One game to go, and our destiny is still in our hands
Source: Club Press-Office
LOKOMOTIV YAROSLAVL 4 KUNLUN RED STAR 2
The epic journey of Kunlun’s first regular season of KHL action is almost over … but the ultimate destination is still uncertain.
Taking to the ice in Yaroslavl, our team knew that a good result would confirm a playoff place following Sibir’s loss earlier in the day. A significant following came on this crucial road trip, bringing Kunlun banners and turning up the noise to encourage our guys. It wasn’t exactly a home away from home – Yaroslavl is renowned for its own fanatical hockey supporters – but it was yet another reminder of how far the Red Star project has travelled since taking its KHL bow in September.
However, Kunlun wasn’t the only team with plenty to play for here. Lokomotiv booked its playoff place some time ago, but was still involved in a dogfight for a seeded position and home ice advantage at the start of post-season. Victory here would confirm that, and offer a major boost to the Railwaymen.
With much at stake, a good start was vital. Unfortunately, on this occasion it didn’t happen. Daniil Apalkov gave Lokomotiv a seventh-minute lead with a great goal, before a defensive calamity gifted Yegor Averin with a second.
Late in the first period, a power play goal from Max Warn offered some hope of a way back into the game. Tobias Viklund’s slap shot thundered into the boards where Janne Jalasvaara was on hand to work the puck back to Warn on the slot.
However, Lokomotiv was determined to secure third place in the Western Conference and piled on the pressure after the intermission. Alexander Kadeikin made it 3-1 in the 22nd minute and Brandon Kozun added a fourth as the middle stanza came to an end. It might have been even worse – a video referral wiped out another Lokomotiv effort as Tomas Marcinko sat out a penalty.
Our guys battled hard in the third, even though the odds were stacked against a revival. There was a glimmer of hope in the 44th minute when Sean Collins sent Chad Rau clean through for a deftly-converted short-handed goal to make the score 4-2, but there was to be no dramatic recovery.
So, everything now rests on Saturday’s trip to Dynamo Moscow. After 59 hard-fought games, our destiny is firmly in our own hands, no small achievement for a team that was entirely theoretical this time last year. The equation is simple – taking the game into overtime will guarantee a top-eight finish regardless of other results. Anything better than that, of course, makes for a more comfortable afternoon and offers the chance of pipping Salavat Yulaev to sixth place. Anything less than a point would leave our team relying on what might happen elsewhere – Sibir slipping up against Avtomobilist, or Admiral falling to Vityaz – to keep us in the playoff picture.