MINSK – SønderjyskE Vojens concluded its Continental Cup campaign by winning the bronze medals thanks to a 3-2 win against the Rouen Dragons. It is the biggest success of a Danish team in European club hockey.
It was only the second time a Danish club made it to the final. But while Aalborg finished in fourth place in 2008, SønderjyskE reached third place this time, sending winless Rouen to fourth.
SønderjyskE deserved the win. The Danes were the more active team with a 34-19 shots on goal advantage, but it was still a tight game that could have gone either way and remained open until the last minute.
“We had some luck. Both teams could have scored and we capitalized on the rushes in the last period. We go home a happy team,” SønderjyskE coach Mario Simioni said.
“We’re extremely proud of our three-game performance here. We gave up five goals in three games at this level of hockey. We’re proud of the way we played defensively. We took some silly penalties in the first two games and that hurt our team, but for us it was a huge success to get to the Super Final.”
The beginning of the game was rather slow with SønderjyskE creating more scoring chances, but the shots on both sides were seldom a tough challenge for the goalkeepers.
Dejan Matejic had the best opportunity to score for the Danes in the first period when he took over the puck from an opposing defenceman, but he couldn’t defeat Fabrice Lhenry with his two shots.
Rouen forward Ilpo Salmivirta opened the scoring on a two-man advantage at 8:55 of the second period. The Finn played his first game of the tournament as he was scratched due to sickness in the first two games.
SønderjyskE reacted with a breakaway from Jason Guerriero two minutes later. The Canadian was stopped from behind by Calle Bergström, but Guerriero was awarded a penalty shot he used to equalize the score with at 11:00.
Rouen had a big chance to regain the lead five minutes later when Danish defenceman Rasmus Damgaard lost the puck to Teddy Da Costa just in front of the net, but the French national team player didn’t lift the disc high enough to beat goalkeeper Alfie Michaud from close range.
Dane Nichlas Carlsen was sharper at 1:25 of the third period when he escaped from the French defence and defeated Lhenry with a shot between his pads to gain the lead for SønderjyskE.
With five minutes left in regulation, Kim Lykkeskov extended the lead, but soon after a penalty for charging goalkeeper Lhenry against Frederik Storm again made it a one-goal game.
Mathieu Brunelle scored on the ensuing power play with a high shot into the near corner, making it 3-2 with four minutes remaining to play. Coach Rodolphe Garnier pulled the goalkeeper with 72 seconds left and Julien Desrosiers had the bestt scoring chance with the extra skater, but the Danes prevailed.
“We had the chance to win the game when we led 1-0, but we cannot take so many penalties. We need to learn from our mistakes, but we didn’t do it during the tournament,” Garnier said. “The Continental Cup is a good experience for the players even if some top nations are missing. Now we have to focus on the league and our next game in two days.”
Also the Danes will have to re-focus on their domestic league game on Wednesday, after receiving the CC-bronze medals. Coach Simioni hopes to make it to the Continental Cup again by winning the national championship and hopes to host a preliminary-round tournament.
“We have a new 5,000-seat arena wich we take over on the 30th January and we have been talking about hosting a semi-final tournament next year if we win the league,” Simioni said.