The dawn of a new era in Oriental hockey delivered a resounding success as Kunlun delivered a rousing victory in its first ever game in Beijing.
It didn’t take long to celebrate the first ever KHL goal in China, with Anssi Salmela firing home the opener in the fourth minute. Admiral briefly threatened to crash the party when Vladimir Tkachyov tied the game in the 11th minute, but further markers from Vadim Pereskokov and Max Warn gave the host a commanding 3-1 lead at the first intermission. Pereskokov, 23, marked his Kunlun debut with his first ever KHL goal after heading East in search of the game time that was not available to him at CSKA.
It got even better for the host early in the second when two goals in 90 seconds put Red Star in complete control. Tuukka Mantyla added to his goal in Kunlun’s opening game before Warn got his second of the night.
Admiral tried to rally and two goals from Dmitry Sayustov added a little suspense going into the third period but Salmela scored on the power play – Kunlun’s fourth PP goal of the night – to wrap up a historic victory.
Off the ice the big day was also a hit. The official attendance of 7,832 was well down on the LeSports Arena’s 18,000 capacity, but represented a sell-out of the sections that were made available for this game.
And local fans got into the spirit of the occasion, bringing along banners in Chinese, Russian and English – most of them in support of Rudi Ying, the poster boy of Chinese hockey and the first Beijing-born player to join the Kunlun roster.
Ying was one of two Chinese players dressed for this game – defenseman Zach Yuen was the other – and between them they shared 18 shifts for 12:48 on the ice.
KHL President Dmitry Chernyshenko acknowledged that China was still working on improving its status in all winter sports, including hockey. “We know that China is a country that loves its sports and is used to success in a wide range of major events,” he told KHL.ru. “Right now, China has set itself the task of becoming a leader in winter sports. We’re delighted that this partnership between the KHL and Chinese hockey will help to promote significant development for the game here.
“Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that very soon there will be 300 million people playing hockey here in China. That’s a huge base from which sooner or later we can expect to see a hockey star emerging from China, inspiring even more people to take up our beloved game.”
Having started its season late, Kunlun is the only team with a perfect record: two games, two wins. But tougher tasks lie ahead, with Vladimir Yurzinov’s team facing a trip to Torpedo on Saturday.
Evgeny Lapenkov’s last-minute goal gave Ugra a dramatic win as his team turned the game upside down in the closing minutes.
Leading 2-1 thanks to second-period goals from Evgeny Chasalin and Alexei Vasilevsky, Avto seemed to be on the road to victory until the 57th minute, when Denis Gorbunov tied the game. Then came the flashpoint: Petr Koukal got a 5+20 for head-butting and, once Denis Khlystov had served his own slashing minor, Ugra was set to finish the game on a power play.
With 31 seconds left, that advantage paid off. Lapenkov got his second of the night, taking Alexander Ugolnikov’s pass into the danger zone and shooting past Igor Ustinsky to snatch the win.
Two very early goals set Lokomotiv on the way to a home win over Sibir – but after a flurry of scoring at the start, there was a tense finish in Yaroslavl. Loko could hardly have hoped for a better beginning to the game. Stanislav Chistov opened the scoring in the fifth minute and Petri Kontiola doubled the lead 52 seconds later.
But Sibir dug in and got a foothold of its own when Maxim Shalunov made it 2-1 in the 14th minute. From that point on there was little to choose between the teams, with a goalless second period offering up few opportunities at either end.
For much of the third Loko was content to keep Sibir at arm’s length and patience eventually paid off when Max Talbot’s empty-netter secured the points.