14 September 2019
Kunlun Red Star 1 Traktor Chelyabinsk 2
Saturday brought a festival of hockey to Shenzhen, with a record crowd of 7,716 coming to join the party. With China enjoying its traditional Autumn holiday, Red Star is getting into the spirit by staging four games in two days at the Universiade complex. Our men’s team has back-to-back games against Traktor, while our women – the KRS Vanke Rays – start their campaign with back-to-back battles against Biryusa Krasnoyarsk in the Russian Women’s Hockey League.
The event captured the imagination of hockey fans in the south of China: the crowd was not only the biggest of our stand here in Shenzhen, it was more than the 7,100 that came to see our playoff game against Metallurg in Beijing back in our debut season.
With Gilbert Brule suspended, the Dragons handed a debut to our newest recruit, David Bondra. The 27-year-old Slovak international was on a try-out with the club during the summer and agreed terms last week. If that surname sounds familiar, you might recall his father Peter, a legend of Slovak hockey after scoring a late winner in the 2002 World Championship final against Russia. David joins the team after three seasons at HC Poprad in the Slovak championship. He’s also played at the last two World Championships with his country.
Bondra started on the third line, with Spencer Foo joining Adam Cracknell and Wojtek Wolski on the first. And in the early stages, Red Star took the game to Traktor. Jason Fram drew a glove save from Vasily Demchenko early on and Spencer Foo’s solo break forced the visiting goalie into another good stop. Gradually, though, Traktor got into the game. Andrew Calof had an opportunity similar to Foo’s, but Jake Chelios was on hand with a fantastic poke check to deal with that danger. However, Calof would get his name on the scoresheet before the first intermission. Traktor’s Czech duo of Tomas Hyka and Lukas Sedlak combined, and while Jeremy Smith stopped the latter’s shot, he could do nothing to prevent Calof batting the rebound into the net.
The middle frame was frustrating. Traktor enjoyed the bulk of the possession, even if Red Star was getting more shots on Demchenko’s net. There was also penalty trouble early in the session, with Kunlun briefly reduced to three men and then having to withstand a long shift on the PK. Lucas Lockhart even had to cope without a stick for more than a minute as the Dragons battled to keep the visitor at bay. Then, late in the period, Traktor got a second goal: Sergei Tereshchenko’s shot was directed past Smith by Jesse Virtanen.
That meant Red Star had it all to do in the third. The team rose to the challenge, piling the pressure on Demchenko’s net. But the visiting goalie was in fine form to frustrate our forwards time and again. There were just 18 seconds left to play when he was finally beaten by Foo firing home from a tight angle. The forward’s first KHL goal was the least Kunlun deserved, but it wasn’t quite enough to save the game. Luckily, there’s a chance for immediate revenge when we meet Traktor again tomorrow in day two of our Autumn Hockey Festival in Shenzhen.