Making an a-Shore-d debut

5 January 2019

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It didn’t take long for Red Star to get revenge for Thursday’s home defeat against Admiral. Less than 48 hours later, the teams met again in Shanghai and this time our guys got the win. Along the way we had a memorable Kunlun debut for our new American forward, Drew Shore, and a first goal of the season from Lucas Lockhart. More importantly, the win keeps us firmly in contact with the top eight as the race for the playoffs continues.

As in Thursday’s game, Red Star made a strong start. This time it took less than three minutes to open the scoring when Lockhart put away a Greg Squires feed. That was the 26-year-old Chinese dual national’s first marker of the season – an ideal start to proceedings. This time, Kunlun was ready to learn from what had gone wrong in the previous game and went in search of more goals. A Brandon Yip effort was ruled out for offside, but late in the frame the top line clicked into gear. After our guys penned Admiral into the defensive zone, Yip produced a set-up for Ondrej Vitasek to shoot home from the deep slot. 2-0 at the first intermission.

Next came Drew Shore. The American center signed late last month but unable to play until now due to visa issues, slotted straight into our top line alongside Yip and Wolski. And it didn’t take long for the former Panthers, Flames and Canucks man to show what he could do. Four minutes into the second period, he intercepted Alexander Chernikov’s attempted pass to Alexander Ugolnikov, blazed past the latter and shot past Nikita Serebryakov. Not a bad way to introduce oneself to the KHL.

With a three-goal lead, everything seemed to be under control. But Red Star’s followers have grown accustomed to the fact that few things are straightforward. And Admiral came roaring back into the game, tying the scores with a flurry of three goals in eight minutes. Stepan Zakharchuk started it off on the power play, Denis Vikharev added to Thursday’s tally to make it 2-3 and Chernikov atoned for that loose pass with the 3-3 goal.

“Today we started to take penalties, allowed one goal and right after that came a second and a third,” reflected head coach Jussi Tapola. “It feels like when we’re scoring, we are one team; but when we concede, we’re a completely different one. But in the end it’s a question of mentality and that’s what we need to look at.”

However, that was not the end of the story. If the second period – for the second game running – was an alarming flop, the third saw Red Star recover. Shore got involved again, picking up an assist for his work behind the net before Wolski set up Yip for the game-winner. That effort sparked an angry response from Admiral, with the club’s Twitter feed claiming that Yip had kicked the puck into the net. Goals deflected off skates are a sore point in Russia right now following the national team’s loss in Friday’s World Junior Championship semi-final; under IIHF rules Yip might have been penalized for ‘directing’ (rather than ‘deflecting’) the puck with his foot, but in the KHL the goal was good.

There was more frustration to come for our visitor when Czech defenseman Karel Kurbat took a major penalty late on after grappling with Tomas Mertl. Admiral’s head coach Sergei Svetlov admitted that he didn’t understand why the officials made that call, which left his team short-handed in the closing stages as it sought to tie the game.

“It’s good that we won, right now that’s the most important thing,” said Tapola. “We recovered well after the disappointment in the last game. Our top line got us the win, created the decisive goal. Admiral had chances to score again but our goalie did well.”

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