Newcomers and old stagers: past and future collide in Chelyabinsk
Source: Club Press-Office
TRAKTOR CHELYABINSK 1 KUNLUN RED STAR 3
The current season is a historic one for Kunlun and the KHL, but it’s also a landmark for Russian and Soviet hockey. The 2016-17 campaign marks the 70th anniversary of the first ever Soviet hockey championship, and several of the country’s biggest clubs are celebrating their birthdays during the course of the season.
Traktor is one of them, and chose to mark its seven decades of hockey action with a series of seven themed retro-games exploring the different eras of the game – and music, fashion, transport and more – in the Southern Urals. Fittingly, the visit of the KHL’s newest team coincided with Traktor’s look at the 1990s, an era when Russia welcomed – or sometimes struggled with – a surge of exotic influences from around the world.
Beyond the retro uniforms and nostalgic soundtrack, though, there were vital competition points to be won. And Kunlun cashed in on the internationalism of the occasion to claim all three of them with a display of huge discipline and commitment. This triumph was not built purely on effective offense; its foundations were laid in a defensive display where everyone played his part in limiting Traktor to less than dangerous attempts on Tomi Karhunen’s net.
At the other end, our attack was potent. Tobias Viklund opened the scoring in the 14th minute, producing an emphatic finish after Linus Videll’s inviting pass across the face of the net. The second came midway through the game when Zach Yuen picked up the puck after Chad Rau won a face-off in the Traktor zone, outsmarted Alexander Sharov and flashed a powerful shot past Pavel Francouz in the home net.
Francouz saw his evening end early when Kunlun made it 3-0 in the 43rd minute. Damien Fleury got this one with a fine shot to punish a turnover. Yuen made the initial interception, adding an assist to his goal and claiming his first two-point haul in a KHL game. That’s an exotic influence to be welcomed as Chinese hockey continues to make its mark at the highest level.
The finish wasn’t exactly plain sailing. In recent games, Kunlun has seen some dramatic fightbacks, and Traktor did its best to produce one here. Dmitry Pestunov got a goal back, then penalties on Janne Jalasvaara and Tomas Marcinko left Red Star with 1:49 of three-on-five to kill. Red Star dug in, and Traktor struggled to unlock our defense; it got to the point where the extra men seemed to get in each other’s way as Yury Petrov collided with his own team-mate while in a promising position. Once the teams returned to full strength, it was clear that Traktor’s chance had gone and the closing couple of minutes played out relatively calmly.
This was an evening of mixed emotions though. First, we welcomed back Max Warn (pictured on top), once our top-scorer who has missed almost three months with an injury. But our disabled list was shortened only briefly: first period saw Jonas Enlund limping off with yet another twisted ankle and later in the game Tommi Taimi broke his leg. Chances are high that both are out for the rest of the season.
But how long will the season last for Kunlun? The victory lifts our team to 74 points from 52 games and keeps us secure in seventh place in the table, two clear of Admiral as a gap forms to Neftekhimik and Avtomobilist just outside the top eight. The season continues back in Beijing next week when our regular season home program wraps up with games against Slovan and Medvescak. Before that, though, leading scorer Chad Rau represents Kunlun at the KHL All-Star Game in Ufa this weekend while his colleagues enjoy a brief rest.