Five of the best – games of the season

Source: Club Press-Office

05.03.2017

Kunlun’s debut season is over, and there’s been plenty of action and excitement to enjoy. Let’s take a look back at a fistful of games that packed a real punch in 2016-17.

OPENING NIGHT
Sep. 1, 2016 – Amur 1 Kunlun Red Star 2

This was a red-letter day for our club – the first ever KHL game in our history. The build-up, as the rest of the league played through its opening week, was a mixture of impatience and anxiety. For everyone connected with the club there was a determination to get on the ice and show what we could do, but also a worry that the mammoth task of building a team from scratch might take longer than the few weeks since our roster assembled for summer training in Finland.

That worry was quickly dispelled by a successful start to life in the league. Sean Collins opened the scoring on 14 minutes, writing his name in history as the organization’s first ever goalscorer. Then, a dramatic finale. Amur grabbed a late equalizer, only for Tuukka Mantyla to smash home the winner with 57 seconds left. A great start.

HOME, SWEET HOME
Sep. 5, 2016 – Kunlun Red Star 6 Admiral Vladivostok 3

Top-level hockey came to China for the first time, and made an instant impact. A crowd of almost 8,000 proved that the game can attract support here, and a thrilling game ensured that the hockey newbies in the audience saw plenty to lure them back for future engagements.

For Chinese fans, the chance to see local heroes Zach Yuen and Rudi Ying on the ice against top players from the strongest league in Eurasia was a real thrill – something very different from Asia League hockey. For expats, a team comprising an international roster gave almost everyone a ‘home’ player to root for – just listen to the chants of ‘ROS-SI-YA’ after Vadim Pereskokov scored. And, of course, there’s nothing like a victory to wrap up a great night for the club. With three-point hauls for Anssi Salmela, Max Warn and Miika Lahti and a nine-goal thriller to enjoy, this was the night that the Kunlun dream really became reality.

NEVER SAY DIE
Nov. 10, 2016 – Dinamo Minsk 3 Kunlun Red Star 4

It’s not always about leading from the front. Kunlun had the advantage in this game for just 16 seconds … but they were the last 16 seconds of an absorbing game that ended in a thrilling come-from-behind victory.

Chad Rau was the hero, with two goals in the last five minutes to turn this one around and leave Dinamo’s fans streaming out of Arena Minsk amid a chorus of jeers. Rau’s powerplay goal on 55:30 tied the game at 3-3 before racing onto Janne Jalasvaara’s diagonal pass to beat Ben Scrivens at the far post with a perfect one-timer. That set the seal on a fightback from 0-2 down in the first period – Tobias Viklund and Sean Collins scoring to tie the game – and then from 2-3 late in the third. Dinamo got the puck in the net one last time, but head coach Yurzinov made astute use of the video referral system to show that goalie Artyom Zagidulin was illegally blocked by an opponent. Victory was ours, and in thrilling fashion.

SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT
Jan. 28, 2017 – Kunlun Red Star 5 Medvescak Zagreb 0

As the Year of the Rooster dawned, Kunlun was cock-a-hoop after bagging its biggest victory of the season. A five-star demolition of Medvescak kept the team’s playoff hopes on track as the league’s newcomer continued to ruffle the feathers of its rivals.

The game was just 40 seconds old when Linus Videll opened the scoring, and that set the tone for much of what was to come. As China celebrated a year characterized – so the astrologers tell us – by athleticism, confidence and ambition, Kunlun delivered a performance that incorporated all those qualities. Further goals from Max Warn, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Tomi Sallinen and Sean Collins wrapped up the scoring, while some solid defense and 24 saves from Tomi Karhunen brought back-to-back shut-outs at the other end of the ice. An auspicious start to the lunar new year.

PLAYOFF PRIDE
Feb. 28, 2017 – Kunlun Red Star 3 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 1

Kunlun’s playoff challenge could hardly have been any tougher. An opening series against the defending champion, inspired by the record-breaking scoring of Sergei Mozyakin, was a daunting task. But our team competed bravely, if unsuccessfully, in the opening three games, losing narrowly as Mozyakin grabbed the headlines with the 1,000th point of his glittering career.

Then came the day that it all went right. Defeat in Game 4 would spell the end of the series, but Kunlun was not ready for a summer holiday yet. The first period brought clinical finishing – only five shots, but two priceless goals as Martin Bakos and Chad Rau gave Red Star a measure of control in the game. Tommi Taimi added a third early in the middle session, and the scent of victory was strong. True, the job was not yet done: a solid defensive display was needed, backstopped by 32 saves from Tomi Karhunen, to restrict Magnitka to a goal from Viktor Antipin. But our blue-liners responded to the challenge magnificently, silencing Mozyakin & Co to help write another memorable chapter in our club’s brief history. A first ever playoff victory, and another building block for a future of still greater success.