VITORIA-GASTEIZ, Spain – “Campeones!! Txapeldunak!!” reads the day’s headline on the club website in Spanish and Basque after the team from Vitoria-Gasteiz won its first Spanish championship by sweeping CG Puigcerdà 3-0 in the best-of-five final series.
After the team had already won the first game on home ice 5-2, and the second 5-3 on the road, it completed the sweep with a 7-6 victory on Saturday.
The Bakh ice rink was extended with additional rows to accommodate a sell-out crowd of 690 spectators and more fans supporting the team just ten metres away on a big screen in another arena of the sports complex.
The team is run by the local ice sports club CDH Bipolo and was marketed in the Spanish league as Escor-Auto Abendaño, the names of its two main sponsors.
The club has done well in finding players to reinforce the team in the last two years. 38-year-old Czech winger David Balazs, who played 13 years in the Czech Extraliga and even seven games for Russian top team Salavat Yulayev Ufa, was the team’s scoring leader with 28 points (7+21) from 19 games.
He was followed by former Latvian U20 national team player Vadims Adonevs, Czech Jakub Bauer, and Spanish national team forwards Adrian Betran, Juan Antonio Brabo and Juan Muñoz, who joined the team in 2012.
It was a heated atmosphere going into the last game. Puigcerdà’s Jan Simko, Robert Brandis and Bastien Ribot Toma were suspended while Vitoria-Gasteiz lost two key players, national team goalkeeper Ander Alcaine and Bauer, due to injuries.
Former Ukrainian U20 national team goalkeeper Ondri Karashuk, who didn’t have many starts this season, had to back up Alcaine in the last game but saw himself in an offensive-minded match in which his Vitoria-Gasteiz outshot Puigcerdà 47-28.
Vitoria-Gasteiz went on to a 3-0 lead with goals from Alejandro Hernandez, Jordy Anglés and Bertan after just ten minutes of play. But despite the supposedly easy start the work was far from completed.
Salvador Barnola cut the lead few minutes later, and after four minutes in the second period the score was tied at three thanks to two power-play goals from Peter Kotlarik and Oriol Boronat.
Vitoria-Gasteiz replied with two unanswered goals and the teams exchanged one other goal each for the 6-4 score after two periods.
Boronat hit the back of the net again at 6:30 of the third period to cut the margin to one goal before Txetxu Gavilanes restored the two-goal lead. Boronat completed his hat trick with 1:55 left in regulation time but the Catalans couldn’t manage to tie the game in the dying minutes. Vitoria-Gasteiz won 7-6.
While it’s the first title for the team from Vitoria-Gasteiz, it’s not the first team from the Basque Country to become Spanish champion. Although the region hasn’t been awarded a title recently, it has collected more Spanish ice hockey championships – 18 – than any other area.
Bilbao claimed the title five times and the city of Donostia-San Sebastián celebrated 12 Spanish ice hockey championships – a record it shares with Jaca.
But the last Basque title, from Donostia-San Sebastián, was in 2000. Since then teams from further east – Jaca, Puigcerdà and Barcelona – have split the trophies among themselves. Puigcerdà missed to add another to its five ice hockey championships – the same number FC Barcelona has.
While the Spanish championship is over there’s still the chance for revenge in another competition, the Copa del Rey (King’s Cup), that will have the same semi-final pairings as in the Spanish championship play-offs and takes place on 23rd March.
Vitoria-Gasteiz will face Txuri-Urdin Donostia-San Sebastián for an all-Basque semi-final while Puigcerdà will host Jaca for the other rematch. The final game will be played in Puigcerdà on 30th March.
Majadahonda women win
SAD Majadahonda won the first-ever Spanish women’s hockey title. The team from the Madrid region dethroned the Valladolid Panteras, who had won the four previous championships, in the final.
The SAD Majadahonda players celebrate their historic triumph after defeating Valladolid in two games. Photo: Javier Rebolledo / FEDH