A fright for the champ – Red Star pushes Magnitka all the way

Source: Club Press-Office



When Metallurg came to Shanghai at the end of October, Sergei Mozyakin produced an inspired individual performance to hand our team its heaviest defeat of the season. Since then, though, Kunlun has toughened its game and made great strides towards securing a playoff place in its rookie KHL campaign. Where better to measure the progress made in the past six weeks than in Magnitogorsk, at the home of the defending champion?

The differences were striking. From the first moments, Magnitka knew it was in a real game – something which, sadly, could not really be said of our first meeting, when the visitor was able to produce an exhibition of hockey. This time, though, Kunlun gave Metallurg a real scare and remained fully in the game until deep into the final period.

Kunlun even took the lead in the 10th minute, gaining a deserved reward for its bright start. Jan Kovar was feeling the pressure and his wayward clearance went straight to Brett Bellemore. The defenseman crashed in a shot and Sean Collins was on the spot to force home the rebound.

But Metallurg isn’t the Gagarin Cup-holder for nothing and two goals in 90 seconds from the host reminded everyone of its class. Denis Platonov tied it up before Alexander Semin made it 2-1 on the power play.

The balance swung back towards Red Star shortly afterwards though when Denis Kazionov was ejected from the game for kneeing Yaroslav Alshevsky. Kunlun could not convert that power play, despite plenty of time camped in Magnitka’s zone, but did tie the scores early in the second period. Once again it was an opportunist goal: Sergei Tereshchenko flapped at a flying puck and the disk dropped for Alexei Ponikarovsky to score on Vasily Koshechkin. Two minutes into the second period, and the score was 2-2.

The middle session was a ding-dong battle. Kunlun survived a 3-on-5 penalty kill, Collins was denied in a one-on-one duel with Koshechkin. Igor Velichkin then had a great chance from close range after escaping his markers on the slot before Metallurg went to the other end and rattled the crossbar with a shot from Semin. Somehow the game remained tied at the second intermission, but both teams had grounds to feel they could have been ahead.

Ultimately, though, Magnitka forced a decisive advantage in the final session. Semin got his second of the evening in the 45th minute and the pressure gradually began to build up. Tomi Karhunen’s crossbar took a second blow, this time from Mozyakin, before our Finnish goalie pulled off a wonder save from a deflected Evgeny Timkin shot. It took a power play to finally kill the game, with Mozyakin setting up Danis Zaripov for the final blow in the 57th minute.
Defeated once again by Russia’s top team, Kunlun nevertheless showed far more competitive hockey than it managed in the previous game against Metallurg. And, with Admiral also losing, the team’s playoff hopes were not severely dented by this loss.

Next week the action returns to Beijing and a long-awaited home-coming. Red Star hasn’t shone in the LeSport Arena since September 5 but after an extended stay in Shanghai, it’s finally back to base for two vital games in the race for the playoffs. Barys, currently ninth, visits on Monday – a game already rich in rivalry gains extra spice thanks to the playoff battle. Then, next Saturday, Avtomobilist comes to China hoping to revive its own faltering playoff push.