Dinamo Riga was set to begin their three-game road trip after having an extended period of on-ice action at home and having lost against Ak Bars they now moved on to play HC Sochi. An important opponent in an important game to try and manage a return to the winning ways.
Just like their opponents - the Sochi side came into the game fresh off of a loss and that raised the stakes even higher. Both teams had juggled their line-up but Riga was the side that surprised - Julius Hudacek would start his first game for his new team while Mattsson did not even dress for the game as he had been allowed to rest. Both sides had met previously this season with Sochi being the seemingly better side although Riga had won their first-ever home battle against the team (2:1).
In a game where not many things happened HC Sochi had the upper hand once again as a single goal was enough to win the game.
‘’It was a good and a close game overall. The goalies played well for both teams. Ultimately the game was decided by the special teams.’’ Dinamo Riga head coach bluntly said after the game.
Sochi head coach Andrei Nazarov was more expressive but also blunt: ‘’I want to congratulate the fans and thank them for their support. We heard you very well during the game. Our game plan worked well.’’
Janis Jaks punishes his former team
If slow and steady wins the race then you could award both teams with two points. A rather calm beginning of the game with teams going back and forth looking for action. No whistles at all from the start of the period up until the clock hit the 4:55 mark. During that frame, Julius Hudacek had to make the toughest save while Hellberg on the other side was relatively cold.
As the period progressed the pace did not change at all - the only thing that had were the whistles. The first penalty of the game was awarded to Edgars Kulda who tried too hard and was given a tripping minor. Both sides had only a single shot on goal between them but the power-play time allowed the home team to raise that number.
One of the shots did beat Hudacek for the first time in his Dinamo career - Reece Scarlett lost the puck along the boards which allowed the opponent to cycle the puck and Janis Jaks shot from the blue-line to make it 1:0.
Sochi did make an error themselves having too many men on the ice which handed Riga an opportunity to level the score. Dinamo did look for opportunities and although they controlled things in the offensive zone the puck failed to reach the net giving Hellberg and his team a calm penalty kill.
A sloppy second
The pace seemingly had picked up the same way it had after both first-period penalties. Still, many breaks in the game due to icing calls but that worked in favor of Riga which then could attempt to create something in the opponent’s defensive zone. The game swayed back and forth early on in the frame.
Lukas Radil was active enough to draw a penalty to hand Riga their second shot at a man advantage. The battle for the puck was tough and Sochi defended well and yet again nothing dangerous occurred allowing them to go two for two on the penalty kill.
Captain Lauris Darzins was penalized for hooking to give the opponents a shot at doubling the lead. Pucks flew towards Hudacek, some reached him and some didn’t as Riga desperately tried to keep their net safe and they succeeded. Lukas Radil had a near break-away situation but he didn’t manage to connect and Jere Karjalainen wasn’t able to finish off the sequence after receiving a pass either. Not much further action and the home side remained up at 1:0 after forty.
Sochi hold on to the lead
Riga came out willing to change things on the ice and they started well creating chances and giving Hellberg something to work for as he hadn’t seen a whole lot in the first two periods - he had faced just five shots. Kulibaba had also turned on his line blender to spark his team to get something going.
A carousel was spinning and Dinamo created chance after chance but the goalie still stood sharp. Sochi did try to counter but they found it hard to find the net. Lauris Darzins created a superb chance to tie the score and Riga only got stronger as time went on. Amir Garayev answered with a breakaway chance but Hudacek with the help of his teammates kept the score close.
A golden opportunity presented itself - Rundblad was sent to the penalty box for holding to give Riga their third shot at man advantage. Valerijs Kulibaba called a timeout to draw a combination up that could give his team that much-needed equalizer. Jere Karjalainen had not one but at least three chances from in front of the net but the puck was swept away.
The counters kept occurring while Riga still tried to manage to put the puck past the goal line. Julius Hudacek was pulled for an extra attacker very late in the third to give Dinamo one last shot to find a goal however it never came handing them another loss and allowing Sochi to climb in the standings.
Julius Hudacek felt all kinds of emotions in his Dinamo debut: ‘’I have to admit that prior to the game and during warmup, I felt really moved - just like when I was a kid. When you are a pro hockey player you have a lot of games for the club and your national team. Eventually, it turns into a job. However, today I really wanted to play hockey and enjoy my time on the ice. We didn’t show the best hockey in the first part of the game. I believe that in the third period we played much better than Sochi did but their goalie was outstanding. You have to score on power-play. Today we had a chance to do it. For the next games, we just have to try to play closer to the net. These days all the teams have good goalies so we just have to try and disturb them and block the vision.’’