Day: September 2, 2016

Olympic Qualification Group F day 2 recap

By Risto Pakarinen –

Patient France prevails

Everybody knew what was at stake. The winner of the game would have everything in their own hands on Sunday when the last games will be played. The loser would be in trouble. 

France came out on top and won the game 4-1. Damien Fleury scored twice and Cristobal Huet – who will be celebrating his 41st birthday on Saturday – made 23 saves for France. 

“We knew that the losing team would be out of the tournament and I think we showed a lot of character in this game, coming back even after they scored their goal after 20 seconds,” Huet said.

“It wasn’t my best game but I could make some important saves toward the end. It was hard to stay focused the entire game,” he added, referring to the fact that there were long periods in the game when the puck was in the Kazakhstan zone for several minutes. 

Anybody who had seen Kazakhstan’s game against Norway a mere twenty hours earlier knew what to expect when they faced France in their second game in the tournament: good defense, few if any mistakes, and effective scoring when they get a chance. 

They demonstrated their effectiveness early on in the game when Nigel Dawes picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and fired the puck past Cristobal Huet off a partial breakaway just 20 seconds into the game. 

France controlled the game throughout the period and could generate enough chances to both tie the game and then take the lead. 

“We stuck to our plan and we dominated the first period. The secind period was a little more difficult and that’s when our goalie showed up, and in the third, he made some timely saves and we could secure the win,” France’s captain Lauretn Meunier said. 

Seven minutes into the period, France had a long attack in the Kazakhstan zone. A Kazakhstan defenseman blocked a shot from the point but the puck bounced to Florian Chakiachvili to the side of the net. Meanwhile Sacha Treille had driven to the net and fallen down. Just as he got back up, Chakiachvili delivered the puck to the front of the net, and Treille could slam it in. 

France couldn’t capitalize on their powerplay halfway through the period, but five minutes later, Stephane da Costa’s long diagonal pass from the top of the circle found Damien Fleury on his way to the front of the net. The puck hit Fleury and got redirected past Vitali Kolesnik in Kazakhstan’s goal. 

The middle frame was goalless and the longer the period went the more Kazakhstan took over the game, outshooting France 12-7 in the period, but Huet and the French defense could keep the puck out of their net. 

France took control of the game in the third period again, and had several high quality chances, including one in which Damien Fleury was all alone with Kolesnik in front of the net but couldn’t beat the goalie. With 4:29 remaining in the game, Jonathan Janil sent Fleury on a breakaway, and this time he didn’t miss his chance. His shot through Kolesnik’s five-hole gave France the two-goal cushion it desperately wanted. 

“It was nice to get an easy finish. These games are always tough, so we’re happy with the wins,” Meunier said. 

And two minutes later, Floran Douay found himself on a partial breakaway from the right, and his wrist shot beat Kolesnik low on the blocker side and sealed the final score: France 4, Kazakhstan 1.

“Maybe I’ll have a piece of birthday cake tomorrow but we hope to have a bigger party on Sunday,” said Huet. 

Hosts still in the race

Norway came to the game with a chip on their shoulder after a frustrating loss to Kazakhstan last night. While Italy put up a good fight, there was never any question of who was going to win the game. Norway did, 4-1, while outshooting Italy 35-13 in the game. 

Patrick Thoresen picked up two assists, Mathis Olimb scored one and added an assist for Norway. 

“We played a good game and [Lars[ Haugen was good in net,” said Norway’s Mats Zuccarello who is tied for lead in tournament scoring with three points in two games. 

“But we have to play a more complete game against France, more like we did in the first period today, and not like we played in the second,” he added. 

Italy and Norway had faced off eleven times in the Olympics and the World Championships. Norway has won six of the games, Italy two. Also, Italy’s latest win came twenty years ago in Austria. Since then, Norway hasn’t lost any of their six games against Italy. 

And they didn’t lose on home ice in Jordal Amfi, either. Instead, they cruised to a fairly easy x-x win, led by their first line again. 

Norway outshot Italy 16-4 in the first period, completely carrying the play from beginning to end. Italy had two powerplay opportunities in the period, but couldn’t convert on them. Instead, after Norway had killed the first penalty, they cycled the puck in the Italian zone for a long time before Patrick Thoresen’s long pass across the zone found Mathis Olimb in front of the net. Olimb deked to his backhand, and then shot the puck in from close range with a wrist shot at 8.35. 

With 1.21 remaining in the period, Norway capitalized on their powerplay opportunity, with Mats Zuccarello as the conductor. He ran the same play as in Norway’s game against Kazakhstan, in which he held on to the puck on top of the circle and then sent a hard pass to the front of the net, to be re-directed in. Tommy Kristiansen did just that, giving Norway a two-goal lead in the game.

The second period was a mixed bag with Norway dominating the game – even though there were more mistakes in their game – but Italy scoring the only goal of the period with 5.09 remaining when Tommaso Traversa played the puck to the front of the net, where Markus Spinell tried to backhand it in, but was stopped by Norway’s goaltender Lars Haugen. Traversa somehow managed to slam the puck in to make it a one-goal game. 

Halfway through the third period, Italy had just two shots on goal, but there was tension in the air.  Then Norway got another powerplay and while Zuccarello hit the crossbar with a slapshot, Jonas Holos’s thundering slapshot from the point went in, giving the hosts the cushion they wanted. Mathis Olimb picked up an assist, as did his brother Ken Andre Olimb.

“I got a great pass and there was great traffic in front of the net,” Holos said of his goal. 

“But it was a frustrating game again, when Italy had a five-man box in front of their net. Even if we controlled the game, all it takes is one turnover for them to have a couple of guys going the other way,” he said. 

With 2.09 remaining, Norway sealed the deal with a powerplay goal. The play was the same as in their first goal, but this time it was Andreas Martinsen who deflected Ken Andre Olimb’s pass from the point. 

Norway stays alive thanks to their convincing win over Italy. The hosts play for the group top spot in a game against France on Sunday. 

“We have to get pucks deep and not hold on to the puck. Our goalie must be good, and we have to make sure we play good defense,” Zuccarello said. 

The Oslo native is entering the game with mixed emotions as the arena he knows well is about to be demolished in a few months. 

“I hope we can finish this off in the perfect way and qualify for the 2018 Olympics,” he said. 

“But we have [our destiny] in our own hands now,” he added. 


Olympic Qualification Group E day 2 recap

By Martin Merk –

Like against Japan, Marco Sturm’s team was red hot and broke the initial resistance of the Austrians after the first period.

The Germans now have an 11-0 goal record after two games and Philipp Grubauer has two shutouts from two games.

“We didn’t expect it. When you come into a tournament, you don’t know what happens, you don’t know the other teams so well. We just play our game, it’s important to do that for 60 minutes,” Grubauer said.

It was a game with a different omen for the teams. On one hand Austria fared well against Germany in the past, most notably qualifying for the 2014 Olympics at Germany’s expense and on German soil in Bietigheim-Bissingen. On the other hand Germany beat Japan 5-0 yesterday while Austria lost 8-1 to Latvia.

Would it be another goal galore against the Austrians? The Austrians’ answer in the beginning was “nein”. Like against Latvia they started the game well and even outshot their opponent, 11-8, in the first period. Would the Austrians have a chance to win? Not after another breakdown in the second period that opened the Germans the chance to take revenge on the Austrians after the Olympic Qualification trauma three-and-a-half years ago.

Like against Latvia the Austrians had trouble scoring and like that it looked like a matter of time until they were behind. This time it took a bit longer when Marcel Goc opened the scoring at 14:22.

The Germans won a puck battle at the end boards of the offensive zone. Marcus Kink sent a drop pass to Goc, who opened the scoring in the neighbouring clash.

Germany defended the lead well against an Austrian team that was not yet ready to give up. At 8:04 of the second period they extended the lead when Patrick Hager received a side pass from the boards to the crease from Felix Schutz and he stylishly moved the puck around the goalie.

With 2:40 left in the period Moritz Muller increased the lead to 3-0 scoring on a rebound after he saw a Goc shot from the blue line blocked by Austrian goalie David Kickert. Again the middle frame settled the case with a three-goal lead.

Patrick Reimer made it more lopsided early in the third period when his shot find the way through traffic into the top-left corner. With nice tic-tac-toe passing between Dominik Kahun, Tobias Rieder and eventually Felix Schutz, the Germans scored their fifth goal and on another power play Leon Draisaitl made the final score 6-0.

When Austrian forward Thomas Raffl saw his penalty shot saved by Grubauer, it became clear that the Germany shutout streak continued before the “final” against Latvia on Sunday evening that will decide which team from Riga will go to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea.

“It’s great for us here, we gel together well. Now it’s all about one game we have to win,” German goalie Grubauer said.

“They play in their own arena, in their own country. They will come out like a bat out of hell. They’re a strong team that scored a lot of goals.”

Latvia rewarded

After an easy 8-1 win against Austria, many Latvian fans at Arena Riga probably expected an easy win against Japan, which suffered a 5-0 loss to Germany the day before. They and the Latvian team had to realize quickly that this game would be no cakewalk in the first official game between the two teams since a Latvian 8-2 victory at the 2001 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

“They’re a good hockey team. They play hard. They play man-on-man, which is a little different. They’re really disciplined on ice,” Latvian captain Kaspars Daugavins said while being more critical about his team’s performance.

“We made a lot of childish mistakes and gave them so many opportunities to actually beat us today. We should be ashamed how we played today but we know we can play way better.”

The first period ended scoreless with chances on both sides as Latvia outshot Japan 9-6. The Asians defended their net better and tried to use their speed to score a possible upset.

In the second period the home team came out stronger, shot more often but the Japanese created the better chances especially midway through the period including a Yuki Miuri breakaway and Daisuke Obara given leeway to score but shooting wide the net.

“Obviously playing a team of Latvia’s stature is not easy for Japan but everybody saw a team that stayed together. I’m proud of the guys and we learned at this tournament,” Japan head coach Greg Thomson said.

With 5:04 left in the middle frame the Latvians were cheering but Martins Karsums moved the puck in with his blade in motion and the game continued scoreless. However, not for long. 58 seconds later the spell was broken. After a post shot the puck was sliding between the goal line and Japanese netminder Yutaka Fukufuji. Andris Dzerins reacted the fastest and shot the puck over the line.

At 6:16 during Latvia’s first power play of the period Karsums eventually scored his goal of the night. After a long shot Fukufuji blocked the puck that ended up loose between Ryo Hashimoto’s skates. Again the Latvians reacted the fastest and Karsums made it 2-0 to give his team more confidence after two tough periods.

The Japanese still didn’t give up and came close in the last minutes of the game. After a drop pass from Seiji Takahashi it was Shuhei Kuji, who skated through the zone and beat Latvian goalie Elvis Merzlikins for the first Japanese goal of the tournament with 2:14 left in regulation time.

The Japanese pulled the goalie looking for the second goal but the Latvians defended their lead, Dzerins scored into the empty net and his team can now get ready for the winner-takes-it-all game with Germany on Sunday.

“The main game will be in two days. We better think how we need to start playing. We have to improve everywhere. I don’t think anybody should be happy about this game tonight,” Daugavins said about the Sunday showdown.


Olympic Qualification Group D day 2 recap

By Henrik Manninen

Slovenia blanks Denmark

Unsong heroes Sabahudin Kovacevic and Ales Music fired Slovenia ahead to a two-goal cushion in their pivotal second match against Denmark in Group D. Jan Urbas added a late goal as Slovenia rolled on to a 3-0 with Gasper Kroselj recording a shutout with 32 saves.

Slovenia’s second consecutive win at the Final Olympic Qualification mean they are now one game from sealing a ticket to PyeongChang 2018.

“We knew we had to skate really well in all zones and be disciplined in the neutral zone and I think it was the key for us because we take a lot of pucks off them from the neutral zone and counter attack on them,” said a delighted Slovenia’s defenseman Kovacevic in his post-match interview.

Despite outshooting their opponents 32-21, Denmark failed to find the offensive spark required. With two straight defeats Denmark is down and out in their hopes of reaching their historical first Olympic ice hockey tournament.

“First and second period is ok,” said a dejected Denmark’s national team coach Jan Karlsson. “But after their second goal our power went out.”

An edgy goalless first period saw the Scandinavians win the shots on goal 10-4 and dominate puck possession.

“Technically and skating wise Denmark is really good, so there is no point for us to race against them in that way as then we would then lose,” said Slovenia’s head coach Nik Zupancic

A sloppy defensive play by Philip Larsen was picked up by Kovacevic who barged ahead to break the deadlock in this pivotal encounter at 24:18, firing a wrister past Frederik Andersen.

With a 1-0 lead, Slovenia shut up shop reminiscent of their last competitive meeting against the Danes, at the 2015 World Championship when the Central Europeans ran out as winners thanks to a sole strike.

When Mitja Robar served a five minute boarding call for Slovenia and then just 18 seconds later was joined by Urbas as the Central Europeans were fielding too many men, Denmark got their big chance to try and hit back.

While Larsen directed most of the play from the point, the Scandinavians seemed to lack any cutting edge in their offensive play as Slovenia weathered the storm to the joy of their travelling contingent of supporters.

“The turning point in the game was when we managed to survive that penalty kill which gave the team a great boost,” said Zupancic.

The game tilted further into Slovenia’s favour when Anze Kuralt barrelled down the left side to pick out Music in the slot who fired home 2-0 after 49:18.

But when the expected frantic rally from Denmark never gathered momentum, it was Urbas who streched Slovenia’s lead to 3-0 on a powerplay with 2:11 left of the game when he fired home a slapper from the slot after Anze Kopitar had squeezed past Jesper B Jensen from the right wing.

While Slovenia one game away from their second consecutive Olympics, it is deja all over for Denmark. During the Final Qualification for Sochi 2014 they lost against both Belarus and Slovenia just as in Minsk this year.

Having mustered two goals from their 64 shots over two games Denmark will now be looking to restore some pride in final game against Poland. Meanwhile, Slovenia’s head coach is doing his best to put lid on the expectations ahead of their final day showdown in Group D versus Belarus on Sunday. 

“There is no time to celebrate but just to prepare for our final game which will come down to 60 minutes of play, so let’s see what will happen,” he said.

Belarus cruises past Poland

Three first period powerplay goals in 3:27 set the tone as Belarus racked up their second straight win in Group D toppling Poland 5-3.

With two wins out of two, Belarus are now only one win away from making their fourth Olympic appearance.

“We are exactly where everyone wants to be,” said Belarus team coach Dave Lewis. “We are happy where we are, but we are not finished yet.”

Sergei Kostitsyn led the team on points with 0+3 while goals by Nick Bailen, Andrei Stepanov, Roman Graborenko and captain Andrei Stas hoisted Belarus out of trouble during a first frame which saw them turn the game around after going two goals down.

Belarus netminder Kevin Lalande was pulled from the net at 8:59 after conceding two goals. Replacement Mikhail Karnaukhov recorded seven saves as Belarus won the shots emphatically by 33-15.

Bartlomiej Bychawski, Aron Chmielewski and Bartlomiej Pociecha got on the scoresheet for Poland while Rafal Radziszewski recorded 28 saves. Following two straight defeats, Poland is out of the running for PyeongChang 2018.

Just as in their opening day win against Denmark, Belarus got on the backfoot during their second game at the Final Olympic Qualification.

Having just got on the ice after serving a penalty call, Bychawski was picked out by Patryk Wajda steaming down the left and found a chink in Lalande’s armour after 05:35 to get Poland ahead.

Lalande, unstoppable against Denmark, showed a more human side tonight, and was replaced by Karnaukhov after Poland had doubled their lead when Chmielewski stabbed home a rebound to send pulses raising inside the Minsk Arena.

“He did not feel comfortable ahead of the game, but we will check on him tomorrow,” said Lewis without wanting to get further into the reason for the netminder’s discomfort.

The home crowd got their hopes up soon after as Poland started their parade to the penalty box. Krystian Dziubinski served a hooking minor and following a goalmouth scramble, Stepanov fed the puck back to Bailen who hit a slapper past the glove side of Radziszewski to pull one back at 13:51.

Roles were reversed less than two minutes later. Working on a 5-on-3 advantage, Andrei Kostitsyn won the draw at the right circle, before Bailen turned provider, with a pass along the blueline to Stepanov whose strike took a deflection to tie the game at two.

33 seconds later and now on a one man advantage, Graborenko scored on the doorstep after fine work by Stas as Belarus had turned the game to 3-2 to the joy of the 10,820 inside Minsk Arena.

Before the first frame was over, Belarus’ captain Stas made it 5-2 with 28 seconds left ahed of first intermission.

“We got a good start, had a bit of luck scoring our two goals and we had hoped the luck was going to last a little bit longer,” said Poland’s assistant coach Torbjorn Johansson.

“But we took too many penalties and Belarus did well and got in control. After 4-2 it was going to be hard to catch up and we didn’t really have many chances after that.”

A slapper from the point by Andrei Kostitsyn made it five for Belarus at 38:01 which effectively meant game over. Belarus got into cruise control and Poland added a late consolation with 45 seconds left of the game when Pochiecha slammed home a slapshot for 5-3 to deny Karnaukhov’s shutout bid.

As Belarus now gear up ahead of their decider against Slovenia where the winner goes to PyeongChang 2018, question marks loom over the condition of their netminder Lalande, but also on their tendency to concede early in both of their Group D games.

Poland meanwhile can take positives out from this game and will look to improve further in their final game of Group D as they face Denmark with both teams wishing to finish on a winning note after their two respective straight losses.

“The teams we play here are on a new level for many of our players, but we will look for another step forward on Sunday,” said Poland assistant coach Johansson


World Cup of Hockey summer check-in: Team Russia

By Ryan Dixon – Sportsnet

Training camp site: Yubileyny Sports Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 5-8

Summer headlines
Radulov and Kovalchuk left off final roster
Nesterov replaces Voynov on defence

Captain: Not yet selected

Front-office refresher
• GM and Coach: Oleg Znarok
• Other staff: Vladislav Tretiak, Roman Rotenberg, Dmitry Kurbatov

Injury concerns
• No major concerns

Key storylines entering camp:
1. What exactly can the defence do?
You don’t always think in specifics about national teams until a major international event comes along and it’s time to write everyone’s name on a roster. Do that for Russia and the first takeaway will certainly be, “Man, what’s up with that D?”

Only three of Russia’s original 16 players named on March 2 were defencemen: Andrei Markov, Dmitry Orlov and Dmitry Kulikov. Inspired yet?

Slava Voynov’s NHL suspension for domestic abuse makes him ineligible for the tournament, so the Russians are even thinner on options. Toronto Maple Leafs fans will be keeping a close eye on Nikita Zaitsev, who will make his debut in Blue and White after the World Cup. If the 24-year-old adjusts well to North American-sized ice, he might quickly ascend the Russian depth chart simply because of the blue line’s sad state.

2. Starter set?
Russia’s going to need some big saves to be a factor in this tournament and it’s not entirely clear who will get the first chance to make them.

Sergei Bobrovsky, who posted a 1.73 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in nine games at the World Championship in May, likely enters camp as the favourite by a nose, just ahead of Semyon Varlamov. But even No. 3 Andrei Vasilevskiy has a chance to edge his way in there, especially given his .925 save percentage in eight playoff contests with the Tampa Bay Lightning last spring. (Vasilevskiy, by the way, is one of four Bolts on Team Russia along with Nikita Kucherov, Vladimir Namestnikov and Nikita Nesterov.)

3. Chemistry carryover?
The fact Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov were left off the roster understandably drew more attention than Russia’s final adds. That said, the names Vadim Shipachev and Evgenii Dadonov may fast become more familiar if the two can reprise the magic they demonstrated a couple months ago on home soil. Shipachev, playing between Dadonov and NHL rookie of the year Artemi Panarin, led the World Championship in scoring with six goals and 18 points in 10 contests. Dadonov, who also skates with the playmaking Shipachev on SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, was third with six goals and 13 points in the same amount of outings. (Shipachev drew significant NHL free agent interest this summer before opting to stay home.)

The ice will be smaller and the competition stiffer, but the KHLers definitely hold the potential to surprise and offer scoring support on a forward crew lead by NHL superstars.

Exhibition/Preliminary round schedule:
*Sept. 8: Team Russia vs. Team Czech Republic, Yubileyny Sports Palace, 7:30 p.m.

*Sept. 10: Team Russia vs. Team Czech Republic, O2 Arena, 4:30 p.m.

*Sept. 14: Team Russia vs. Team Canada, CONSOL Energy Center, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18: Team Russia vs. Team Sweden, Air Canada Centre, 3 p.m.

Sept. 19: Team Russia vs. Team North America, Air Canada Centre, 8 p.m.

Sept. 22: Team Russia vs. Team Finland, Air Canada Centre, 3 p.m.

World Cup of Hockey summer check-in: Team Czech Republic


Training camp site: Prague, O2 Arena.

Summer headlines:
Tomas Plekanec named captain of Czech Republic
Czech Republic sets final roster for World Cup
Jaromir Jagr chooses to not play in World Cup

Team captain: Tomas Plekanec
Assistant captains: TBD

Front-office refresher:
• Head coach: Josef Jandac
• GM: Martin Rucinsky
• Other Staff: Tomas Kral, Martin Urban, Milan Hnilicka, Jan Cerny (management group). Jiri Kalous, Vaclav Prospal, Jaroslav Spacek (assistant coaches).

Injury concerns:
Martin Hanzal has a long injury history and had to miss the final few games of Arizona’s season last year because of an upper-body injury. Coming off a career-best season production-wise, Hanzal should be healthy, but always carries a risk for injury.

Pavel Zacha, the sixth overall pick in 2015, suffered a hip pointer while playing with Albany in the Calder Cup playoffs in July. It forced the 19-year-old New Jersey Devils prospect to miss development camp earlier this summer.

Key storylines entering camp:

1. Who’s filling Jagr’s shoes?
That’s the biggest question surrounding this team, because since Jaromir Jagr has decided not to play at the World Cup, there’s a huge hole to fill. The last time the Czech Republic really got it done on an international hockey stage was back in 2010 at the World Championship, when Jagr carried the team on his back and they upset Russia in the final. He’s been the guy for the Czech Republic seemingly forever, and at 44, he still is: Last season, he led all his countrymen (and the Florida Panthers) with 66 points. Captain Plekanec might be the guy who has to step up. The 33-year-old had 54 points in 82 games with Montreal last season. But again, not having Jagr on the roster is a massive loss, and it’ll be interesting to see what this team looks like without the guy who’s defined it for decades.

2. How will Palat do?
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ondrej Palat made his Olympic debut in 2014 and didn’t register any points. The question is how the 25-year-old is going to do on the international stage with a bit more experience under his belt. Palat had 40 points in 62 games with Tampa last season, and 10 points in 17 playoff games. If he’s paired with good line mates, the left winger should be one of the bright spots on this team.

3. Who’s No. 1 between the pipes?
The goalies on the roster are Detroit’s Petr Mrazek, Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth and Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec, and you have to figure the fight for No. 1 is going to be between Mrazek and Pavelec. The 24-year-old Mrazek had a 2.33 GAA and .921 save percentage in 54 games for Detroit last season. He has limited playoff experience (10 games) and he didn’t crack the Olympic roster in 2014. Pavelec, 29, had a 2.78 GAA and .904 save percentage in 33 games with Winnipeg last season, and he has the edge on Mrazek when it comes to international experience. He won World Championship gold in 2010, bronze in 2011, and competed in the last two Olympics. It’ll be interesting to see who (if anyone) shines enough to earn that No. 1 spot.

Exhibition/Preliminary round schedule:
** Sept. 8: Team Czech Republic vs. Team Russia, VTB Arena, Moscow, 12:30 p.m.
** Sept. 10: Team Czech Republic vs. Team Russia, 02 Arena, Prague, 10:30 a.m.
** Sept. 14: Team Czech Republic vs. Team North America, CONSOL Energy Center, 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 17: Team Czech Republic vs. Team Canada, 8 p.m.
Sept. 19: Team Europe vs. Team Czech Republic, 3 p.m.
Sept. 22: Team USA vs. Team Czech Republic, 8 p.m.

Chinese KHL club Red Star Kunlun wins first game

By Cat Silverman – Slapshot

The KHL has officially expanded into China this year – and as of this week, the KHL has officially seen its Chinese franchise take home a win.

HC Kunlun Red Star, the newly created expansion club in Beijing, took home a 3-1 victory against Barys Astana in a preseason friendly match against the Kazakhstan-based club.

Although it was just a warm-up match, it served as the first time that Red Star had managed to walk away from a game victorious, after losing three straight games at preseason camp in Finland already. It was also the first game played in front of a significant crowd; after facing Spartak Moscow, Traktor Chelyabinsk, and Amur Khabarovsk in a practice arena, Beijing’s club took home its first win while playing at Barys Arena (which seats 12,000).

The game didn’t start out in Kunlun’s favor, with Barys scoring on the power play in the first period. Three consecutive goals in the final two periods, though – including two goals for American-born forward Chad Rau and the first-ever game winning goal in franchise history by Finnish forward Tuukka Mantyla – helped Kunlun seal their victory.

The game wasn’t just about scoring, either.

With a collective 196 penalty minutes racked up between the two clubs, China’s new franchise came out with a bang. The end of the game saw three players per team take home fighting majors (which dish out 5+20 sentences in the KHL) during a brawl, which certainly cements an early rivalry being established between the founding KHL club in Barys and the newest franchise.

For those who missed this, though, there will be another opportunity to see the two teams clash again in just a few days. The President of Kazakhstan’s Cup, which serves as Astana’s opening events of the year, will see Kunlun and Astana go head-to-head once again this coming Monday.