Although the team was notionally a first team, in reality it drew heavily on players from the VHL team KRS-ORG, seasoned with a sprinkling of guys with KHL experience and few youngsters from the Youth Hockey League. Notably, all but one of them would potentially be eligible to represent China at the 2022 Olympics here in Beijing. The exception was Slovak forward David Bondra, currently on a try-out contract.
Summer signing Garet Hunt, a noted enforcer in North America, made his debut and wore the ‘C’, using his experience to help forge a team out of a roster built around guys looking to stake a claim for a KHL slot in the coming season. Part of the attraction for Hunt’s move to China was a chance to re-connect with his heritage and bid for an Olympic place; day one got the thumbs up from the newcomer.
“It was a pretty cool atmosphere,” he said. “It was pretty cool to pull on the jersey and come out with our heritage players here in Beijing. I thought this was a good foot forward for China.”
However, with Red Star struggling to gel early on, the Americans took control. Arizona invested plenty in this trip – the first time an NCAA team has toured China – and took to the ice with jerseys and helmets printed using Chinese characters. The unfamiliar look didn’t distract anyone: the visitor jumped to a 2-0 lead while the home team adapted to a new line-up.
Kunlun hit back, however, tying the game in the second period on goals from Brayden Jaw and Brandon Magee. It wasn’t quite enough to spark a come-back win: Arizona moved in front once again and not even a Rudi Ying goal in the third period could peg the visitor back. Three big saves in the final minute from visiting goalie Max Prawdzik secured a 5-3 win for the Americans but there were plenty of positives for Fraser and his coaching staff to take from the afternoon’s work.
KRS Select 3 Arizona State University 5 (0-1, 2-2, 1-2)
KRS goals: 1-2 Jaw (Hu, Tam 26:47); 2-2 Magee (Hunt, Riche 29:31); 3-4 Ying (Seto, Schultz 44:17)