A Flying Start
Kunlun Red Star Beijing visited Amur Khabarovsk today to play their first regular season game. When all was said and done, the KHL’s new Chinese team had its first regular season win, too — and in dramatic fashion! Read on, for a quick look at the game and for some historical context.
Despite the 2-1 final score, it was a fairly entertaining tilt between Amur and Kunlun Red Star, as the teams combined for 64 shots on goal (the final total was 33-31 for Amur). Both goalies — Andrei Makarov for the Beijing side and Amur’s Juha Metsola — can go home feeling fairly pleased about their work today. But it was Kunlun Red Star who had the jump early, and they took the lead mid-way through the first period, on the powerplay, when Sean Collins tipped home a beautiful cross-seam feed from Slovakia’s Tomáš Marcinko (another Slovak player, Martin Bakoš, will go into the history books with the second assist).
Matters stood at 1-0 through 20 minutes, and indeed through 40, as the two netminders dueled each other with neither one willing to give anything up. In fact, the 1-0 scoreline held up until there were only a two minutes left on the clock in the third period, when Amur’s Finnish forward Kristian Kuusela buried a one-timer from the faceoff circle to restore the balance. But the tie was to be short-lived. With 56 seconds to play and the teams seemingly headed for overtime, one of Kunlun Red Star’s own Finns, Tuukka Mäntylä, sifted a shot through heavy traffic and past Metsola to give his team a historic first-ever victory on their first try.
First game won and done. Great way to start off the season. #KunlunRedStar
— Rudi Ying (@rudiying98) September 1, 2016
Makarov, Collins, and Mäntylä will go down as the heroes for the Beijing team on the day, but there will of course also be a lot of attention paid to the team’s Chinese contingent as they look to jump-start hockey development in the country. Head coach Vladimir Yurzinov named four Chinese players to the opening-game roster, although he used them very sparingly. Defenceman Zack Yuen, a Canadian-born former Winnipeg Jets prospect, saw the ice for 5:12 and recorded a shot on goal, as did former Harbin HC forward Tianxiang Xia in 3:33 of playing time. The other two Chinese players were both forwards as well; eighteen-year-old Rudi Ying played 3:17, while Guanhua Wang was in the lineup but did not get a shift.
Kunlun Red Star now return to Beijing to get ready for their home opener this coming Monday against Admiral Vladivostok.
So how does Kunlun Red Star’s opening-game win stack up against previous new entries to the KHL? I hereby present you with a list of incoming KHL teams over the years (not including Lada, Lokomotiv, and Spartak, who departed from the league and then returned), with their first result, and first goalscorer.
- Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg: lost 3-1 away at Metallurg Magnitogorsk. First Avtomobilist goal scored by Nikolai Bushuyev, assisted by Andrei Subbotin.
- Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk: lost 6-2 at home to SKA St. Petersburg. First Ugra goal scored by Igor Skorokhodov, assisted by Denis Tyurin.
- Lev Poprad: lost 4-2 at home to Metallurg Magnitogorsk. First Lev goal scored by Ľuboš Bartečko, assisted by Jiří Hunkes.
- Donbass Donetsk: won 4-2 away at Slovan Bratislava. First Donbass goal scored by Yevgeny Belukhin, assisted by Karel Pilař and Yevgeny Dadonov.
- Lev Prague: won 2-1 at home to Dinamo Riga. First Lev goal scored by Ľuboš Bartečko, assisted by Jakub Klepiš.
- Slovan Bratislava: lost 4-2 at home to Donbass Donetsk. First Slovan goal scored by Milan Kytnár, assisted by Milan Bartovič and Ivan Švarný.
- Admiral Vladivostok: won 4-3 in a shootout away at Amur Khabarovsk. First Admiral goal scored by Niclas Bergfors, assisted by Richard Gynge and Felix Schütz.
- Medveščak Zagreb: won 7-1 at home over CSKA Moscow. First Medveščak goal scored by Jonathan Cheechoo, assisted by Alan Letang and Bill Thomas.
- Jokerit Helsinki: lost 5-4 in overtime at home to Dinamo Minsk. First Jokerit goal scored by Niklas Hagman, assisted by Niko Kapanen and Juhamatti Aaltonen.
- HK Sochi: lost 3-2 away to SKA St. Petersburg. First Sochi goal scored by Andrei Pervyshin, assisted by Mark Olver and Pavel Koledov.
- Kunlun Red Star Beijing: won 2-1 away over Amur Khabarovsk. First Kunlun Red Star goal scored by Sean Collins, assisted by Tomáš Marcinko and Martin Bakoš.