Saturday, 28 January 2012

Round 43: Sparta pound Pardubice

Sparta increased their strangehold on the top spot in the Extraliga standings on Friday with a convincing 4-0 victory over fellow title contenders Pardubice at the Tipsport Arena. The Praha side now have a seven point lead over second place Plzeň, and a staggering 19 point lead over fourth placed Pardubice. There were four other games in the Extraliga on Friday, as both Mountfield and Kladno won in shootouts, defeating Slavia and Karlovy Vary respectively, and Vitkovice and Kometa both added three points to their totals with victories on the 27th, whilst Zlin routed Třinec on Thursday.

Sparta Praha 4 - 0 Pardubice
Sparta now sit seven points clear of the pack
Photo: Jan Benes
Title favourites Sparta reaffirmed their championship credentials with an impressive performance led by the superb top trio of Petr Ton, Mario Bližňák and Petr Tenkrát, Ton and Bližňák bagging three points, and Tenkrát two. This was Sparta's eighth win in a row, and they are playing great hockey at both ends of the ice, as Tomáš Pöpperle made thirty saves for his sixth shutout of the season. Michal Broš opened the scoring for the maroon boys in the sixteenth minute, and from then on Pardubice did little to really trouble the lead leaders, as they extended their lead to 3-0 at the second intermission, with goals coming from Slovak defenceman Michal Sersen and Sparta legend Petr Ton. Former Vancouver Canuck Mario Bližňák scored the only goal in the third period with a nifty move to beat Martin Růžička on the backhand. Pardubice's indifferent run continues, whilst Sparta keep on soaring.

Mountfield 3 - 2 Slavia Praha (Shootout)
Vondrka going close for Slavia
Photo: František Panec
With Plzeň not playing, Mountfield had the perfect opportunity to put some pressure on the second position in the Extraliga, but they will be disappointed they could not grab all the points from the o2 Arena. Slavia, whose promising play in the first few games of January is now a distant memory put in a good performance, but Jakub Kovář made 41 saves in Mountfield's shootout victory. However, going into the third period, Slavia were in command of the game, holding onto their 1-0 lead which came in the first period from a Michal Vondrka breakaway shot which went through Kovář's five hole. Slavia were 2-0 up after 42 minutes, as Petr Jelínek scored to double the away teams advantage, but 40 seconds later Mountfield pegged them back, as  František Ptáček fired home after pinching on the play. With ten minutes left in the third, Mountfield were pressing, and their efforts were finally rewarded with the equalising goal, as Pavel Kašpařík tapped home after Slavia's defence went missing. There was no more scoring in the game, so it would go to a shootout, and Roman Němeček fired home the winner. Mountfield will be pleased about the comeback, but will be disappointed not to have taken all three points at home. In the second period they also lost Slovakian defenceman Peter Mikuš, who left the ice on a stretcher after getting rocked by a clean open ice hit by Dmitrij Jaškin.

Vitkovice 5 - 3 Liberec
Vitkovice boosted their top six aspirations with an entertaining home victory against Liberec. The Ostrava side scored twice in the second and a further three times in the final frame to take the game away from the white tigers. Jiří Burger and Ondřej Šedivý both bagged a brace in the victory which sees Vitkovice hold onto sixth spot in the table, whilst Liberec's top six position now looks vulnerable, with only a point separating them from Vitkovice in sixth and Zlin in seventh. Jaroslav Kudrna had two assists for Liberec, but even majestic captain Petr Nedvěd couldn't carry his team to victory, although he did bag a third period consolation goal.

Zlin 5 - 1 Třinec
In Thursday's solitary game, Zlin put in a complete performance to outclass the Steelers from Třinec. Petr  Leška scored two goals within the space of twenty seconds at the end of the first period to send Zlin in with a 3-1 lead at the first break, adding to Czech U-20 star Petr Holík's opener eleven minutes in. Luboš Horčička put in an accomplished performance in goal, making 32 saves to make his case to be the starting goalie in Zlin's playoff push, whilst 19 year old Petr Zamorsky bagged three assists for the home side. It was an all round bad day at the office for Třinec, who fall to ninth place, reeling from the loss of Ladislav Kohn, who left the side to join Ambri-Piotta in the Swiss Nationalliga A.

Kometa Brno 4 - 1 Litvinov
In a bottom of the table encounter, Kometa gave themselves breathing room over the relegation pack with a solid 4-1 victory over 11th placed Litvinov. In what was an all round bad performance for the Verva boys, Kometa took advantage and scored practically all their goals on odd man rushes, with Roman Erat, Miroslav Holec and Robert Petrovicky all grabbing a goal and an assist from Friday night's game. Kometa outshot Litvinov 42 to 30, and Petr Franěk put in a commendable performance in the Litvinov cage, only allowing three shots past him, but he was let down by his teams defence, who quit on a number of plays, and left him hanging to dry. Karel Kubát scored Litvinov's solitary goal in the third period.

Karlovy Vary 1 - 2 Kladno (Shootout)

In another game with connotations concerning the relegation pack, Kladno scraped a victory on the road against stragglers Karlovy Vary. With the victory Kladno leapfrog over Třinec into eighth place, as the knights hope to rekindle their promising early year form. In what was for all intents and purposes a poor game of hockey, Kladno started off the better side, and took the lead three minutes into the game as Slovakian forward Jiří Bicek finished off a nice move by his line, with Patera and Kalla getting the assists. Both teams went back and forth for the rest of the first and the second, and Karlovy Vary started to get into the game and they finally equalised with 35 minutes on the clock, as Petr Kumstát pounced on a great stretch pass from Lukáš Pech, and fired home on the breakaway. There would be no more scoring, so a shootout beckoned, and Michal Dragoun scored the clinching goal, firing a nice backhand move past Dušan Salficky.

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