No hiccups on the way to Balashika for Dinamo Riga as they arrived to end their two-game road trip this time taking on Avangard Omsk with a familiar face on the opposing bench - former Latvian national team coach Bob Hartley.
Riga entered the game fresh off of a victory against Torpedo Nizhny-Novgorod having snapped a six-game losing streak. Vladimir Krikunov and his side although early have demonstrated determination and capabilities to fight from the start till the very end. Their tonight’s opponent, the Avangard team had arrived from KHL World Games in Dubai where they lost against Ak Bars. Having lost the previous five meetings on road against the Omsk team Riga would be looking to snap that to earn the first road win against such a team for the first time in six years.
For Dinamo Riga, the main task now would be to start a consistent stretch and gather wins or points in more than one game. A streak has to be built. Good news for them? Nikolajs Jelisejevs is back and ready to go - he returned after a lengthy injury and was set to begin the game on the fourth line.
In the first two periods, Riga looked like they were the better team and ready to put it in the bag. Only due to unfortunate luck they were up only by one heading into the third and Omsk used their opportunities to break the game and come on top with a final score of 4:1.
‘’I have to say that we started the game well, scored a goal and then we stepped down a little. We had moments where the goals had to be scored but we couldn’t manage to. The opponent scored very fast goals and the game was over. Overall the team played well and it’s hard to win a team like Avangard by scoring one goal.’’ Dinamo coach Krikunov said after the game. ‘’I haven’t changed a whole lot in the way that the team plays. The players were physically prepared as I arrived and took over the team. Tactically we’re working on some small things but everything will be okay.’’
Rocket pace period
The visitors were energized and hungry straight from the getgo creating chance after chance looking to establish themselves early. Three minutes in Simon Hrubec had turned away quite a few pucks already. As players swapped on the ice a few times the game had already leveled out. Entertaining match without many stoppages to begin with.
Filips Buncis forced the first whistle of the game trying to break out alone against the goalie - Hrubec didn’t make the initial save but on the follow up he managed to defuse the situation. Riga kept pressuring and all of a sudden they had a man advantage - Avangard was caught with too many men. No time was wasted - a quick cycle of the puck and Lauris Darzins with a shot that he hoped would be re-directed, however, it reached the net and as the puck bounced off of the goalie Lorito went straight for the net and gobbled in the rebound.
Avangard went to chase the score back and they tried too hard - Nikita Soshnikov was sent to the penalty box for tripping. Bob Hartley seemed visibly upset saying all kinds of things but luckily for them, Riga got caught with too many men sending the game to four-on-four action. Between the penalties - the best chance was for Gints Meija who tried to deke goalie out of his pants, unsuccessfully. The temp was high but the game was in favor of Dinamo Riga - 1:0 after the first period.
Riga hold on to the lead
Avangard started the middle frame very aggressive but the more dangerous side appeared to be the Dinamo squad. While the former was more controlling of the puck and game the latter offered dangerous counters. As if the intermission had never happened the speed and intensity were still very high providing a really enjoyable battle on the ice.
Hartley’s men made a crucial error on their blue-line giving Dinamo a two-on-one chance with Shinkaruk attempting to extend the lead further but the puck went off of the post saving the opponents from going down by two. As the period went on Riga did look more confident and their chances came at all times from all angles but the score wouldn’t change. Mattsson got involved on occasion but generally, nothing dangerous came his way.
Omsk picked up in the final quarter of the period. The puck tumbled around the crease of Dinamo’s net with just 4.3 seconds in the frame but it didn’t go in as Mattsson made a desperation save to stop that one and keep his team up by one with just twenty minutes left on the clock.
Three quick goals by Omsk
Straight away Omsk went on to try and tie things up - Arseny Gritsyuk with a huge opportunity just twenty seconds into the third. The puck control remained on their side and Riga had a lot of work to do defensively in order to keep ahead. Attempts to tie the game were successful for the home team - a heavy error for Riga defensively as Gritsyuk entered the zone and received a pass from Soshnikov, young forward teed it up and the puck went off of the post and in.
Once the first goal was scored confidence rose for Avangard and all of a sudden they were up by a goal - this time Johan Mattsson made a mistake as Gritsyuk made a shot towards the net from the blue-line and the goalie didn’t see the puck allowing it to go in. Neither side could manage to blink as Ilya Kablukov had made it 3:1 and Julius Hudacek dressed to replace Mattsson in Dinamo’s net.
Dinamo did try and finally get back into the shape they were in the first two periods but chances for them no longer came easy. Gritsyuk on a counter tried to go for a hat-trick but this time Julius Hudacek demonstrated that he’s ready to play and won’t allow pucks to fly past him.
The second time in the game Riga had a superb opportunity which ended up hitting the post with ten minutes to go in the third. Other than that the team appeared to be emotionally drained due to three quick goals against. Emile Poirier was assigned to the penalty box to give Avangard a chance to make it 4:1 and they did - the puck was shared between the players and as Hudacek was down on the ice Kaski blasted the puck into the net to hand Riga a loss to finish off their road-trip.
‘’I thought we played a very good game in the first and the second period especially. Not sure what happened in the third but I think we kinda just sat back and gave them a little too much time with the puck. They are a good team and we have to give them credit. They made plays and scored some goals. We weren’t able to answer back. First and second periods we limited their chances. We have to find a way to score more goals. We were in a pretty good spot while tied but we had to find a way to answer and raise our game so we can score the next one.’’ the only Dinamo goal-scorer Matt Lorito explained things from his point of view.