HC ’05 Banska Bystrica did it again. After the year they won the second Slovak title in the row for the first time in club´s history. But it was a very tough way to make It. They had to fight through the seven-game final series against Dukla Trencin.
“We still had the same self-confident team, with players who were aiming to this goal. Even though we had couple key players hurt, guys got together and found internal strength. They believed, and that's what it is all about. We are glad, that we won the last game of the season,” says coach Vladimir Orszagh, who had a very hard position during a whole season.
The last summer, new Slovak national team GM Miroslav Satan named him as the assistant of new national team coach Craig Ramsay. “The job is not finished for me yet,” said Orszagh, who is going to join the coaching staff of the national team before the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship at the end of the week.
Every part of the season was very tight. Each team of the first five wanted to finish on the top of the table, but it was Dukla Trencin who was occupying the leading position during the first half of the season. At the end of the season the first position was taken by HK Nitra. Banska Bystrica finished fourth and Dukla Trencin third with only one point difference.
Banska Bystrica started the playoffs against HC Kosice, the team that always has the highest targets. Although the defending champion started with 4-1 victory in the series, four of the five games finished with only one-goal difference. The first round was even tougher for Banska Bystrica, because in the second game of the series they lost their captain Tomas Surovy due to brain concussion.
“That's play-offs. Every game is like this. We'll see what the doctors will say,” the Banska Bystrica coach said after the game. After all, Surovy had to wait a couple of games and the defending champion had to fight without their captain.
The semi-finals looked even harder for Banska Bystrica. They had to face their final contender from last year HK Nitra. But the team from central Slovakia came through this series as big champion. They won it in four games and had a lot of time to prepare for the deciding series of the season.
“We are happy, we made it. This game was very important for me,” said Tomas Surovy, who joined the team after injury. “I felt the breakdown and rest before the final is good. We'll see who is going to be our opponent,” continued Surovy.
And It was Dukla Trencin. The team of former NHLer Branko Radivojevic made a great story the whole season. Last year they almost get relegated. But this year was much different. This traditional Slovak ice hockey team brought back the long gone glory.
After the first-round sweep of HK Poprad (4-0) in the series, there came the strong contender from Zvolen in their way. They lost the first game of the series on the road, but after that they tied the series in a shootout win. The third game, in front of home fans, went better for Trencin again and everyone at the Pavol Demitra ice rink thought they are going to win the fourth one too. But Zvolen fought back with a shootout victory.
The whole series came back to Zvolen. At the end of the fifth game, Peter Sojcik scored a shorthanded goal and Trencin had a big chance to finish the series in front of their audience. And they made it. They won the sixth game with a narrow 3-2 win and sent Dukla Trencin to the finals after 11 years.
“We had luck, but we won two away games and that was the difference. It was a very hard series. We had to show big respect for Zvolen and their whole team. They played so well and we are happy, we went past them,” said Branko Radivojevic.
The final series started badly for Dukla Trencin. They lost the first two home games in overtime and then came to Banska Bystrica where they suffered a 6-1 loss. Everyone saw Banska Bystrica as the new champion.
“It would be great to finish the series without complications. We know, Trencin will never give up and I think we have another tough game in front of us,” said Patrik Lamper. And he was right. Dukla Trencin won another away game 4-2 and home game 6-0. Everyone couldn't believe what they did in the sixth one in Banska Bystrica where they won again and tied the series.
“We still didn't make it, but we brought us a chance to win the title,” said Radivojevic. “We came to the game with humility and scored lucky goals. If we would win against Banska Bystrica in the fourth game in the row, it would be fantastic. We will do everything for it, but I know, Banska Bystrica will be a strong opponent. Both teams have to make one more step.”
And that step needed to be done in the game seven. The special moment of the series in the traditional hockey town of Trencin was attended by the two biggest names hailing from the club, Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik. Both were hoping to see how Dukla Trencin.
And it all looked great when Juraj Bezuch scored the opening goal of the night. Then Banska Bystrica scored two goals and turned the game. The last ten minutes were deciding, while Banska Bystrica scored three more goals and the title was theirs for the second time in the row.
One side was smiling and the other one was crying. “We have to give them respect. They were better in the last game, created more chances and we didn't have the strength to do anything with the score. It's a pity. Our fans made a great atmosphere in each home game and we must thank them for that,” acknowledges a sad Radivojevic.
“Besides one bad game in Trencin, when we lost 0-6, we've done fantastic playoffs. Almost every result of the final series was tight and I am so glad, my team didn't lose four games in a row. Our captain Tomas Surovy came back from a big injury and he played a huge role in what we achieved,” said coach Orszagh said.
On the other side of the league, four teams were battling against relegation. Detva and Liptovsky Mikulas secured their sport in the Extraliga against challengers Michalovce and Skalica.