Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Pardubice book their place in the Extraliga final

(Written for

Their form has been inconsistent in the playoffs so far, but Pardubice have managed to qualify to the Extraliga final for the second time in three years, and will now have a chance to repeat the great team of 2010 and claim another Extraliga title. After their incredible 8-1 victory in Game 5, the momentum was with the third seed as they faced off in Liberec for Game 6, and despite the home side’s best efforts, it was Pardubice who would eventually run out 4-2 winners.

Liberec needed a fast start in order to get the fans rocking and to send a message to the Pardubice team that the Game 5 loss was simply a blip. However, just over three minutes in and it was Pardubice who were the ones sending a message. Liberec fluffed an easy clearance from their zone, and the puck ended up on the stick of Jan Stary at the blueline. He cut to the high slot, and despite almost losing the puck, managed to compose himself and fire a wristshot which Marek Pinc waved a glove at but failed to snag, giving Pardubice an early 1-0 lead.

Pardubice qualify for the finals for the
second time in three years
Stary’s goal was the only marker in the first period, and the second period began slowly as well, as both teams had short powerplay chances but failed to convert. However, in the 28th minute, Pardubice took full control of the game. After a minute of sustained Liberec pressure, Pardubice managed to clear their lines and send the puck down into the Liberec end. A terrible pass by Marek Trončinský went straight onto the stick of Jan Buchtele in the neutral zone. Pardubice gained the zone, and Buchtele fired a square pass to Jan Semorad, who waited for the Liberec defenceman to commit before shooting high into the top corner of Pinc’s goal, doubling Pardubice’s lead. Liberec’s heads were down, and they began a parade to the penalty box, which, in the final minute of the period gave Pardubice a 5 on 3 powerplay chance after Milan Bartovič’s stupid play, as he got his stick in between Martin Růžička’s legs and tripped the Pardubice netminder. There were only 54 seconds left in the period, but Pardubice managed to convert. Aleš Píša’s point shot was blocked in front, but Martin Bartek managed to work the puck back to the point, where Vladimír Sičák fired off the post and into the goal, giving Pardubice a 3-0 lead, and sending a furious Marek Pinc to the corner, where he smashed his stick against the glass. Pinc didn’t return to the net in the third period. He conceded three goals on 23 shots. Tomáš Vošvrda took his place in net.

Marek Pinc was pulled after the second period
The third period began with both teams trading penalties once again, and Liberec were desperately trying to beat Martin Růžička in the Pardubice net. With Lukáš Radil in the box, Liberec got their powerplay chance, and with under nine minutes to go in the third period, they finally opened their account. After good play down in the corner, the puck worked its way back to the point, where Martin Čakajík’s point shot was saved but Lukáš Krejčík was the first to react, tapping the rebound home. Pardubice kept on giving Liberec powerplay chances, and with just over three minutes to go, Daniel Rákos took a high sticking penalty, giving Liberec a 6 on 4 powerplay, as they had began pulling Vošvrda with four minutes to go. With the puck stuck at the blueline and the powerplay running down, Liberec looked to be out of luck, but Martin Čakajík’s low point shot took two deflections on the way in, and left Růžička stranded, leaving Liberec only a goal behind Pardubice. Liberec pulled Vošvrda immediately after they gained the zone after Čakajík’s goal, and as is often the way, Pardubice managed to seal the game through Martin Bartek who gained the zone and scored into the empty net, sending the large travelling support into raptures, and booking Pardubice’s place in the final.

Key to their success was shutting down Petr Nedvěd, who only scored one goal in the series, as well as solid netminding from Martin Růžička, who had 27 saves in Game 6. Pardubice now advance to face a surging Kometa Brno side, who have already beaten the first and second seeds in the playoffs, and will be an extremely tough test for this Pardubice side. However, Pardubice won all four encounters in the regular season, and will go into the final as favourites, not only for their regular season advantage, but they also have a large number of players from the 2010 Championship side who know what it takes to win. All that we know for sure is that it will be a thrilling series.

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