Lofquist opens his account

4 January 2019

93d07240 a978 4992 81f1 1922782197bd

The first game of the New Year brought all the optimism associated with the season. A festive finish to 2018 brought a victory in Chelyabinsk, while new players arrived in late December to freshen up the roster and give a lift to everyone at the club. For fans in Shanghai, it was a first chance to see Sam Lofquist in action; our American defenseman featured in the road games in Ufa and Chelyabinsk last month before heading on to China. It was also a return for Martin St. Pierre, back in the Dragons’ Lair after a brief but productive spell here in the fall.

St. Pierre was asked to center the top line alongside Wojtek Wolski and Justin Fontaine – but it was Lofquist who provided the scoring start. With nine minutes played, the former Torpedo man got the first goal in 2019 and opened his account for the club when he shot home from the deep slot off a Brandon Yip feed. The goal crowned a powerful first period that saw Red Star in dominant mood, outshooting Admiral 13-4. The feel-good factor was clearly there, even if a single goal felt like scant reward for the team’s efforts.

If the first period was impressive, the second began catastrophically. Three goals allowed in little over four minutes turned the game upside down. First, Denis Vikharev skated round the back of Lazushin’s net before setting up Konstantin Glazachev for a finish from a tight angle. Then the pair reversed roles, with Glazachev assisting as Vikharev put the visitor in front. Red Star immediately gained a power play – but instead of forcing a way back into the game, the team gave up a shorthanded goal. It took just 20 seconds from a face-off in the Admiral end to Vasily Streltsov streaking down the ice to make it 1-3.

Changes were needed, and cover goalie Tomi Karhunen came off the bench. Jussi Tapola explained that this was in no way a question of blaming Lazushin. “Sometimes, it’s better to make a change,” said the coach. “We trust Lazushin, it’s not about him, it’s more about getting a fresh start for the team.”

The change had at least half of the desired effect. Karhunen went on to keep Admiral at bay for the rest of the game, but the visitor was able to hold on to its lead. Red Star got a goal back 30 seconds before the end of the middle frame when Olli Palola did well to turn away from Ivan Mishchenko and fire past Nikita Serebryakov from between the hash marks. Lofquist added an assist to his first period goal and Kunlun was right back in the game, but there was no grandstand finish in prospect. The third period saw plenty of home pressure and some good work from Serebryakov to keep our forwards out, but it could not bring the goal we so badly needed.

“It was a good quality hockey game,” Tapola added. “We didn’t get the points so I’m disappointed about that but the players gave everything on the ice. The players had their chances but it wasn’t our day.”

And so Kunlun suffered another narrow loss, missing the chance to return to the top eight in the Eastern Conference. There’s a chance for immediate revenge, though, as we meet Admiral again on Saturday here in Shanghai. That game might also see the debut of another new face – forward Drew Shore, signed on deadline day last week but frustrated by delays in securing a visa, is due to arrive in China on Friday and could be ready for action in time to face the Mariners. Might the former Zurich center prove to be our secret weapon?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Captcha loading...

Kunlun Red Star