How much better? Find out below the jump!
First off, Admiral. Coach Hannu Jortikka led the Vladivostok men back into Khabarovsk, whence he was fired in December of 2012 amid great controversy. The first ever edition of the Far East rivalry game, played in front of the usual Amur Khabarovsk full house, was an exciting one, as Admiral sprinted out to 2-0 lead, gave it back, regained a one-goal cushion, and finally were taken to overtime and then the shootout. There, Enver Lisin won it for the expansion team, after Admiral goalie Yevgeny Ivannikov had stopped Jakub Petruzalek twice in succession. Jortikka seemed pleased, and who can blame him?
Niclas Bergfors, by the way, will go down as the man who scored Admiral's first actual KHL goal. Technical difficulties are preventing me from posting highlights, but I will do so when I can.
All of that, however, somewhat pales in comparison with what happened in Zagreb. Medveščak welcomed CSKA, one of the West's "big three," into the cramped confines of their NHL-sized rink, and then proceeded to absolutely throttle them. After Jonathan Cheechoo, late of the Oklahoma City Barons, scored Medveščak's first goal, they ran off SIX more, answered only by an Alexei Morozov tally for CSKA. 7-1 it ended, and new CSKA coach John Torchetti, if he was not already under enough pressure as an American in charge of one of the USSR's legendary teams, probably has some work to do.
Cheechoo ended up with 2 goals for Medveščak, and Ryan Vesce had a pair of both goals and assists. More Highlights!
I do not wish to rain on Medveščak's parade (it was truly a spectacular performance), but in fairness to CSKA, the Moscow team had a terrible time just getting to Zagreb. Scheduled to arrive last night, they were actually forced to stay over in Voronezh, after air traffic restrictions possibly related to the G20 Summit forced their charter flight to land there. They arrived in Croatia, finally, only seven hours before the opening faceoff. While Torchetti was reluctant to use that as excuse, I cannot help but think that it had an effect; goalie Rastislav Stana, usually excellent, was visibly out of sync with the action, having real trouble following the puck, and the CSKA defense was reacting very late and ineffectively as well. What role the size of the ice surface played in the result will become clearer as the season rolls on!
In any case, it was a happy sort of day for the KHL's two newest teams! Tomorrow, of course, is a more sombre sort of occasion, as the league goes dark on the anniversary of the Lokomotiv air disaster. Our Salavat Yulaev preview will be up on Sunday!