Videll is back, but Makeyev makes off with the winner

Source: Club Press-Office

10.01.2017

KUNLUN RED STAR 1 VITYAZ PODOLSK 2

Vityaz came to Beijing for its first ever meeting with Kunlun in a game that was vital to both teams’ playoff hopes. While Red Star’s race for the top eight in the East is incredibly tight – with five teams separated by just three points – Vityaz arrived in ninth place in the West, level on points with HC Sochi.

Like Kunlun, Vityaz is also bidding for its first ever KHL playoff campaign; unlike our team, though, the Moscow Region outfit was a founder member of the competition but has never managed to fight its way into post-season. From our point of view, it’s worth keeping in mind that no matter how this season turns out, our new-born club is up against opposition with years of experience at this level … and is proving a worthy competitor to them. Beijing is still taking its first steps in pro hockey, and this season is the first of a long, long journey.

Not every staging post along the way has been encouraging, but the current campaign is about more than results on the ice. It’s about introducing a new sport to the Chinese public, about evangelizing our great game and creating not just a team, an entertainment franchise, but sowing the seeds of a true hockey culture in the country. That’s why the disappointment of today’s first period (no surprise as we had to play twice in as many days), where Alexei Makeyev’s two goals gave Vityaz a commanding lead, was at least partly off-set by the exhibition game for local kids played during the intermission. It might not sound like much, especially for fans used to seeing this kind of thing regularly in Russia, Scandinavia or North America, but for Chinese children to get the chance to step onto the same ice as the professionals and be part of all the glitz and glamor of the big league represents something very special.

It maybe also provided some inspiration for our team, which came out in the second period fired up and ready to take the game to Vityaz. The early stages were one-way traffic, and Kunlun got its reward in the 28th minute when Chad Rau pulled a goal back. Red Star’s leading goalscorer made it 17 for the season when he collected Linus Videll’s pass and smashed home an unstoppable shot from between the hatchings. Seeing a way back into the game, our guys continued to knock at the door, testing goalie Igor Saprykin on several more occasions without finding an equalizer. A penalty against Kunlun for too many men finally halted that momentum and the second intermission came with the score at 1-2.

Unfortunately, there was no change in the final stanza. It wasn’t for the want of trying – Kunlun attacked hard once again, but could not beat Saprykin. Martin Bakos, in a rich vein of scoring form, had perhaps the best opportunity of the closing stanza when he wriggled clear of the defense but saw his shot thud into the goalie’s pads. That chance went begging, and the game was lost.

Another disappointment, especially on a run of home defeats, but not a fatal blow. Despite some indifferent form, Kunlun remains in the playoff zone and still has every chance of extending its season. And, after two draining games in successive days, there’s now a brief chance to rest and regroup before returning to the ice on Thursday for our home game with Jokerit Helsinki.