Tested by Urals

Source: Club Press-Office

24.10.2016

Two Eastern Conference powerhouses, Traktor Chelyabinsk and Metallurg Magnitogorsk, visited Shanghai during the week-end. This proved to be a severe test for the KHL rookie.

Oct. 21. KUNLUN RED STAR 2 TRAKTOR CHELYABINSK 3

Bringing top-level hockey to China for the first time means working hard to attract local sports fans to take a look at a game that, in many cases, will be entirely unfamiliar.

So the current sequence of home games, for all its playing challenges, also represents a huge opportunity as five encounters bring four traditional powerhouses of Russian hockey and a local (at least in KHL terms) derby against Amur Khabarovsk, from just over the Russia-China border.

Last time out a win against Salavat Yulaev, Gagarin Cup champion in 2011, showed once again that Kunlun has a competitive team at this level. As word slowly spreads, so crowds slowly rise, and the club’s efforts to introduce hockey to a new audience redouble.

Ahead of tonight’s game against Traktor, a Gagarin Cup finalist in 2013, both teams contributed to putting on a show for the fans. The Chelyabinsk team brought its mascot, a polar bear, who skated the ice in pursuit of our very own Dragon and kept the crowd amused in the build-up to the action.

The game also turned out to be a high-octane chase. It took less than two minutes for both teams to get on the scoresheet: Kirill Koltsov put the visitor in front only for Linus Videll to level after just 33 seconds. There was a similar flourish at the end when Nikolai Belov and Max Warn traded goals in the space of 21 seconds in the 58th minute. Sadly for Kunlun, though, Belov and Traktor claimed the victory thanks to the defenseman’s unanswered strike in the second period.

Next up was another treat for Chinese fans: Traktor’s neighbor Metallurg Magnitogorsk, the KHL’s defending champion, brings its star-studded roster to Shanghai as Vladimir Yurzinov’s men faced their toughest test so far. In spite of the difficulties of competing with opposition of that calibre, this is precisely why Kunlun’s management was so determined to establish a KHL team in China and bring some of the finest players in the game to a vast new audience.

Oct. 23. KUNLUN RED STAR 1 METALLURG MAGNITOGORSK 5

Sometimes, regardless of team loyalties, fans can only stand and applaud the brilliance of the opposition. And so it proved when Metallurg Magnitogorsk came to Shanghai.

The defending Gagarin Cup winner oozes class on every line, while captain and record-breaking goalscorer Sergei Mozyakin is one of those players who can turn any game into an “I was there” moment. For Kunlun, this game was a chance to learn at first hand from some of the KHL’s true masters … and the visitor did not waste the opportunity to put on a show.

Mozyakin and his colleagues were simply irresistible on the night. On the power play they scored three goals from four opportunities. Mozyakin himself finished the day with two goals and two assists after setting the tone for the game by opening the scoring after just 29 seconds. Jan Kovar weighed in with two goals of his own; Vladislav Kaletnik was the other scorer.

And what of our guys? Well, the game was not without its bright spot. Martin Bakos found a way past the vastly experience Vasily Koshechkin in the visitor’s goal, pulling the game back to 2-1 in the 15th minute. It was never enough to halt the Metallurg juggernaut, but it was nonetheless a big moment for the Slovakian forward as he got his first goal for the club after finally shaking off his injury worries. Hopefully Martin will be adding many more to that tally in the coming games.

After a tough night, things get no easier for our team. Just 24 hours after this game, Kunlun gets back on the ice against Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Once again, it’s a tough opponent with some serious KHL pedigree. Once again, it’s an in-form team fresh from an 8-1 victory in its last game. But it’s also a chance to get tonight’s disappointment out of the system and look ahead to applying some of the lessons learned from Metallurg’s majestic display. The game should also see the return of influential defenseman Janne Jalasvaara, back after serving a five-game suspension.