A year ago there was no top-tier hockey in Yaroslavl. Sunday, it made an emotional return.
A plane crash on Sept. 7, 2011 took the lives of 44 people, including 37 members of the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl organization.
Because of the crash, on the way to the seaon's first game, the team did not participate in the 2011-12 Kontinental Hockey League season.
While Lokomotiv hit one major milestone when it returned to the KHL with its season-opening 5-2 win against Sibur Novosibirsk on Sept. 6, Sunday the team reached another one that might be even more emotionally significant, as it played its first home game 53 weeks after the tragedy that decimated the franchise and shocked the global hockey community.
Despite the emotional returnto its home ice, Lokomotiv lost to Atlant Moscow Oblast, 2-1, after surrendering two goals in the third period.
Lokomotiv's return home to Yaroslavl's Arena 2000 was played before a near-sellout crowd of 9,046.
Lokomotiv had initially jumped out to a 1-0 lead after Daniil Apalkov scored at 15:23 of the first period. After a scoreless second period however, Atlant tied the game at 5:22 of the third period on a shorthanded goal by Igor Ignatushkin. Nikolay Zherdev scored the game-winner for Atlant just more than eight minutes later at 13:30 of the third, and Atlant goalie Stanislav Galimov shut the door the rest of the way for the victory.
Having rebuilt its entire roster in the wake of last September's tragedy, Lokomotiv's new squad features multiple players with NHL ties, including forward Niklas Hagman, defensemen Sami Lepisto and Vitali Vishnevsky and goalie Curtis Sanford, who is currently on the team's injury list.
Lokomotiv head coach Tom Rowe played for the Washington Capitals, Hartford Whalers and Detroit Red Wings in nine seasons in the NHL before serving as an assistant coach with the Carolina Hurricanes.
In five games in their return to the KHL this season Lokomotiv is 3-2-0 with two wins in regulation and one coming in the shootout. The team is currently four points behind first-place Neftekhimik in the KHL standings.