METALLURG MAGNITOGORSK 8 KUNLUN RED STAR 2
(Metallurg wins the series 4-1)
Game 5 of this series proved a battle too far for our team. At the end of a heroic battle – not just in the playoff but throughout our rookie season – Kunlun was finally undone by a superb offensive performance from the defending champion.
Even though a heavy defeat at the end of the playoff campaign is disappointing, given time to reflect our club can look back on the 2016-17 season with a great deal of pride. Every expansion team comes into the competition knowing that the odds are stacked against it, but few arrive with quite so many challenges as Red Star. Bringing hockey to a new audience, expanding the frontiers of the game and attempting to build a roster that could hold its own in one of the most competitive leagues in world sport – none of this can be undertaken lightly.
In that context, it’s been a year of memorable highlights, from those opening wins back in September when Kunlun announced to China – and the hockey world – that this was the birth of something special, to the moment a playoff place was confirmed. Along the way there have been impressive victories (and, yes, a few chastening defeats as we learned to compete at the highest level night after night).
There has been the encouraging sight of our home arena steadily filling up as more and more fans in China switched on to the thrills and spills of the fastest team sport in the world – and even the unexpected bonus of a further fan-group in the Urals to root for our team on the road.
And there’s been the chance to test our team against some of the best in the world, welcoming big names in the hockey world to come to China and play their supporting roles in establishing Kunlun Red Star on the sporting radar of the world’s most populous nation.
Our final game of the season was dominated by the deadliest offensive trio in the KHL. Danis Zaripov and Jan Kovar both plundered hat-tricks, Sergei Mozyakin got yet another goal and a clutch of assists. Behind them, Chris Lee was the architect of a superb Magnitogorsk performance, picking up five assists. But there were still some highlights for us: Tommi Taimi’s thunderous shot from the blue line to make it 1-2, and pick up his third point of the playoffs. Yaroslav Alshevsky having the final word for the season as he claimed his first ever post-season goal, assisted, appropriately enough, by the ever reliable Tuukka Mantyla.
Today’s game brings our debut season to an end, but – to paraphrase Winston Churchill – this is merely the end of the beginning. Now is the time to build on this year’s experience and develop further, ensuring that the foundations laid in 2016-17 support the long-term development of our team, and our game, in Beijing and throughout China.