Zagidulin’s brave debut display

Source: Club Press-Office



There’s seldom much room for sentiment in pro sport, but few would have lacked any sympathy for Kunlun goalie Andrei Makarov in Kazan this evening. The 23-year-old was born in Kazan and about 30 of his friends and family had come along to see him in action in what was destined to be one of the highlights of his rookie KHL campaign.

Alas, a stray puck during the pre-game warm-up left Makarov injured and unable to take part; Artyom Zagidulin found himself hastily promoted for his first full game for Kunlun.

The stand-in showed his worth against one of the strongest teams in the KHL. For two periods he was flawless, keeping the host at bay. It wasn’t until the 44th minute that Ak Bars finally solved the goalie. Alexander Svitov broke the deadlock and that remained the only goal until the dying seconds when Zagidulin headed to the bench, only for Vladimir Tkachyov to score into the empty net.

At the other end there was more encouragement. Martin Bakos returned after a month-long injury lay-off and, despite still searching for game fitness, the Slovak came close to giving Kunlun a second-period lead. Leading a raid down the left channel, he fired in a shot from close range that somehow squirmed its way through Stanislav Galimov’s pads. One more touch would have put it in the net, but Bakos’ pace had taken him away from the danger zone and his team-mates could not get there before the goalie recovered and gratefully dropped on the puck.

A battling, if unsuccessful performance on the ice was greeted by hopeful signs in the arena. For many in China, ice hockey is a brand new sport and, of course, it is taking time to build up an audience for the game. On the road, though, things can be different. Kazan has a fairly large Chinese community of its own, and about 100 of them came along to cheer for their countrymen here. It’s another small step towards establishing a future for Chinese hockey.

Those fans were joined by another famous face – although a slightly unfamiliar one. Club captain Janne Jalasvaara was sitting out the second of his five-game ban and joined the away fans. But the Finnish defenseman didn’t look exactly as remembered after shaving off his mighty beard and leaving only a moustache in preparation for the annual ‘Movember’ fundraising event.

Jalasvaara will miss the first three games of Kunlun’s homecoming and is due to return to action against Lokomotiv on October 24. Before that, Red Star faces Salavat Yulaev, Traktor and Metallurg Magnitogorsk in an appetizing run of home games.