Kunlun delivers on great expectations

Source: Club Press-Office



Often in this debut season, Kunlun has come into its games as an outsider up against more experienced opposition. But for the visit of Metallurg Novokuznetsk, the Chinese team enjoyed the rare luxury of being favorite to win.

That pre-game ranking highlights the progress our team has made in a few short months, confounding the sceptics who believed a hockey club in China was destined to be a whipping boy. Our solid form, especially at home, is already transforming people’s preconceptions about the game’s prospects in an exotic new hockey country. But expectation also brings new pressures: if Kunlun began this season with nothing to lose, now there is a reputation at stake every time the guys get on the ice. While Metallurg is a modest opponent, Novokuznetsk’s impressive tradition of producing talented players is well known and it was important to take nothing for granted in this game.

A good start, therefore, was vital and happily the opening goal came early. There were just eight minutes on the clock when Tobias Viklund’s pass found Oleg Yashin in the corner. Unusually, no defenseman tracked him behind the net, opening a clear path to goal for our forward. No second invitation was needed: making light of a very tight angle, Yashin ripped a wrist shot past Andrei Kareyev and Kunlun was ahead.

But the league table does not tell the whole story of Metallurg’s season. Although regularly beaten, the Siberian team is rarely outclassed. Anyone expecting the floodgates to open was destined for disappointment as the visitor put up some brave resistance. Andrei Makarov was the busier of the two goalies, eventually making 31 saves for his second shut-out of the season.

It took patience before Red Star could make the game safe. Finally, though, Metallurg tired and cracks began to appear. A power play midway through the final period gave Chad Rau the chance to add to his goal tally and make the game safe. Janne Jalasvaara’s pull-back found Rau in space at the far post and he lifted a shot stick side over Makeyev’s shoulder.

Then in the closing moments Yaroslav Alshevsky (pictured on top during his visit to local Disneyland) got his first goal since joining Kunlun. That came into an empty net with 21 seconds to play, atoning for his failure two minutes earlier when he was fouled by Mikhail Kuklev but missed the subsequent penalty shot. Alshevsky’s empty-netter was the second power play goal of the night, further improving our impressive stats on special teams.

Thursday’s victory moves Kunlun up to sixth in the Eastern Conference with 45 points from 30 games. Saturday’s home game with Sibir promises to be a crucial battle in the race for a top-eight finish; the Russian team is currently ninth with 42 points, but has played two games more than Red Star.

Back to Makarov then. As we mentioned earlier, tonight was his second shutout in KHL but third overall. His first perfect game came on 17th of August when Kunlun beat Lada 4-0 during preseason tournament in Togliatti. And the very next day Andrei married Katya who flew for the ceremony from Moscow. Today, as the young couple celebrates three months of happy marriage (after yet another shutout) we invite you to have a look at their wedding pictures.