DUNAUJVAROS, Hungary – The hosts in Dunaujvaros improved with each game to book a place in the third round of the Continental Cup.
Going through a goal-shy tournament undefeated, Dunaujvaros stepped up their game when it mattered the most to win Group C of the second round of the Continental Cup, played on home ice in Hungary.
"We are getting better each game in this tournament, and these matches are valuable for our players but also a good way for us to showcase Hungarian hockey," said Dunaujvaros head coach Stephan Lundh, after seeing his team storm back from an early two-goal deficit to score five unanswered goals in a 5-3 win against reigning Polish champions Cracovia Krakow in the deciding game of the tournament.
"This team's strengths are on the offensive side, so we now need to work on cutting down on individual errors but also on our defensive organisation because that is something we will be relying heavily on in the next round," Lundh continued.
Having been pushed all the way to penalty shots before overcoming Romanian champions HSC Csikszereda during the opening day of the tournament, Dunajvaros then relied a couple of final period strikes in their second game to put the nail into Slavija Ljubljana coffin in a 3-0 win which set them up for a showdown with Cracovia Krakow on Sunday night where a ticket to the next round were at stake.
Undefeated after two unspectacular back-to-back wins, a bulky looking Cracovia team seized into a two-goal lead in a high-octane first period against Dunaujvaros. Aron Chmielewski broke the deadlock, thanks to a tap-in after fine work on the power play by Damian Slabon, currently second in all-time appearances for the Polish national team. Against the run of play, Sebastian Kowalowka added goal number two at 12:43 to the joy of a big contingent of vociferous Cracovia supporters.
Dunaujvaros now had a game on their hands, but needed just 42 seconds to pull a goal back thanks to a deflected Akos Kiss effort which boomed past Rafal Radziszewski in the Cracovia net.
"We played really well for ten minutes, before they get a goal back thanks to a lucky bounce. Then we start the second period like we are still in the locker room," said Cracovia defenceman Jaroslaw Klys on his team's middle frame which saw Dunaujvaros step up a gear to hit home three unanswered goals.
Outshooting and outskating their Polish opponents, Balasz Somogyi raced clear after collecting a pin-point pass from Petr Huba to tie the game at 21:04. Piling up the pressure, Dunaujvaros went in front midway through the period thanks to a wrist shot from the blue line by influential defenceman Victor Lindgren on the power play. Later Nikandrosz Galanisz sailed through towards the goal to make it 4-2, which firmly tipped over the scale in Dunaujvaros' favour.
Cracovia, who saw four influential players depart ahead of the start of this season, stormed forward in the third period, which left them exposed at the back and Heinrich Jabornik made it 5-2 to the hosts midway through the final frame. Petr Dvorak pulled a goal back for Cracovia with three minutes left on the clock, but despite pulling Radziszewski from the net, Dunaujvaros held on to their two-goal lead to finish as well-deserved game and tournament winners.
"We played with three lines and got less power with each day, so in our final match we were not playing as well as we did in the previous two games of the tournament," said Klys following Cracovia's second-place finish.
Finishing in third place, HSC Csikszereda can look back at a second round of the Continental Cup which promised a lot more. In their opening game against Dunaujvaros, the Transylvanians took a 2-1 lead with 13 minutes to go when veteran Vladimir Novak scored on 5-on-3 and they pushed the Hungarian hosts to the wire before in the end losing out in a penalty shoot-out.
"We should have won the first game against Dunaujvaros, as in my opinion we played better than them, but didn’t manage to score in seven penalty shots," said HSC Csikszereda head coach Sandor Gal, who in their next game witnessed a 2-0 defeat to Cracovia. In an evenly fought game the Polish champions scored their second goal in an empty Csikszereda net with only 23 seconds left of the game.
"All in all we played two very good games, and with three key players out because of injury, it was good to see that we can count on our young players," said Gal.
For Slavija Ljubljana, the tournament ended with three narrow defeats. Enes Gorse finally got Slavija on the scoreboard in this tournament at 1:47 of the third period in their final 2-1 loss against HSC Csikszereda in a penalty-infested encounter.
"We did have our moments, but overall we weren't performing as good as we are able to, but it is a good experience for us," said Slavija head coach Jaka Avgustincic following his team's fourth-place finish.
Group E of the third round of the Continental Cup, will be played in Vojens, Denmark between 22-24 November 2013 where Dunaujvaros will take on SønderjyskE Vojens (Denmark), Neman Grodno (Belarus) and the Stavanger Oilers (Norway).
1. Dunaujvarosi Acelbikak (HUN) 8 points (through to the next round)
2. Cracovia Krakow (POL) 6
3. HSC Csikszereda (ROU) 4
4. Slavija Ljubljana (SLO) 0
Click here for scores and stats.