Monday, 9 April 2012

Pardubice win Game 1 thriller

(Written for

They took the lead four times, but Pardubice needed a shootout to defeat Kometa Brno in Game 1 of the Czech Extraliga final.

Pardubice lead the seven game series 1-0
Photo: Pavel Mazáč,
The sell out crowd in Pardubice were treated to one of the best hockey games of the playoffs so far as Pardubice and Kometa Brno put on a show on Monday evening. Both teams left everything on the ice as the game ebbed and flowed, going from a cagey defensive affair in the first period, to an all out shootout in a six goal third period. Pardubice took the lead four times in the game, but each time Kometa pegged them back. The score was 4-4 after a scoreless ten minute overtime period, and Pardubice ended up winning the shootout by a score of 1-0, with captain Petr Koukal scoring the winning penalty shot in the third round.

Pardubice took the lead early on through Lukáš Radil, but the netminders were the stars of the show in the first period, with Pardubice's Martin Růžička and Kometa's Jiří Trvaj making a number of key saves. Kometa would eventually break the deadlock in the 27th minute, as Leoš Čermák's centering pass deflected off of Pardubice defenceman Václav Kočí's leg and past a sprawling Růžička. The goal came on the powerplay.

Martin Růžička after conceding a freak goal.
Photo: Pavel Mazáč,
The third period was fast and furious, with both teams giving it everything they had. Pardubice re-took the lead just two minutes into the period, as they pounced on a neutral zone giveaway and Daniel Rákos grabbed his own rebound to score past Trvaj. Kometa quickly responded though, as Radek Dlouhy scored after good work behind the net by Jaroslav Svoboda to level the score at 2-2. The teams continued to trade goals, as Aleš Píša's goal from the point on the powerplay only gave Pardubice the lead for a few minutes, before Roman Erat was found unmarked in the slot, and he wired a wristshot past Růžička to bring the scores level. Jan Buchtele's goal after brilliant work by Lukáš Radil and Václav Benák looked to have won the game for the home side, but the crowd fell silent with just over three minutes to go, as a harmless dump in by Kometa defenceman Tomáš Žižka went straight through Růžička's five hole and into the goal. An incredible series of events which had the fans on the edge of their seats, and sent the game to a cagey overtime period, where Pardubice had the better of the action, but were denied by Trvaj on a number of occasions.

The game went to a shootout, and Kometa swapped netminders, as they chose to go with Sasu Hovi in the shootout. Hovi managed to stop Martin Bartek and Tomáš Zohorna's efforts, but in the third round, Pardubice captain Petr Koukal sent the home fans into raptures with a beautiful shotoout move, faking a shot before going onto the backhand and lifting the puck over a sprawling Hovi. The pressure was on Leoš Čermák, who looked to have scored when he made Růžička commit to the butterfly, but somehow the Pardubice netminder managed to catch Čermák's effort in his glove, holding the pose for a number of seconds whilst Čermák looked to the heavens in disbelief, moving only to get out of the way of the rushing Pardubice players. Růžička had made up for his mistake in the third period and you could see the relief on his face after the game.

Kometa are no strangers to losing games, as they went behind in the series against Sparta, but there is serious pressure on Zdeněk Venera's team to get the win in Game 2, otherwise Pardubice could run away with the series.

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