Chinese hockey team loses first Olympic test match at present

Chinese hockey team loses first Olympic test match at present

MYTISHCHI Players hoping to represent China in men’s hockey at next year’s Beijing Olympics lost to a Russian club in overtime on Monday in a match that international officials used to assess the competitive strength of the Chinese team.

Wearing the red jerseys with the Chinese flag patches on the shoulder, Kunlun Red Star fought from a four-goal deficit to force overtime before losing to Amur Khabarovsk 5-4 in the Russia-based Continental Hockey League.

“It was a very strong sign of the upside,” said Kunlun coach Ivano Zanata, who played for Italy in the 1992 Olympics. “There are definitely signs of character and resilience and there are more upsides, no doubt.”

Kunlun was playing in the KHL as an agent for Team China and a base for naturalized players who grew up in the United States and Canada. The team has won seven out of 28 league matches this season.

Amur led 4-0 before returning five minutes into the second half in a nearly empty square on the outskirts of Moscow before the return began.

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The International Ice Hockey Federation had officials monitoring the match, and will do another on Wednesday, to “assess the state of the team’s preparations” amid fears the Chinese team could miss out on the Olympic stage. Defense will be priority in the preliminary round group that also includes the United States, Canada and 2018 silver medalists Germany.

The International Hockey Federation has declined to confirm which Kunlun players are eligible to make the Olympic roster, but one of those eyeing Beijing is winger Brandon Yip, who has played 174 NHL games over five seasons, most of them with the Colorado Avalanche.

Yip scored Kunlun’s first goal on Monday before NHL player Josh Nichols, Russian Mikhail Abramov, and former Detroit Red Wings defender Ryan Sproul moved into overtime, with Czech Radan Link winning the match for Amur.

KHL records list 19 players on Kunlun’s roster as having Chinese citizenship, and more could be naturalized in time for the Olympics. Time spent playing for a Kunlun team counts against the IIHF-mandated two-year residency period to qualify for international play, although Kunlun has been based in Russia since early 2020 due to travel restrictions related to the pandemic.

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China secured its Olympic hockey place as the host country and the International Hockey Federation said it would not seek to remove teams from the competition.

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