NUREMBERG – 5,046 fans witnessed European hockey history at Arena Nürnberger Versicherung on Friday as SC Bern defeated host Sinupret Ice Tigers Nuremberg in the first game of the Champions Hockey League Qualifying Tournament, 4-1.
The hard-earned win – scoreless after the first period and the last goal an empty-netter – brings the Swiss team within one victory of a berth to the Group Stage of the Champions Hockey League.
The key game is on Saturday when Bern meets HC Kosice. Any kind of win – either in regulation or a penalty shootout – would secure the promotion for SCB. A win by the Slovaks, and the tournament is wide open again.
Ramzi Abid became the first CHL goal scorer when he broke the deadlock in the second period. A video review was needed for the powerplay goal to stand.
Andre Savage scored a great equalizer for the Ice Tigers, but third-period markers from Patrik Bärtschi, Simon Gamache and Sébastian Bordeleau (empty netter) paved the way for a Bern success.
Cheered by their fans, the home team got off to a better start. After just two minutes, Andre Savage took a great pass from Brian Swanson, but his onetimer from the left face-off circle missed the net.
Both teams did their best to keep the tempo up, the first whistle of the game wasn't until the 4:20 mark on an icing call.
After 4:30, the momentum shifted to the Swiss side, but Christian Dubé failed to convert on a breakaway against Ice Tiger goalie Frédéric Cassivi. One minute later, Nuremberg’s Christian Laflamme hit the post.
Nuremberg’s Cole Jarrett was the first player to receive a minor penalty for tripping at 8:44, but Bern couldn’t take advantage of the power play.
After a scoreless first period the Ice Tigers came out strong. Bern’s Philippe Furrer got sent to the penalty box at 22:31, giving the Ice Tigers a chance to score on the power play.
A minute and half later, the situation got worse for Bern when captain Christian Dubé was charged for hooking, causing a 5-on-3 power play for the Ice Tigers.
Much to the disappointment of the home crowd, the Ice Tigers failed to capatalize on that opportunity. At 27:24, the guests were one man down again when Sébastien Bordeleau was sent off for two minutes for elbowing.
But thanks to a glove save by goalie Marco Bührer, Bern survived and got itself in the position to score the go-ahead-goal when Nuremberg’s Aleksander Polaczek was penalized for tripping at 29:48.
Bern took advantage of the situation as Ramzi Abid put the puck into the net at 30:07 minutes after a crease scramble.
The Ice Tigers got the momentum back with five minutes remaining in the period. Andre Savage scored after a great individual effort to tie the game at one, with a wrist shot from between the faceoff circles.
Poised by the equalizer, the Ice Tigers did everything to get another goal but Bern goalie Bührer put on his best performance to keep the game even after the second period.
At 41:13, Patrik Bärtschi silenced the crowd with a phenomenal slapshot to put his team in front once again.
Things looked even worse for the Ice Tigers when Robert Francz was penalized for cross-checking only a minute and a half later, but the Swiss couldn’t capitalize on the power play.
At 50:52, Lee Goran sent a perfect pass to Simon Gamache who scored at a close range to close out the game for Bern.
The Ice Tigers pulled the goalie in an effort to tie the game but Bern came out as winners with Sébastien Bordeleau scoring the last one in an empty net.
“We played a good game but lost against a very, very strong opponent,” Ice Tigers head coach Andreas Brockmann said after the game. “The tempo was high and both teams played openly. We responded well but had bad luck in scoring in the second period. We wanted to decide the game to our favour but little things decided against us.”
“It was great to be a part of the opening night of the Champions Hockey League,” forward Scott King added. “I think we played well, but they just scored on their chances, and we didn't. The fans were great, the building looked great, and fortunately, we're still in the competition – if Kosice wins on Saturday night.”
“It was a little awkward for the first 5-10 minutes, but then both teams forgot about the surroundings and just played as usual. We had a new line tonight, but it seemed to work really well,” Sébastien Bordeleau told IIHF.com after the win. “SC Bern is known for its great fans, but I think we all want to be known for being a great team, too. We really want to qualify to the Champions Hockey League.”
“We had a lot of pressure on us. We took the momentum a little bit in the first period but in the second we made it difficult for ourselves as we came in penalty trouble but our penalty killers did a good job. In the third period we got a fortunate goal, we started moving the puck and relieving the pressure,” SC Bern head coach John van Boxmeer said.
The American-Canadian double-citizen was also happy with his two reinforcements Richard Jackman and Lee Goren. “Both players were significant factors in the game. Jackman is an experienced defenceman, who’s solid and keeps the game simple. He allowed us to play six defencemen. Goren was really effective. He was controlling the pucks in the corner and had a big effect on Gamache’s 3-1 goal.”
The tournament continues on Saturday when SC Bern takes on HC Kosice. The Swiss need one more victory to qualify independently of the last game, Kosice vs. Ice Tigers. Will they be able for another effort?
“I hope it’s not a problem. We came here with the idea to win two games to qualify for the Champions Hockey League,” van Boxmeer remarked. “The players realized the importance of the game. In Berne, we’re expected to win every night anyway. We’re used to have that pressure.”
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Ramzi Abid scored the first goal after a goal mouth scramble, also a video review was needed. Photo: Getty Images/Thomas Langer