Goalies on top as Christmas wishes fade
Source: Club Press-Office
KUNLUN RED STAR 0 AMUR KHABAROVSK 1 (SO)
Christmas Eve. A time for anticipation and excitement. There’s a buzz in the air as everyone waits for a visitor from the snowy north to give up the goodies.
But Santa Claus and his gift-giving colleagues around the world also understand the importance of that wait. It’s the appearance in the dead of night that seals the mystique of the occasion; presents, though pleasant at any time, lose a little of their savor when handed out willy-nilly at all hours.
So, a game with two goalies from Finland going head to head was always likely to offer some of that delayed gratification beloved of the jolly, bearded reindeer herder who’ll be ‘Ho-ho-ho’-ing his sleigh around the world tonight. And thus, after 65 minutes of action, we were still awaiting a goal to decorate the festivities.
There were chances at both ends: our Tomi Karhunen made 30 saves to deny Amur, his compatriot Juha Metsola faced 34 shots from our forwards. Sean Collins’ one-on-one breakout in the 16th minute was possibly the clearest opportunity Red Star created, while Martin Bakos had a lively evening as he tested Metsola six times. Karhunen, too, earned respect for another strong performance built on the solid rather than the spectacular as he stood up to Amur’s offense.
Neither team could do enough to prevent overtime, where Metsola had to make six further saves to deny Kunlun victory as the lively combination of Chad Rau and Martin Bakos menaced the Amur net repeatedly, but to no avail. Even a freakish bounce off the skate of one of the officials couldn’t force a breakthrough: Tobias Viklund’s slapshot midway through the extras was going wide but cannoned back across the face of Metsola’s net, just beyond the reach of Damien Fleury.
Finally, a shoot-out, and sadly there was to be no Red Star atop this particular Christmas tree. Amur scored on all three attempts, with Tomas Zohorna, Vladislav Ushenin and Alexei Byvaltsev belatedly achieving what was beyond them in regulation. Fleury converted his penalty shot in reply, but it wasn’t enough and Amur picked up the bonus point.
Further disappointment. Kunlun’s unbeaten record on the Beijing ice came to an end, as did its perfect record in overtime and shoot-outs. But the Christmas story is about more than one day. It’s not an end, but the beginning of something greater. That’s why we continue to follow the (Red) Star as its on-going adventures lead us back here on January 29 for a meeting with Admiral and then the final push for a playoff spot in the New Year.