Made in Slovakia: local knowledge helps to snatch victory in Bratislava

Source: Club Press-Office



Thursday’s game saw Kunlun, the KHL’s newest team, travel to Slovan, the oldest club in the competition. The battle between experience and youth, though, went the way of our newcomers thanks to a brave rally to turn the game around in the closing stages.

The evening began with another spot of history as Slovan commemorated the career of the great Miroslav Satan, a legend of Slovak hockey. That set the mood for a celebration in Bratislava and initially the home team was able to oblige. Up until the midway point, Slovan was playing a full part in the game and took the lead through a Jonathan Cheechoo power play goal in the 30th minute.

Then everything changed. Kunlun found another gear, peppering Justin Pogge’s goal with shot after shot. By the end of the evening, Pogge would face twice as many shots as our own Tomi Karhunen and, more importantly, would conceded twice as many goals. First, though, we needed to solve the Canadian and get on level terms.

That took longer than anticipated but, when the goal came, it arrived with a strong Slovakian accent. A third-period power play saw Martin Bakos, a Slovak international who emerged from Slovan’s under-20s back in 2010, surged forward and produced an awkward looping shot that Pogge struggled to bat away. The puck dropped for Tomas Marcinko, born in Poprad, where KHL hockey first came to Slovakia. He made no mistake, firing the rebound decisively past the goalie to tie the game with eight minutes to play.

The goal also brought an assist for birthday boy Joonas Jarvinen, his seventh of the season. That point also maintains a happy record: forwards Oleg Yashin and Sean Collins both scored on their birthdays, and now D-man Jarvinen also marked his big day with a scoring contribution.

The game went into overtime, and another Finnish D-man, Tuukka Mantyla, spotted his chance to shine. Slovan, angered by a penalty on Tomas Surovy, was struggling to run down the clock. Jonas Enlund fed the puck back to Mantyla, out on the blue line, and he thumped in a shot that beat Pogge … but prompted controversy.

Whistles and jeers rang out around the arena as the home team insisted that Collins had strayed onto the paint and impeded the goalie. The officials took their time consulting the video, the home fans grew ever more restless, but the final verdict went Kunlun’s way.

That secured two vital points, snapping a worrying three-game losing streak and moving us three points clear of ninth-placed Neftekhimik. It also ensured the trip to Europe was not fruitless: now the team hurries back to Beijing for a five-game home stand that kicks off against Dynamo Moscow on Monday.