Big city, big win. Kunlun triumphs in Shanghai debut

Source: Club Press-Office



The biggest city in the world welcomed the coolest game on Earth as Kunlun Red Star moved into its temporary home in Shanghai.

The opposition was familiar – Lada formed part of our pre-season program, hosting us at a pre-season tournament in Togliatti where we came second out of five teams and beat the host 4-0 along the way. So there were good grounds for optimism as Kunlun kicked off its series of games at the Feiyang skating center.

Our adopted home isn’t built on quite the same scale as the LeSport Arena in Beijing: the capacity is rather more modest and it lacks the prestigious Olympic history of the capital. But it’s a comfortable, well-equipped venue, more than adequate for KHL hockey in the short term.

Initially, though, it was Lada who settled in more easily. Viktor Komarov opened the scoring in the first period, setting an anxious mood among the Red Star supporters. After all, in our recent road series, second-period struggles had become the norm. In all three games the middle stanza saw us give up two unanswered goals and on each occasion that sent us spinning towards a defeat.

This time, though, the situation was reversed. Rather than giving up a bigger lead, Kunlun scored twice to turn the game around. Damien Fleury got the first, tying the game and opening his personal account for the club. The French international admitted it was a relief to finally find the net. “It’s a big moment for me because in the last few games I missed thousands of chances,” he said after the game. “Hopefully that’s the first of many.” Fleury also got a souvenir to remember it by: team-mate Tuukka Mantyla grabbed the puck that beat … and passed it on to the goalscorer.

Chad Rau added a second, and Tomas Marcinko thought he’d made it 3-1, only to be denied by a high-sticking call. But Lada wasn’t about to give up and tied the game once again in the 50th minute on a goal from Anton Shenfeld. Now it was a test of nerves; which team could summon up the courage to claim all three points?

It didn’t take long for Sean Collins to find the answer, putting Kunlun ahead barely 90 seconds later. Alexei Ponikarovsky wrapped up the verdict with three minutes left to play, poaching his first for the club to complete a 4-2 victory and ensure we had a winning start to life in Shanghai. The result was wholly deserved. Aside from the scoreline, the shot count read decisively in our favor at 41-12. Coming next, it’s Neftekhimik, a team that, like Lada, will be hoping to contest the same playoff places that Kunlun is targeting. Another victory, even at this early stage of the season, would be a significant indicator of Red Star’s prospects of launching a serious push for a top-eight finish.