Riga entered the game coming off of a humiliating loss against Dinamo Minsk in which 15 players were enough for the opponent to hand them a smackdown with a score of 1:5. Dinamo team had also managed to lose five in a row prior to entering this contest. Vityaz, however, were set to begin their home stretch coming off of a two-game victory run against both Dinamo’s - 4:1 against Minsk and 3:2 OT victory over Riga. This marked the third meeting of the season between the sides in pretty high-scoring matches. Dinamo team also had a victory over Vityaz in their pocket - 4:3 in OT.
It’s not that rare to see things changing for Dinamo as they went on this road trip without Brandon Gormley who was later traded to Lokomotiv. Khisamutdinov had finally joined the team and made his debut playing on the third line with Daniels Berzins and Martins Karsums. Julius Hudacek remained in goal for Riga as the new default started for the team.
In a close contest, five goals were scored and the teacher in Vladimir Krikunov outsmarted his student and former assistant coach Yury Babenko but still, Krikunov’s Dinamo Riga remained behind Vityaz in the standings after a 3:2 OT victory.
‘’It’s clear that the game was important for both sides. Two teams are fighting to get out of last place. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen for us but nevertheless, our players did well. They battled from beginning to the end and I can’t say a single bad word about the way anyone played. We did our best and came on top in this very important game. We have players that are injured, today we had to ice young Tumanovs and he did great.’’ coach Krikunov said after the victory.
If early indications meant anything it was that the game would be entertaining - Nikolajs Jelisejevs had a superb chance less than two minutes in to take the lead but he fanned on the shot. Up until the first commercial break, Riga legitimately controlled the puck more and tried to make things happen on fore-check. Not many shots on either side in the opening quarter of the period.
Vityaz had trouble containing the puck and forced their own shots from the blue-line. Dinamo wouldn’t allow them to go anywhere near the net. One of their efforts caused a mishap and Emile Poirier was shown the way to the penalty box putting Riga down by a player for the first time in the game and that led to the first goal in the match Niko Ojamaki bounced the puck off of the pads of Hudacek and it landed on the stick of Aaltonen who roofed it for 1:0.
The favor was returned by German Nesterov who boarded Ralfs Freibergs to give Riga their first shot at a man advantage and that also was taken advantage of. Jere Karjalainen entered the zone, dumped the puck to Meija who quickly found Rudolf Cerveny who used his wrist-shot to catch Ezhov napping and reach the tie.
As the period ran down Vityaz had assumed an on-ice advantage having made more shots and having spent more time attacking. They also had another shot at power-play but this time around the defense of the visiting team worked well to keep the score level and the score showed 1:1 after twenty.
The pace did not change much in the second period, back and forth until Riga had the option to play on man-advantage - Nikita Goncharov got called for checking to the head and Riga went on their second offensive charge but it was highly unsuccessful - Vityaz side even managed to put the puck at the net while a man down. Chaos handed Riga another minor penalty to level the field. Lots of action but no goals.
The discipline wasn’t something Dinamo could be proud of - another penalty followed and this time Karlis Cukste was sent to the box for high-sticking. The delayed penalty meant that Vityaz would have the chance to go up by a goal but Julius Hudacek made a huge save and his efforts caused contact between him and a player in red - some pushing and shoving occurred which revoked the power-play and sent the game to four-on-four for the second time in the match. More penalties but as sides returned to full squads score was still the same.
The best chance to score a goal was for Lorito - Darzins shot the puck at the net it rebounded onto the stick of Karsums who tried to hand a no-look pass to him but Ivanyuzhenkov robbed the puck to clear the situation. Penalties had switched things around a little as Dinamo was the side that all of a sudden controlled things.
The tie was broken when once again a penalty was assigned to Vityaz - this one was rapid Lauris Darzins quickly found Lorito who was in front of the net and wide-open to shoot having Ezhov no idea where the puck was. Two errors while shorthanded and the visiting side were up by a goal. Once the goal was scored - Vityaz once again pick their own game up a notch but there wasn’t enough time left in the period and it ended with them down by one.
The third period couldn’t start without a discussion between the referees and Yury Babenko. The head coach wasn’t too happy with the way the game was called and presented his case. Once the game got back underway action continued. Riga had a super early attempt to pull in front by two but only due to the effort of Ezhov that didn’t happen. If anything Babenko’s case was heard and his team had a power-play and it was quite dangerous but not enough.
The intensity wasn’t going anywhere in this game as both teams looked to score more. With ten minutes left in regulation, Vityaz had shot at the net seven times while Riga had just two in the final frame. On all occasions, goaltending had to prove itself when the shots arrived as a goal on either side could cost important points.
A tie was reached by the home team with just over seven minutes to play - a simple offensive zone entry and from a cover of opposite defenseman Vitaly Popov roofed the puck into the net of Dinamo Riga. Referees had much less work to do as whistles didn’t come often anymore. Both sides switched to a more careful playing manner which led to the third consecutive overtime game between the teams.
Determination was key and after stopping a near break-away Riga did manage to win the game in OT - Lukas Radil was the hero who got the puck from Ralfs Freibergs and with a wicked wrister beat Ezhov to snap Dinamo’s losing streak. The final score was 3:2 in favor of Riga.
‘’After a little bit longer period of time, we finally won. Vityaz is very close to us in the standings and we are happy with the outcome. I think that there haven’t been many occasions where when we are down 1:0, tonight we managed to turn it around and it’s a really good thing for us. Ralfs did a really good job of picking up two guys with him and then leaving the puck for me to just shoot it. I’m really happy I made it.’’ Lukas Radil reflected on the game.