Old faces, new faces

21 August 2018

HC Sochi 1 Kunlun Red Star 3 (1-0, 0-1, 0-2)

Red Star collected its first victory under Jussi Tapola with a 3-1 success against the host of this year’s Sochi Hockey Open.

The contrast between the two rosters was stark: while Sergei Zubov added just four new names to the team he led last season, only six returnees made the cut for Red Star. Of those six, young Sam Hu played exclusively in the VHL last year, where he did enough to earn a two-way contract for the coming campaign.

A new-look line-up meant a chance to check out a new defense: only Pavel Vorobei and Rinat Ibragimov were at the club last season, so it was a big moment for Czech duo Ondrej Vitasek and Tomas Kundratek, formidable Finn Ville Lajunen and the Canadian-born trio of Michael Tam, Blake Parlett and Victor Bartley. Behind them, Alexander Lazushin stood in goal.

Initially, things were hard. After killing an early penalty, we fell behind to the Sochi power play after 13 minutes. Sergei Shmelyov got the goal.

But a new-look line-up means new-look special teams, and Red Star tied it up with a power play goal midway through the second frame. Alexandre Picard, now firmly part of the team after almost joining us two years ago, produced a fine pass for the unmarked Veli-Matti Savinainen to tie the game. Patrik Lundh, our new Swedish center, also had an assist on the play. Lazushin then made a great stop to deny Stanislav Bocharov in a one-on-one to keep the game tied at the second intermission.

It wasn’t all about the newbies, though. Taylor Beck – a veteran after half a season here – got the go-ahead goal early in the third. Beck’s powerful wrist shot gave Dmitry Shikin no chance in the Sochi net and a second PP goal ultimately proved decisive. That was Beck’s second of pre-season after he scored against his former club, Avtomobilist, last week. Again, though, there were contributions from the new arrivals. Ville Lajunen – a defenseman with an eye for goal – and former Dinamo Minsk forward Justin Fontaine had assists. And the outcome was confirmed by Greg Squires’ empty-net goal in the dying seconds.

And so, after two narrow losses during our camp in the Czech Republic, Red Star picks up its first victory at the start of its first summer tournament. However, as Tapola admitted after the game, it’s only the start of the journey.

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