MIERCUREA CIUC, Romania - HSC Csikszereda went undefeated through Group A on home ice to advance to the second round of the Continental Cup.
"Our goal was to go through to the next round of the tournament and that is what we did. But the next round will be much, much tougher," said HSC Csikszereda defenseman Szabolcs Papp after his team strolled through the Group A of the 2012-2013 Continental Cup with three straight wins and a total scoreline of 36-0 in Miercurea Ciuc.
Skill-level, resources and preparations were in sharp contrast when hosts HSC Csikszereda took on Baskent Yildizlari Ankara, Maccabi Metulla and Vitez Belgrade at the Vakar Lajos Ice Rink.
Ahead of the tournament, reigning Turkish champions Baskent Yildizlari from Ankara had looked like the strongest bet to offer the hosts a tough game, but Csikszereda’s Lubomir Hurtaj opened the scoring with only 20 seconds gone on the clock to set the tone in a first period that ended 8-0 and brought the curtain down for the Turks who ended up losing 15-0.
Despite the initial set-back, and with only three on-ice practises ahead of the tournament, Baskent Yildizlari and Turkish ice hockey can look forward to a big season ahead of them as attempts to make progress are being stepped up. With only two indoor rinks in the country up until two years ago, Turkey currently have five olympic-sized ice rinks in five different cities with increased efforts now being taken in trying to offer budding players the proper know-how to develop.
"The interest for hockey is growing, but there is a severe lack of qualified coaches," said Tarik Göcmen, who led Baskent Yildizlari to the Turkish championship last season and who, following the Continental Cup, will leave the club and take up the position as Sports Manager of the Turkish Ice Hockey Federation.
In his new role, one of Göcmen’s key tasks will be to improve the level of coaching from top to bottom - with help from Slovakia, whose presence will be apparent in the Turkish Ice Hockey Super League this season, which is expected to start in mid-October.
"There are currently three Slovak coaches in the league teams and two more should be added this season," said Göcmen. "We will be looking to use the same system in all teams, and this should also be adapted step-by-step on to all levels of our national teams with the Turkish and Slovak coaches working together."
Denis Legersky, the man to take over from Göcmen at the helm of Baskent Yildizlari, showed his worth in the reigning Turkish champions' second game of the Continental Cup, as the Slovakian player-coach scored twice in the first period and was instrumental in their 6-1 victory against Vitez Belgrade.
"We started the first period confused, had difficulties with the pace of the game and got penalties which they scored from. It took us one period to adjust, and the second and third period was better" said Bogdan Jankovic, player and General Manager of Vitez Belgrade.
Having beaten Maccabi Metullah 15-0 in their opening game of the tournament, the story of Vitez Belgrade is one of a group of players willing to do anything to get to play the sport they love - despite very difficult circumstances within the Serbian league championship. Jankovic admits he is not sure what they will go back to, but is keeping his fingers crossed that a Serbian league will be played this season with four teams.
For the fourth team of the tournament, last season's Israeli champions, Maccabi Metullah, praise must be given despite heavy defeats. Fighting in every game despite being outmatched, they got small measure of a reward in the final game when Mikhael Horowitz scored on a Maxim Buz assist with 5:59 remaining of their final game against the Turkish champions in a game that ended 1-13.
HSC Csikszereda will travel to Landshut in Germany for the second round of the Continental Cup, to be played between 19-21 October 2012. The other teams in Group B will be Landshut Cannibals (GER), Belfast Giants (GBR) and Eaters Geelen (NED).
1. HSC Csikszereda (ROU) 9 (through to the next round)
2. Baskent Yildizlari Ankara (TUR) 6
3. Vitez Belgrade (SRB) 3
4. Maccabi Metulla (ISR) 0
Individual Awards as selected by the Tournament Directorate:
Best Goalkeeper: David Marlin, Vitez Belgrade
Best Defenseman: Szabolcs Papp, HSC Csikszereda
Best Forward: Ervin Moldovan, HSC Csikszereda
Tournament MVP: Daniel Tranca, HSC Csikszereda