dinamo’s top trio came on the ice to give the team a two-goal lead. Rudolf Ceverny beat Lazushin for the second time in the game after a Kunlun player lost the puck on the left side of his own defensive zone and was robbed for Czech player to get the puck and shoot from the middle of the ice. Brandom Yip made a crucial error while on power-play as Nikolai Jelisejevs robbed him and went on to beat Kunlun goalie one-on-one further extending the lead for the guests. Yip avenged his mistake by forcing Frank Corrado’s stick towards his own net while having the possession of the puck which resulted in a goal for Kunlun. They pulled their goalie at the final moments of the game and managed to further cut down Riga’s lead and now it was a one-goal game but Dinamo held on to the lead to earn their first victory of the season for themselves and for Sergei as a head coach of the Latvian team.
In the press conference Sergei Zubov pointed out that the start wasn’t good, mentioned that the old problems carried over from the previous gamse but most importantly said that two points are what matter.
The next game for Dinamo will be at home vs Traktor Chelyabinsk and Patriks Ozols seemed to be excited: ‘’I don’t even remember the last time when I had a chance to play in front of a home crowd. I can’t wait. I hope to see a huge turnout and support on Wednesday’’.