The Beasts from the East
Source: Club Press-Office
KUNLUN RED STAR 2 NEFTEKHIMIK NIZHNEKAMSK 1
After battling to hard-fought, nerve-jangling victory over Neftekhimik, head coach Vladimir Yurzinov paid tribute to his players.
“You guys are just beasts!” he announced in the locker, to laughter and applause. In the largely English-speaking environment around our multi-national team, “Beast mode” has become one of the catchphrases of the season. “Engage beast mode,” players urge one another as they step out on to the ice. It’s a reminder to fight to the last, to respect the iron laws of the animal kingdom where there are no second chances if commitment to the cause is lacking. And today’s game, more than most, absolutely demanded that “beast mode” from every player.
Our most fearsome beast at the moment is Tuukka Mantyla. The Finnish D-man scored his third goal of the season in this game and, for the third time, it was a game-winner. Admittedly, the first of those in our 6-3 win over Admiral was something of a formality: Tuukka made it 4-1, and his effort was only considered decisive after the opposition scored twice more. But against Amur, when he scored in the last seconds, and again here, Mantyla snapped a 1-1 tie to bring our team victory.
Today’s goal came on a 5-on-3 power play as a series of misdemeanors left Neftekhimik at a two-man disadvantage for more than two minutes. It was too good a chance to spurn and, indeed, we might have added another goal during Dmitry Ogurtsov’s five-minute penalty. The failure to maximize our returns on the power play will doubtless give the coaching staff something to work on in the coming days after we struggled through an anxious finale and survived a penalty of our own against Anssi Salmela before the beasts prevailed.
Earlier Brett Bellemore became the 10th Kunlun player to score in the KHL, opening the scoring in the 12th minute. Mantyla provided an assist on that one to secure his position on top of the list of point scorers in this early stage of the season. That set us on the road to victory and maintained our unbeaten home record with three wins from three games here in China.
Next up, though, comes perhaps the toughest test our team has faced thus far. Ak Bars, the much-titled snow leopards of Kazan, will be the next to visit Shanghai. It promises to be another battle of the beasts.