KRS Vanke Rays 0 Agidel Ufa 5 (0-3, 0-1, 0-1)
The opening day of the season is always a big moment, and this time more than ever for the Vanke
Rays. Wednesday’s action marked the start of the Olympic season, the culmination of many years’
work within our club and the Chinese hockey community to prepare for arrival of the greatest
sporting show on Earth. The Winter Games come to Beijing in February, and as an organization, KRS
is working to prepare both the men’s and women’s hockey teams for China, which will compete
against the world’s best as host nation.
For the women’s team, it’s a leap into a new world. Since our club began competing in the CWHL,
and later the Russian Women’s Hockey League, our rosters have always combined top-class
international talent with the best Chinese and Chinese heritage players available to us. It’s a strategy
that has enabled us to benefit from the talents of Olympians and World Champions as we look to
raise the level of the women’s game in China. But now, with just a few months until the Games, it’s
time to take off the metaphorical training wheels and send out a fully Chinese team to pick up speed
before the main event of the season.
As a result, we have a new-look roster: 20 players were officially added to the register overnight, all
of them eligible to represent the People’s Republic in February. And, of course, many of them were
involved in Wednesday’s opener against defending WHL champion Agidel. Xin Fang, for example,
centered the first line alongside Leah Lum and Rachel Llanes. She was among the goals for a China
Select roster at the recent Sochi Open Cup and was close to opening the scoring on her first shift
here. Llanes picked out the pass, but Fang’s shot flashed just over the top of Maria Sorokina’s net.
So close to a flying start, our girls were abruptly brought back to Earth as Agidel showed its title-
winning credentials. Two goals in 90 seconds left Yuqing Wang in no doubts about the challenges of
competing at this level as she stepped up in place of our usual starter Kimberly Newell. Midway
through the opening frame, Elizaveta Rodnova added a third.
After that, though, our girls regrouped and got back into the game. A three-goal lead was always
going to be tough to claw back, but with the help of a power play at the end of the opening frame,
the new-look Dragons showed that they were able to compete with the defending champion.
The second period was similar. The Rays had some good chances, particularly on the power play, but
struggled to find a way past Sorokina. It’s worth noting that it was not just the established dual-
nationals on the roster who were making an impact. Yes, a couple of our most dangerous moments
were the work of Leah Lum, but Lu Wen, back in our colors for the first time since 2019, also showed
some great stick handling to threaten the Agidel net early in the second. At the other end, Wang
pulled off a great stop to deny Olga Sosina’s solo rush; she, too, demonstrated that she’s learning
fast. Unfortunately, despite a competitive showing in the middle frame, the only goal went against
us with Rodnova getting her second of the game.
In the third, again, our girls showed plenty of spirit, outshooting Agidel 12-10 but failing to deprive
Sorokina of her shut-out. At the other end, Olga Sosina’s late goal gave the final score an
undeservedly one-sided look, but the bigger picture suggests that our new-look team has a good
foundation from which to develop as the season progresses.