ROUEN – GKS Tychy travelled to Rouen as the last-seeded team but the Polish champion started the 2016 IIHF Continental Cup Final with a 2-1 win over the Herning Blue Fox.
All three goals were scored in the middle frame during a span of five-and-a-half minutes that saw Herning take the lead and Tychy’s reaction with to unanswered markers. Tychy outshot Herning 31-25.
“It’s fantastic for us. We’re very happy. I’m happy to have scored the goal since I don’t score that often but it’s a big success for all the team,” said Bartosz Ciura, who scored the game-winning goal.
The Herning Blue Fox entered the game as the favourite with an undefeated streak while GKS Tychy, coming through two stages of qualification to become the first Polish team ever to advance to the final tournament, were the underdogs who were here to surprise. And they did.
The Danes tried to dictate the pace and had more puck possession in the first period, however, the Poles defended well and created their scoring chances too in an opening frame that ended scoreless.
Herning had the chance to score early in the second period due to a penalty late in the first against Maxim Kartoshkin for an unnecessary boarding infraction close to the player bench against Elias Granath. The Blue Fox capitalized on this opportunity with a marker from team captain and national team defenceman Daniel Nielsen.
However, the Poles reacted with their next big opportunity three minutes later. After a pass from behind the net from Jaroslaw Rzeszutko, Michael Kolarz had the net open on the right side and tied the game at one. Two-and-a-half minutes later a quick rush through the Danish defence ended with Bartosz Ciura’s 2-1 marker for Tychy. It was back luck for goalie Simon Nielsen as the puck just turned over in front of him.
The two goals gave the Poles confidence. They visibly believed in their chances and their game plan. They battled hard for chances and were rough towards their opponents without taking too many penalties.
“It was a very hard game but we worked for this. It’s very important for us that we came back after being down 1-0,” said captain Michal Kotlorz. “We and Herning were at the same level, the game was very tough, they had opportunities to score a goal but we also had. When they scored on the power play we were nervous but fortunately we won because also Herning could have won this game.
“We are very optimistic for tomorrow’s game because now we started with a big win but it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning for us.”
GKS Tychy also defended well in the third period where the next goal could have been scored by either team but the game remained scoreless and the Polish team’s players celebrated the win with their fans.
“I thought we had a really good first period, we had two crossbars as well. The opportunities were there. They had chances too. We came up short, we could have been up 2-0 in the first but Tychy is a good team,” said Herning head coach Mario Simioni.
“We had a collapse starting into the second period. We just didn’t look sharp at all. We stopped skating and let them take over. We found our composure and finished the second period pretty well. Now we have to be ready for tomorrow, nothing is over.”