We’re making history!
Source: Club Press-Office
DYNAMO MOSCOW 2 KUNLUN RED STAR 1
Kunlun’s first regular season campaign came to an end – and despite defeat in Moscow there was plenty to celebrate for Vladimir Yurzinov and his team.
The headline news was not the final score, but the final standings. Kunlun secured a top-eight spot, and advances to the playoffs at the first time of asking. It’s been a long journey, starting in Khabarovsk in September and taking in Beijing, Shanghai, the hockey hotbeds of the Urals and the Volga and the capitals of Finland, Croatia and Slovakia. And it’s set to continue as playoff hockey comes to Beijing for the first time ever.
And what hockey! Kunlun’s first-round series pits the league newbie against its defending champion, Metallurg Magnitogorsk. It’s another chance for Chinese hockey fans to see the record-breaking skills of Sergei Mozyakin and watch our local heroes test themselves against the very best. But first, what of the trip to Dynamo?
As Saturday’s game got underway, it was hard to focus on the action unfolding in front of our eyes in Moscow. While the team knew that a point would be enough to secure a playoff spot ahead of Sibir, it was also clear that any slip-up from our rival would remove all the pressure building up around us before the game.
When our game started, Sibir was leading 1-0. It seemed that we would have to rely on ourselves. Then word came through from Yekaterinburg: 1-1, the game heading for overtime, and Sibir could no longer catch Kunlun. In our first season as a pro team, amid thousands of air miles and several months away from our home arena, Red Star had reached the playoffs.
The happy news had an immediate impact on our game. If the opening stanza had been nervous, with Dynamo getting the better chances, the middle session immediately saw a more relaxed Kunlun ask far more questions of the home defense. And when Oleg Yashin went behind the net and squeezed out a pass for Tomi Sallinen, the Finn made it 1-0 as the game approached its halfway stage.
In front, and gaining in confidence with each passing minute, it seemed that our first power play of the game – right at the end of the second period – would be a great opportunity to open a commanding lead. Instead, though, it handed Dynamo an unexpected lifeline. Denis Kokarev produced a short-handed goal to tie the game going into the final stanza.
Even though the big question of the day – reaching the playoffs – was already resolved, there was still uncertainty about the opposition in post season. Matching or bettering Admiral’s result at Vityaz would secure seventh place and a series against Avangard; losing out to our Far Eastern neighbor would mean a battle against defending champion and runaway Eastern Conference table-topper Metallurg Magnitogorsk. With 20 minutes left in both games, the scores were identical: 1-1 in Moscow, 1-1 in Podolsk.
That soon changed. Martins Karsums put Dynamo 2-1 ahead in the 46th minute with a power play goal. Meanwhile, in Podolsk, Admiral scored two goals early in the third period to take control of its game against Vityaz. There was no further scoring in either game, but the disappointment of defeat here means little compared with the huge sense of pride and achievement that everyone associated with Kunlun can take from defying the odds and making it into the playoffs.
The post-season campaign will begin in Magnitogorsk on February 22. The first two games of the best-of-seven series will be hosted by Metallurg, before the action moves to Beijing on February 26 and 28. If more than four games are needed, further meetings are scheduled for March 2 (Magnitogorsk), March 4 (Beijing) and March 6 (Magnitogorsk).