Incredible performance by Mattsson hands Dinamo Riga two points
After netting four points on their far east road trip - Dinamo Riga is back home for a two-game homestand and a chance to claw towards eight place and the play-off zone. Their task at hand won’t be easy because straight off the bat they host Sibir Novosibirsk - a team that they lost against with a score of 1-3 just less than a week ago.
While Riga are eye-ing that eight spot in their conference, Sibir are there already on their side of the standings and have a potential to climb higher and higher. But what’s different about this match compared to their first meeting of the season? Location was the obvious answer but there are big changes on Dinamo’s roster - Sebastian Wannstrom is no longer with them - he was first waived and then both sides mutually agreed to part ways. That clearly is a sign of things to come prior to a very important game against the Sibir side. The Novosbirsk based team was coming into this game with a two-game winning streak to begin their four game away tour.
For the first time this season Dinamo wore their pink jersey’s on home ice and they will do so for the whole month of October to bring awareness to breast cancer.
Early on it was visible that two different sorts of hockey would be played, however both sides started out carefully hoping not to make any errors to begin the game. Johan Mattsson was the goalie who had to get involved on two occasions while Riga once again struggled to get going. Sibir felt that and put their pace in yet another gear having caught the momentum.
Most dangerous of chances for Sibir was after Oleg Li robbed Karlis Cukste and ran away one against the goalie but Mattsson stayed sharp, continuing to keep his team in the game. Riga’s first shot on net came with 7:59 left in the first period and that resulted in a goal - Jere Karjalainen snapped his 9-game-scoreless streak with a wrister that went five-hole, Reece Scarlett and Emile Poirier with the assists.
Momentum change was forced by the home-side and they now began forcing opponents to make errors - one of them, a Nikita Korotkov holding penalty, but that advantage wasn’t used by the hosts. Riga answered with a penalty as well - Filips Buncis went to the box with a very similar holding infraction - nothing to show for Sibir on the advantage either. The period came to a close with the score being 1:0 in favour for the home side while they only managed to register one shot on net.
‘’It was a nice play’’ , Jere Karjalainen admitted. ‘’Two passes, an open slot for me to shoot the puck and I did it - the puck just went in.’’
Dinamo came out determined to keep their lead and extend it further, having some long offensive zone control with the far benches which helped wear out the opponents. Sides switched later on and then once again Mattsson had loads of work to do and he stayed on top of his game.
As the second half of the game began - Riga was once again nowhere to be found and Sibir dominated the game and finally managed to tie the game. Konstantin Alexeyev directed the puck towards the net and the puck appeared to have gone into the net from the skate of Nikita Shashkov - as there was no direct kicking motion - the goal stood, meaning a 1:1 game.
Emotions picked up after the tie as Emile Poirier was ready to go with one of the opposing players - young Nikita Yefremov. A fight didn’t break-out however roughing penalties were assessed for each side but that ended up being the only notable event of the second period which led to a tie heading into the third.
Another good start for Riga in the opening moments of the third - Hunter Shinkaruk was quick enough to draw a holding penalty against Nick Shore to give Riga their second man-advantage. Just like it has been lately - if they needed a hero it would be Nikolajs Jelisejevs who put Riga back in front by a goal with a slap-shot that flew into the close side of the net.
Riga went on a wave and used the edge they had gained to their advantage - next up was Emile Poirier who battled hard against his opponent, turned around his axes and went to the front of the net to wrist the puck in the net for 3:1.
Sibir were angry about the errors made and they went on full offensive mode with over 13 minutes left in the game but Johan Mattsson once again somehow kept the puck out of his net to sustain his teams two-goal lead.
Action packed third period till the very last minute of the game. Sibir with a power-play opportunity and a chance to still get something done in this game but they made a crucial mistake and Emile Poirier managed to get his second of the game while shorthanded and all of a sudden Riga was up by three and with a victory in their bag.
Karjalainen was relieved after the game about the outcome despite the team not performing too well - ‘’Tight game wasn't our best though. The goaltender played so well. Mattsson kept us in the game when we struggled. We managed to take advantage of our opportunities and that’s really good. An important win for us here.’’ The Finnish forward not only scored a goal but also earned two assists - ‘’I actually felt okay in this game but our line was really good tonight so that’s great for us.’’ He also admitted that he would love to also see the goal-scoring and the level of goaltending on his side as a carry-over thing for the next game in order to keep cashing in the W’s.
Sergei Zubov was somewhat shocked with his team's performance - ‘’I don’t remember the last time we had such an awful first and second period. We started heavy and barely created a single moment but we managed to score on it.’’ While the start wasn’t what he hoped for he still expressed gratitude for the outcome - ‘’Although it was hard to play against a well-organised opponent our boys did a superb job to find the strength, create the moments and get the luck on our side. Johan Mattsson had a supergame - the guys on the ice got inspired by him and they supported him.’’