29 May 2021
In every season, no matter how good or bad, there are a few things that stand out. Memorable moments, new records, special achievements. For the Dragons, these included landmark goals, a female first and a long-service award for our captain. Read on …
The fastest goal
One of the highlights of the season just gone was seeing players take the chance to progress in their careers. The uncertainty caused by the pandemic meant that European youngsters were keen to return home from North America and the Dragons benefitted with the arrival of Andrei Bakanov and Alexei Toropchenko. Both spent time at Guelph Storm and the latter, now 21, earned himself an entry contract with the NHL’s St Louis Blues before the big coronavirus closedown helped us bring him to Red Star on a season-long loan.
While he was here, Alexei set a record for our fastest ever goal. It took just 34 seconds for him to get on the end of Cory Kane’s feed to the back door and beat Lars Johansson at the start of our home game with CSKA. That was Toropchenko’s second goal in the KHL, in his fifth appearance. He finished the season with 11 (7+4) points from 45 games.
Klein makes history
Career paths don’t only exist for players – our club also has a proud record of developing backroom staff. Just ask Steph Klein. On Nov. 12, she was part of the bench crew for our game at Torpedo, drafted in to replace equipment manager Dmitry Safonov after he fell ill. In doing so, the 28-year-old became the first woman to work a KHL game and, we believe, the first woman to do so anywhere in top-flight men’s hockey.
Steph knew the job inside out after her time with the KRS Vanke Rays so she was the natural choice to step up. “Kunlun Red Star and Claire [Liu] always seem to be on the cutting edge for giving women in sport opportunities – whether it be the ability to make a living playing hockey or giving someone like myself the chance to work games in the KHL. It’s pretty amazing,” Klein said. And there were more opportunities to come, with Steph’s work earning her a move back to her native Ontario to work with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL.
In the midst of a global health crisis, the message behind Movember was more important than ever. The annual campaign traditionally combines a hirsute upper lip with fund-raising and aware-raising for men’s health concerns – prostate and testicular cancers and, especially significant during the crisis – mental health worries. Typically a big thing in the NHL, the lack of hockey in North America in the fall meant that the facial hair just wasn’t there – so the Dragons stepped into the breach. As the KHL’s most multi-cultural roster, bridging the Atlantic and reaching on into Asia, our team was the natural choice to fly the Movember flag, and that’s precisely what we did at our game against Sibir at the end of the month.
The choice of opponent was no coincidence either, since our comrades from Novosibirsk were touched by exactly this tragedy: in 2019, defenseman Samvel Mnatsyan died at the age of just 29, felled by cancer. His illness followed a spinal injury, which led to a tumor that ultimately took the life of a brave competitor and a great guy. We honor his memory, and hope that as Movember unites ever more people with each passing year, we will see more people recover from the illness that took Samvel.
Hunter’s great eight
With an assist on our goal at Avangard on Dec. 21, Hunter Shinkaruk wrote his name into Red Star history. That helper on Ethan Werek’s tying goal in the second period in Mytishchi extended Hunter’s productive streak to eight games – a club record for the Dragons.
In that time, he scored four goals and five assists. Shinky’s surge coincided with the team’s best run of form in the season: after that loss against Avangard, the Dragons took at least one point from the next six games before suffering another regulation defeat against the Hawks.
Luke leads from the front
The Dragons’ game at Torpedo on Feb. 1 was a special one for our captain Luke Lockhart. True, a 0-3 loss wasn’t much of a highlight, but we’re looking at a bigger picture – Luke’s 200th appearance for the team. The 28-year-old Chinese heritage player joined us back in 2017 from college hockey in his native British Columbia and has established himself as part of the core of the team, overtaking Brandon Yip’s record of 160 games.
Those four seasons have seen him grow as a player, becoming steadily more productive on the ice and maturing into a leadership role off it. This term, as captain, Luke also had his highest points tally in the KHL with 21 (11+10) – a consistent bright spot in a season of struggle. Luke finished the season with 210 appearances for the team, while Cory Kane moved up to 162, just pushing Brandon Yip into third place.