Made in China

20 February 2019

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This was a big day for Chinese hockey. For those who have followed Red Star from the start, the occasion may even have called to mind Red Star’s first ever home game. The similarities with that day in 2016 were striking as we made a victorious return to Beijing for the first time this season. Once again, Admiral was the opposition. Once again, the scoreline was 6-3 in our favor. And once again, there were some notable milestones for Chinese hockey.

First, the starting roster. Nine of our players were Chinese, or working towards eligibility to play for China as a dual-national. There was a KHL debut for Hu Yang, 22, after the Sino-Canadian center enjoyed two seasons of VHL action. There was a return to KHL action for Rudi Ying, of whom more later, back in the first team for the first time in almost exactly two years. The likes of Chris Seto, Mikael Tam and Zach Yuen continued their progress, while Brandon Yip, Luke Lockhart, Greg Squires and Victor Bartley represent the experienced dual nationals who play such a big role in driving our program forward.

With a big crowd at the Shougang Arena, this was a great chance to show fans in Beijing what Chinese hockey looks like after three seasons in the KHL – and the team let nobody down. A 6-3 win was studded with ‘Made in China’ moments, from a franchise record for Yip to a debut goal for Ying. And, for head coach Curt Fraser, an acknowledgement that hockey is taking a hold in this country. “It was great to play in front of a full house, the support of those fans is vital for any team and today they played a big part in our win. I can see that hockey in China has its own passionate fanbase which I hope will only grow. It would be great to play every game in front of a crowd like that and I believe we will see that in time.”

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Those fans saw the first ‘Made in China’ moment midway through the game. Yip scored his 21st goal of the season. That sets a new goalscoring record for Red Star, overtaking the 20 goals that Chad Rau potted in our inaugural season. Yip goal here was an instinctive effort, reacting quickly to stuff home the puck as it bounced around the crease after Ville Lajunen’s slap shot. It was also significant within the context of the game, opening a two-goal lead and quickly converting a power play chance. One of the more encouraging features of the closing stages of this season has been a steady improvement in the Red Star PP; sluggish earlier in the campaign, it now brings some genuine goal threat.

And there was an even bigger ‘made in China’ moment to come at the start of the third period. This time it was Rudi Ying who got his name in lights, bagging his KHL goal his first outing at this level since February 2017. Ying, born in Beijing, has already captained China at U18 and U20 level and is very much part of the senior national roster these days. On his recall to Red Star’s ranks he staked a claim for a bigger role in the club’s senior team and snaffled a deserved goal when he beat Karel Kubat to a loose puck after Anton Krasotkin lost track of an Olli Palola shot. Not only was it the 20-year-old’s first goal for the club, it was the first scored by a player born in China. Ying also began his playing career in the People’s Republic before crossing that Atlantic with his family as a youngster and continuing his development as a junior in the USA.

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Palola himself had a profitable day, scoring Red Star’s first and last goals of the game as well as getting a helper on Ying’s big moment. Wojtek Wolski chipped in with 1+1 and Drew Shore potted his fifth goal of the season as Kunlun celebrated its return to Beijing with a convincing victory. The result also lifted us back up the table to 11th in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of Admiral and Amur as they battle to avoid the basement position.

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