Riga entered the game having lost five in a row which certainly meant that the task at hand would be meaningful - not only to snap that streak but also their unlucky ways against the Cherepovets side whom they had lost in the previous three meetings this season (2:1 OT, 2:0 and 2:0). The visitors one of the hottest teams had won four in a row and their point streak is as long as 18 games in a row. If at the start of the season both sides were battling for a playoff spot, Dinamo currently has themselves in 12th while Severstal was 4th in the Western table.
In the first game as head coach of Dinamo Riga, Vladimir Krikunov didn’t pull any magic out of his hat line-up-wise, with little to no surprises. Although Nikolajs Jelisejevs was removed from the injured list a day before the match - he didn’t dress for the game. Robert Rooba who missed time, however, drew into the line-up for visitors giving the game another Baltic state clash opportunity.
In a game where Dinamo looked like a better team, they couldn’t capitalize enough to snap their streak and Severstal went four-for-four in the meetings this season after a 3:2 shootout victory.
‘’We tried to work each shift from beginning to the end. The players were warned about taking penalties but they still took them and allowed a goal on penalty-kill. It’s not the first time these things happen. If it wasn’t for those penalties the outcome would’ve been much better. I’m still getting to know the team, I’m still looking at what is what. It’s just my second day on the job in Riga, I still don’t know many of the people here but we will get done with that very fast, and things will get better. The boys played the match without physical holes, we weren’t weaker than Severstal, a team that is playing at a very high level,’’ newly hired head coach Vladimir Krikunov said in the post-game press conference.
Right away Severstal attempted not to allow Dinamo to get on their feet. Long pressure in the offensive zone to create scoring chances. The home team had to mobilize their defense not to get lost in the woods early in the game. When Severstal was without the puck they would apply high pressure to force errors and it gave dividends, yet shots didn’t come in bunches.
The sound defense was still key for the visiting side when Riga attacked but Podyapolsky still had work to do once they had their first offensive spark. Towards the mid-point of the first, the game had shifted to a more two-sided affair. Hudacek had to get involved to keep the score at nill when he faced three dangerous shots in a row.
Dinamo’s offensive attempts resulted in a goal that gave them their first lead in Krikunov’s era - mischief near the net of Severstal led to rebounds which gave Radil the puck and he went behind the net to look for Cerveny but the puck stumbled into the net after Podyapolsky’s mistake. They weren’t gonna let go and only raised the tempo of the game to follow up with more goals.
The pressure once again paid off as Ruslan Abrosimov forced the puck out of the rink giving Dinamo the first man advantage of the game. The power-play system had changed noticeably and Riga tried their best to score - yet Severstal’s impressive penalty-kill was successful. Therefore Riga finished the period up by a single goal.
Once again a quick start for Severstal and this time around - Riga was punished for it. Another puck left the rink and Cerveny went to sit in the penalty box which meant that the game would be tied. Vladislav Kodola set himself up at the left face-off circle and wristed the puck past Hudacek as the puck went into the far side of the net.
The home team went to fight back to once again take the lead and they came close - a three-on-one with Gints Meija deciding to shoot and not pass made the save easy for Podyapolsky. Riga shot themselves in the foot twice in a short period sending Hunter Shinkaruk and Karlis Cukste to the sin bin and giving Severstal a 5-on-3 man advantage. With just 9 seconds left in the penalty-kill Hudacek was beat for the second time - Vovchenko one-timed it from the left face-off circle for a 2:1 lead.
Dinamo team once again had to be jump-started to get back into this game but tiny mistakes didn’t allow them to settle in the offensive zone to begin creating their chances. Severstal had completely taken the charge in this game not only on the scoreboard but also on the ice. Yet the puck spent most of the time around the neutral zone.
Towards the end of the frame, Riga did look more lively and the scoring opportunities came. Severstal didn’t slow down either and hopped on the offensive train showing an entertaining game of hockey that pleased the viewer. At one point Poirier ran the opposing goalie causing some minor tension that sent two Severstal players and Poirier to sit down which gave Riga their second man advantage of the game. Period, however, still ended with the guests being up by a goal.
The carry-over penalty was quickly over and both teams could resume playing at full strength. That quickly changed as Severstal was caught with too many men - Riga was hungry for a goal and their hunger was awarded a game-tying goal - many shots were taken and finally, Lukas Radil beat the goalie with a wrist shot for his second of the game that reset the field.
The home side kept the pressure looking for more to finally snap their winless drought and to walk away with a victory at least once this season against Severstal. Podyapolsky had loads to do in the net to keep the game even while his teammates tried to break the stalemate on the counter-attack. The cross-bar saved Dinamo with eight minutes left to go in the final frame on one of the rare occasions for Severstal.
Riga placed players in front of the opposing goalie and shot from afar - in one of those situations only luck was there to help Severstal as Riga had completely taken over the game. Robert Rooba had a near-perfect chance to upset Riga on a break-away but Hudacek did manage to stop the puck to deny a very unpleasant turn of events. A tie after sixty minutes gave each team a point and sent the game to extra time.
Just like the start of each period in overtime Severstal once again began actively. Once Riga got their hands on the puck they tried to hold on to it for as much as possible. Poirier and Meija had their chance to score but after a superb pass opposing defenseman blocked the shooting line to deny that sequence. Neither team scored so the game went on to a shootout.
In the shootout, Lauris Darzins was the only player who managed to score and Lukas Radil even managed to earn a two minutes penalty while Morozov and Vovchenko brought their team a 3:2 victory.
‘’I don’t think we played badly today, sometimes just bad things happen, you let in a goal or you can’t score on a good chance. I don’t know, I hope it’s gonna get better because we showed that we are much better,’’ two-goal scorer Lukas Radil looked back at the game. ‘’Penalties have been a problem the whole season for us. It’s just sometimes you work hard and give so much and then you just get a penalty. It happens. I had a couple of good chances in previous games too but finally, I made it so I’m happy about it. Shootout wise it’s all about confidence, if we win one shootout we will gain confidence. That’s all there is to it.’’