Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Kometa Brno hold on. Extraliga Final all square

(Written for Eurohockey.com)

In a thrilling game at the sold out ČEZ Aréna, Kometa managed to cling on to a win following a miraculous Pardubice comeback in the third period, which levels the series at 1:1

After Tomáš Svoboda's backhand goal to make the score 2-6 with eight and a half minutes to go in the third period, you could be forgiven for thinking that the game was over. However, a stunning Pardubice comeback which saw them score three times in under two minutes gave the 10,050 sellout crowd in attendance a nail-biting finish, which saw the away side manage to hold on to their slender lead, and take the series back to the Kajot Arena level.

Jaroslav Svoboda makes it 2-0 in the first period.
Photo: Pavel Mazáč, www.isport.blesk.cz
As was the case in the opening game in this series, the game ebbed and flowed, and momentum swung from one way to the other with amazing frequency. The game got off to a frantic start, with both teams getting a number of chances, but it was Kometa who would get the better of the early exchanges, moving out to a two goal lead with thirteen minutes gone. Kometa capitalised on Pardubice's mistakes as both goals came as a result of neutral zone giveaways, with Roman Erat scoring first, before a beautiful piece of play by Leoš Čermák set up Jaroslav Svoboda to score on the backhand with thirteen minutes on the clock.

Few would have predicted Kometa to have dominated the game so convincingly, and their positive play continued in the second period, as they stretched their lead to three goals midway through the frame, as a Radim Bičánek point shot beat Martin Růžička on the powerplay to give Kometa a 0-3 lead. However, the away side seemed to become complacent in the second half of the period, and Pardubice would begin to get into the game. Daniel Rakos finally broke their duck with a subtle deflection of a Václav Benák point shot 35 minutes into the game, and from there to the end of the period, they laid siege to Trvaj's goal. It is no surprise that Pardubice outshot Kometa 2 to 1 at the end of the second stanza.

It would have been unfair to hope that the third period of Game 2 would match the standards set by the two teams in Game 1, but once again Kometa and Pardubice put on a show for the fans. A seven goal period left both sets of fans exhausted by the time the final buzzer went. Pardubice cut the lead to one 90 seconds into the period, thanks to a Lukáš Radil goal, but only two minutes later, Kometa forward Tomáš Svoboda netted to restore Kometa's two goal advantage. Their lead was soon stretched to four, as Tomáš Svoboda scored his second goal of the night, whilst Tomáš Divíšek tapped in a one timer to add a goal to his three assists, to give the former Pardubice veteran and current playoffs points leader a four goal night.

Jiří Trvaj made 30 saves for the victory.
Photo: Pavel Kraus.
However, Pardubice can never be counted out of a hockey game, and when Kometa got themselves into penalty trouble, giving Pardubice a 5 on 3 powerplay for 80 seconds, the home side smelled blood. Aleš Píša fired home a point shot to make the score 3-6 on the two man advantage, and although they failed to capitalise on the remaining time on the 5 on 4, Jiří Cetkovský scored just as the penalty expired, moving the puck out of Gretzky's office before getting his own rebound off of Jiří Trvaj's pads. Kometa looked shell-shocked and head-coach Zdeněk Venera quickly called a time-out to try and rally his troops. What he said didn't seem to work though, as only 24 seconds later, Pardubice had made the score 5-6. A nicely worked move off an offensive zone draw saw Petr Koukal send a pass across the slot, which Jan Stary dispatched high into the top corner. He climbed up the boards in celebration, and the home crowd was rocking.

Kometa just needed to hold on for five more minutes to get the victory. However, they seemed to be conspiring the throw the game away, as with just over three minutes on the clock, Jozef Kováčik fired a puck over the glass from his defensive zone, giving Pardubice a powerplay. They threw everything at the Kometa goal, and a Vladimír Sičák point shot hit the post, but Kometa managed to hold on for the victory, to the relief of Venera and the travelling support.

The series now moves to Brno, where Pardubice won twice in the regular season, but with the form that Kometa are showing, they must fancy their chances against this Pardubice side.

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