21 March 2019
We began our review of Kunlun’s third season in the KHL with a look at some of the most notable achievements of the team as it added to its list of scalps in the big league. Now, let’s take a look at some of the individual achievements – starting with our scorers.
New club record
21 is the headline number. When Brandon Yip scored on Admiral midway through our penultimate game of the season he claimed his 21st goal of the campaign and established a new club record. Previously, Chad Rau’s 20-goal haul in Red Star’s debut season was the best individual tally in the club’s history; captain Yip moved past that mark as he helped Red Star to a 6-3 victory on its return to Beijing. Five of his tallies came on the power play, four of them were game winners. Rau, meanwhile, still holds one club record: with 40 points in 2016/17, he’s still the club’s leading point scorer in a single campaign.
Yip was also among the first Red Star players to score a hat-trick for the club. He hit three in a 4-2 victory over Sibir back in November – but Olli Palola got there before him, and in dramatic fashion. The previous game, also against Sibir, saw our Finnish forward grab a memorable treble – and produce one of the most spectacular conclusions to any game in Kunlun’s history. Olli had already notched a first-period goal but it looked like his effort would be a mere footnote as the visitor went into the last minute leading 5-3. Even when Palola notched his second of the evening with 15 seconds left on the clock, most assumed it was a consolation effort. But then, with three seconds to play, he struck again. 5-5, a sensation! No matter that Sibir eventually won the game in a shoot-out, Palola had written his place in the club’s history in unforgettable fashion.
That wasn’t the only treble of the season. Yip repeated the feat the very next day against the same opposition, opening the scoring early on then leading Red Star to victory with two strikes in the third period. And Drew Shore, a December signing, also potted three against Jokerit on Jan. 13, only to be outshone by Sakari Manninen’s game-winning treble for the visitor. Shore also had a hat-trick of assists in our 5-2 win over Avangard; curiously, the center scored 17 of his 18 points in home games.
Blue line boost
It wasn’t just Red Star’s forwards who broke new ground this season. On defense, Ville Lajunen set a new scoring record in the regular season. The Finn, recruited in the summer from Spartak, had 28 (10+18) points, completing his haul in that 6-3 win over Admiral. That matched Lajunen’s best ever return in a single season; he previously had 9+19 with Jokerit in 2015/16. It also makes him our second best all-time scorer from the blue line: Tuukka Mantyla had 31 points in our debut campaign – 24 in regular season, seven more in the playoffs, current team-mate Tobias Viklund has 27 (5+22) from his two spells with the club to date.
Two other D-men made notable scoring contributions. Sam Lofquist achieved 0.61 points per game with 11 (3+8) from his 18 outings after arriving in December. Marc Andre Gragnani also managed an impressive ratio of 0.56 ppg before injury wrecked his season after 23 appearances. With a fully-fit roster instead of an injury-ravaged campaign, who can say how many more wins our Dragons might have celebrated?
Leave a Reply