Birthday bonus, birthday blues

Source: Club Press-Office

29.12.2016

KUNLUN RED STAR 1 ADMIRAL VLADIVOSTOK 4

Birthday boy Sean Collins got the party started – but our visitors from Vladivostok sailed off with the points as the final game of 2016 ended in disappointment for Kunlun.

Collins, who turns 28 today, collected the puck from Chad Rau and headed to the goal-line, wriggling away from two D-men before applying a close-range finish to beat Igor Bobkov and convert Kunlun’s first power play of the game.

Sadly, though, that was as good as it got. Admiral tied the game 43 seconds later through Yegor Yakovlev and went on to record a comfortable win. Maxim Kazakov made it 2-1 late in the first and after a goalless – and largely chance-free – second period, two breakaway goals saw James Wright and Robert Sabolic wrap up the win for the visitor.

It might have been very different if Bobkov had not been in such inspired form in the final stanza. The visiting goalie turned away 18 shots in the last 20 minutes as Red Star’s offense did everything except scoring the goal that might have turned the game in our favor. The team tried everything to get back into contention but could not find a way past Bobkov as the game – and the year – ended on a frustrating note.

But there’s no need to tone down the New Year celebrations. Considering the few short months that Kunlun has been on the ice, the team has made great progress. Even after today’s setback, we remain well-placed to reach the playoffs, holding onto seventh spot and staying ahead of Admiral. We also have games in hand on the teams chasing us. By the time the Chinese New Year festivities are underway on January 28, our playoff prospects are likely to be much clearer than at present and with seven further home games coming up in January, there’s every chance our position will be stronger than before.

Moreover, as the season progresses it has become clear that our roster is more than capable of holding its own in the KHL. Like all pro sports, this is a results business. If the playing staff isn’t strong enough to compete, the team swiftly drops down the league table. Kunlun has consistently held a playoff spot throughout the campaign, despite having to assemble an entire roster from scratch a few short months ago.

So, as 2016 draws to a close, there is plenty for Kunlun and its fans to reflect upon. A great journey is underway and big strides have been taken to move us towards our goal of establishing top-class hockey in China. And as 2017 comes into view, there’s everything still to look forward as Vladimir Yurzinov and his players continue their push for the playoffs.

The action gets underway on January 3 in Zagreb and the trip to Europe moves on to Slovan Bratislava on Jan. 5. Then it’s back to Beijing for a run of five home games starting with the visit of Dynamo Moscow on Jan. 9.