Rouen reaches for the stars

Dragons win Continental Cup; next stop CHL


The Rouen Dragons claim the Continental Cup for the second time after 2012. Photo: Christophe Delaville

ROUEN – The Rouen Dragons made their weekend perfect and also beat Denmark’s Herning Blue Fox, 4-0, to claim the Continental Cup for the second time.

As the Continental Cup winner the Dragons will also receive a wild card for next season’s Champions Hockey League pending formal approval by the CHL board.

Watch the goals and celebration video here.

“It’s something unbelievable. It was a great weekend, we had enormous support from our fans, we played great hockey games,” French national team forward Nicolas Arrossamena said.

“Tonight we played very solid defensively and capitalized on our chances at good moments. We stayed focused until the end of the game and tonight we showed that we’re capable of playing at the European level. It’s great for French hockey.”

Rouen was a venue for the firsts at the IIHF Continental Cup. In 2012 the Rouen Dragons became the first French team to win the competition – one of the biggest success stories for French hockey. In 2014 it was the first time for another nation when Norway’s Stavanger Oilers lifted the winners’ plate. This time the plate won by Neman Grodno from Belarus last year goes back to Rouen and the enthusiastic crowd at the Ile Lacroix ice rink couldn’t have been happier.

“For France, Rouen and the fans... win!” (”Pour la France, Rouen et les fans... gagnez !”) was written on a banner behind the net and the players followed the request.

“It was our goal and we had a lot of pressure but eventually we won and everybody is happy,” said Marc-Andre Thinel, who won the Best Forward award. His teammate Patrick Coulombe was named Best Defenceman by the tournament directorate and Herning’s Simon Nielsen Best Goaltender.

Rouen had won the previous games against Asiago Hockey and GKS Tychy but almost blew a 6-2 lead against the Poles on Saturday night. The team learned the lesion with a great game at both ends of the ice sheet.

“Yesterday I was happy that we won but disappointed by the way we won. I said that we have to play different and we played more serious on defence and they battled until the end. Today we worked not to make the little mistakes we did yesterday in the last period. We saw that when the players are disciplined like that we’re a team that’s hard to beat. Zero goals conceded and to win the Continental Cup in front of this crowd is really wonderful. I’m really proud and happy for the team. It’s a group that works very strong every day and with pleasure and I have the chance to lead a group like this. They really merit this title,” said head coach Fabrice Lhenry, who was the goalie when Rouen won four years ago.

“In 2012 it was a bit different, we were more surprised and the scenario was different. It’s different for me since I’m not on the ice but as a coach you have to think about many things. It’s also much work and stress behind the bench. It’s different and interesting.”

Rouen stays in the race for winning up to four prizes this year. Just one week ago the Dragons won the French Cup beating Grenoble in the final in Paris in front of over 10,000 fans. Now the team from Normandy claimed the Continental Cup on home ice. It will later play in the League Cup final against the Gap Rapaces and in spring it aims high in the playoffs of the Ligue Magnus where it was in third place before this weekend.

“It’s awesome. The fans were so incredible this weekend. I think our team really came together and played three solid games against three tough teams who played all with different styles of hockey. It’s great to do it for us and for the fans too. It’s different guys stepping up each night that’s why we are difficult to beat,” Rouen’s former Stanley Cup finalist Jason Krog said.

“One of the reasons why I chose Rouen is the opportunity [to win titles]. I knew they’ve had a successful organization for a long time so hopefully we can keep it going and get better the next months to go.”

Rouen with strong imports and a couple of French national team players proved a tough nut to crack for the Herning Blue Fox, which finishes the event in second place ahead of bronze medallist GKS Tychy (Poland) and Asiago Hockey (Italy). Like in domestic play the Danes had a strong defence here in Rouen over three days but lacked in scoring capabilities.

Dany Sabourin had a flawless night in Rouen’s net but the Danes didn’t challenge him too much with quality chances either. On the other hand Rouen’s offence was as usual strong while opposed to last night the team also shone with defensive stability.

“It’s a fantastic experience especially in front of our own fans,” Sabourin said after the win. “We couldn’t ask for more. It was one of our goals to win the Continental Cup. We won, it’s a bonus, we can now celebrate a bit and then continue our work.”

Rouen had the better start into the game and outshot Herning 10-8 in the first period scoring two goals within a span of 57 seconds.

Dan Koudys won a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and after a blocked shot the Danes didn’t bring the puck under control and Damien Raux netted it for the opening marker at 9:32 before Krog made it 2-0 just one minute later. Both for the French national team forward Raux and for the former Stanley Cup finalist Krog it was the first markers of the tournament.

In the middle frame the Herning Blue Fox had the first scoring chances but the Rouen Dragons scored the third unanswered marker on an early power play. After a shot blocked by Simon Nielsen, Marc-Andre Thinel scored on the second attempt at 5:25.

At 6:44 the puck was in Herning’s net again. A weak shot from Olivier Labelle found its way in via Loic Lamperier’s skate but the officials noticed a kick movement and the game continued with a 3-0 lead for the Dragons.

“It was a great performance of the team. Compared to the last game we played well all game and got a shutout. We were really solid defensively, it was a great team effort,” said French national team defenceman Florian Chakiachvili.

The Blue Fox continued their fortuneless comeback attempt and gained some hope when Lamperier was assessed a five-minute penalty plus game misconduct for checking to the head and neck area. Later Olivier Dame-Malka got a minor penalty for delaying the game, offering the Danes to pull the goalie and play six-on-three.

With 3:36 left the Herning players started a goal celebration, however, the cage was dislocated and the nervous final stage of the game continued with Rouen’s three-goal cushion until a shorthanded empty-net goal from Patrick Coulombe with 56.7 seconds left released the team and the players and kicked of long celebrations.

It was time for the medals, for the awards and the loud singing of the players and fans of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. The day of glory has arrived for the Rouen Dragons one more time and behind the scenes the club can soon prepare for a season where it will be involved in the Champions Hockey League against teams from Europe’s top leagues.

“The club is happy to join the Champions Hockey League. We will begin next season earlier than usual to be ready. It will be great for our fans to have the CHL here. It will again be another level with great clubs as opponents,” head coach Lhenry said.

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