Saturday, 14 April 2012

Shootout victory for Pardubice levels the series.

(Written for

Before I start this entry, I wanted to say a big thank you to fellow EuroHockey colleague Derek O'Brien (Follow his blog Czech Hockey Report!) for covering Game 3 in person!

Pardubice knew they had to win Game 4. If they lost they would have gone back home with a 3:1 series deficit, facing the prospect of winning three straight games to win the championship. However, Saturday night saw the team bounce back after losing Games 2 and 3, and hold on for their second victory of the series, with their first also coming in a shootout. With this victory, Pardubice have also reclaimed the home ice advantage, whilst Kometa Brno will be looking to recreate the magic of the previous two games when the series heads back to Pardubice.

Sasu Hovi can't stop Jan Kolář's shootout effort.
Photo: Michal Beránek, 
In what was a rather dull first period, both teams traded penalties and both netminders, Martin Růžička for Pardubice and Jiří Trvaj for Kometa, made a number of key stops to keep the game scoreless through the first period. The second period saw both teams cutting ruts to the penalty box, and as the period went on, Kometa started to get the better of the chances, forcing Růžička to make a number of saves, as well as other methods, such as an old school poke check to deny the Kometa forwards. Pardubice captain Petr Koukal hit the post with a rasping wristshot from the hash marks early in the period, but that was the best chance that the road side were to have in the period, as their powerplay struggled to break down the well organised Brno defence.

Delight for Pardubice
Photo: Michal Beránek, 
The game was still without score as the third period started, but that was soon to change, as Kometa eventually broke the deadlock in the 46th minute. Jozef Balej was left unmarked by the Pardubice defencemen, and carefully slipped past Václav Kočí to connect with Leoš Čermák's perfectly weighted cross-crease pass, leaving Růžička hopeless to the delight of the raucous home crowd. Kometa had the momentum, but Růžička bailed his team out, making a brilliant glove save on a 2 on 1 counterattack by the home side just after Balej's goal. The clock was winding down, and Pardubice were getting desperate. With the puck in the Kometa zone, sheer hard work and determination by Tomáš Zohorna paid off, as he managed to work the puck from the corner to the slot, where Martin Bartek fired home to break Trvaj's shutout bid and to tie the game at 1:1. Only a minute after Bartek's goal, Pardubice had a goal wiped off, as the referee's had already blown the play dead before Jan Buchtele scored. The teams traded chances but the game would eventually go to overtime, which was a cagey period, as both teams didn't want to be the one that made the game deciding mistake, so as in Game 1, the game went to a shootout, and once again Kometa swapped Trvaj for Sasu Hovi. Trvaj made 38 saves in the game.

The shootout began in earnest with Pardubice shooting first, and Tomáš Zohorna scored, his forehand shot beating the blocker of Hovi. Vojtěch Němec was successful with Kometa's first attempt, leaving the shootout tied at 1:1 after the first round of shooters. Jan Kolář I. was the next shooter for Pardubice, and although Hovi got his glove to the puck, the shot was too hot to handle, as it trickled over the line to give Pardubice a 2:1 lead, which they kept until the next round, as Kometa's second shootout effort, by Jozef Balej, was stopped by Růžička's pads. Petr Koukal, the game winner from Game 1 was the next shooter, but before he went, Kometa made the choice to bring Trvaj back into goal. Instead of sitting back in goal, Trvaj charged Koukal, trying a diving pokecheck, but Koukal was wise to it, and quickly got his shot away into the empty net, sealing the game for Pardubice.

Pardubice now have won two games in the shootout in this final series, and have regained the home ice advantage, with two more games to play in Pardubice. It was a disappointing result for Kometa considering their performances in Games 2 and 3, but with the series level after four, you can't see this series going anything shorter than seven games.

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