The Kazan side were visiting and arrived into the game steaming hot and on a two-game winning streak. The team also brought in a familiar face to Riga side - Timur Bilyalov, a goalie who once was the hometown hero but this time on the opposing side of the battle.
This marked the first meeting of both teams this season but both sides will meet twice in a short period of time - just five days between two meetings. Dinamo previously had defeated Admiral Vladivostok on home soil with a score of 3:2 while Ak Bars arrived in Riga fresh off of a road victory - 1:0 against Spartak Moscow.
A meaningful game on the ice and off - Latvia celebrated 103 years of independence and it was even more important for captain Lauris Darzins who was set to play his 600 KHL regular season game.
A massive line shuffle and a sloppy first period cost Dinamo Riga the game - 3:1 was the outcome of the match.
‘’Unfortunately we once again couldn’t get going in the first period. We couldn’t bring the puck out of the zone when necessary and that’s when we got those three goals against. Towards the end of the first we started to play our game and I think that we were successful at controlling the game. I want to thank the team that they fought hard. Two different teams in the last two games and we had to switch things up line-up wise. We knew that this would be a close game so we made a decision to have something different. We used the players that could show a tight game. As for our incapability - it’s all in our heads, we need to get our things together and everything will be fine’’ Valerijs Kulibaba said after the game.
Opening minutes weren’t as one would expect - open ice game, however Filips Buncis quickly earned a high-sticking penalty and was assigned to the penalty box. Ak Bars attacked well and created themselves a couple of chances, Johan Mattsson was forced and got into the as soon as he had to close the gap and not allow the puck to cross the goal line.
Ak Bars however, did managed to score first - Dinamo won the face-off in their own zone but managed to lose the puck, it was thrown towards the net and somehow it bounced off of a skate that juggled right onto the stick of Artyom Lukayanov who made it 1:0 from a surprise shot.
The Kazan side did seem to have gained some confidence and quickly made it 2:0. Later on Riga followed up with two unnecessary penalties - one for delay of the game and another one for too many men forcing them to go on the ice down two men. Opponents did press but Riga survived to stay behind by only two.
Riga did try to crawl out of a hole and started pressurising but not much flew towards Bilyalov’s net. They created the opportunity to catch the goalie cold but the visiting team got a third one. A necessary fight also broke out as Cukste tried to spark his team to give them a power-play but the score did not change and meant 3:0 for Ak Bars after twenty.
In the second from the get go it seemed lonely with not a whole lot happening. Slow and steady game that gave Riga an edge to level the field and play as equals. Unfortunately for the spectators - not much happened.
On one of the counters Ak Bars undressed Dinamo’s defense but Mattsson moved well in the crease to stop the shot. Riga answered right back with a few high danger chances of their own but Bilyalov stoned them cold.
With 3:40 left in the second frame Yudin was sent to the box for tripping, giving Riga a shot to close the gap - Ak Bars defended well and killed off the penalty. The score remained unchanged 3:0 for the visitors.
In the third Dinamo still looked like the better team but nothing dangerous appeared to happen in the offensive end. Nikita Lyamkin got penalised for two minutes - that opportunity was also let slip past.
Dinamo did finally get one - in his second game of the season Matt Lorito sniped the puck past Bilyalov to give Riga their first of the game. It clearly wasn’t enough as the home side couldn’t deliver and present their fans with a present on a night when the country is celebrating their independence.
Disappointment was in the air post game “We regrouped after the first period and we started to have some good plays with the puck. We put pressure on them, we took over the game in the second period but unfortunately we couldn’t find a way to score a couple more. We have to give credit to them, they came out and pressured our defense to force turnovers. We have to improve and have a better start next game. Myself - I felt good, the first game for me was a little rusty as I hadn’t played in a couple of weeks but tonight I settled down and kinda found my legs. Overall I felt pretty good for my second game in the league.” Lorito said.