Great efforts, scant rewards

Source: Club Press-Office



Once again, a hard-working Kunlun display on the road did not get the reward it deserved, despite a brilliant moment of execution to deliver a goal that came straight out of coach Vladimir Yurzinov’s playbook.

That strike, late in the second period, saw Sean Collins put the team right back into the game, but despite some good chances in the final stanza Dominik Furch held on in the Avangard goal to deny us any points from today’s encounter.

Avangard needed something to inspire the home crowd early on – the Omsk team had lost its last four and, although securely through to the playoffs, came out with a point to prove. The first period was hard-fought, and Kunlun created some opportunities, but fell foul of a more disciplined defense than the host had managed in recent outings. Even so, there were moments when ill-fortune denied us an opening goal: a Martin Bakos shot that drew a sprawling save from Furch as Damien Fleury ended up in the back of the net without the puck; a shooting lane opening up for Max Warn, only for a mishit shot to reprieve the home team.

That pattern continued in the middle stanza, with Avangard able to apply more pressure while Kunlun looked dangerous on the counter. But the vital opening goal went against us in the 33rd minute, heralding a passage of play that brought three markers in four minutes and defined the outcome of the game.

Avangard broke the deadlock with both teams a man short following a scuffle in front of Tomi Karhunen’s net. Avangard made better use of the extra space and when Jonas Ahnelov fired the puck across the face of goal, Pyotr Khokhryakov was there to slide in at the far post and score. Three minutes later, Avangard doubled its lead with a similar goal – Khokhryakov feeding Anton Burdasov to make it 2-0.

The situation demanded an immediate response – and it got one. Within 30 seconds, Kunlun had a power play. Three seconds later, it had a goal. This was a play to delight any coach, coming straight out of a practice session and working out perfectly in a game situation. Chad Rau won the face-off, Linus Videll quickly switched play across the ice and Sean Collins glided into space to convert the power play at the first opportunity. A lifeline materialized almost immediately.

The final stanza brought chances to tie the game, even as Avangard tried to run down the clock. Videll’s slaloming rush ended at Furch’s pads, Tomas Marcinko had the goalie at full stretch with a shot from the point before Erik Gustafsson’s outstretched stick swept the puck away from Bakos with the goal gaping.

As the seconds ticked away, though, Avangard’s defense tightened up. Karhunen went to the bench, but even with a sixth skater Kunlun struggled to get one last look at Furch’s net. Then came the inevitable – a turnover in the home zone, and an empty net goal for Alexander Perezhogin to seal the win.

Today’s results leave the race for the playoffs tighter than ever. Kunlun remains in seventh place, but now has just a one-point advantage over our closest rivals following Sibir’s 5-1 home win over Admiral. However, looking up the table, just two points separate us from fifth-placed Salavat Yulaev, with the Ufa team in dreadful form of late and having played a game more than the teams around it. It looks like this battle will go the full distance, and our next chance to get vital points on the board comes on Saturday away to Metallurg Novokuznetsk.