ROUEN – In an incredible finish to the 2014 IIHF Continental Cup Super Final, the Rouen Dragons’ Anthony Rech scored the game-winner in a shootout against Donbass Donetsk, giving the championship title to the Stavanger Oilers.
The Continental Cup win is the first title ever for Norway in European club competition and one of the biggest successes in international hockey by a Norwegian team. Norway is ranked ninth in the IIHF World Ranking.
“I was wrong,” Stavanger coach Petter Thoresen said with a smile about his prediction that Donbass Donetsk, currently one of the top teams in the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League, wouldn’t lose any more points. “I thought they would win the games easily but it’s never easy in hockey. Rouen played a heck of a game. You need passion to win hockey games.”
“It’s special to win such a tournament with a team from the KHL. At home in Norway people talk our GET-ligaen down and now we won. We’re proud to bring the winners’ plate to Stavanger also for our league.”
The Rouen Dragons wanted to give their fans a spectacle after two heavy losses in the first two games, despite the fact that they were no longer able to improve from fourth place. Few might have bet that tournament favourite Donbass Donetsk wouldn’t win the game handily after two previous victories and defend the Continental Cup title. But sometimes hockey is unpredictable and the Dragons showed a different face then in the previous games.
“We showed the reaction we wanted to show,” said Rouen captain Marc-André Thinel. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t play like that in the other games but we showed a lot of character today.”
Same like two years ago, when Donbass also conceded goals in the last period to lose the game, the Ukrainian team suffered another Rouen trauma at the same venue and lost a game they thought they couldn’t lose. Just that this time Rouen didn’t win the tournament but instead spoiled the Ukrainian party by crowning the Stavanger Oilers as new Continental Cup champions.
The victory of Rouen, winless with a 2-12 goal record from two games, against previously undefeated Donbass Donetsk came as unexpected as it was welcomed with open arms by the Oilers.
The Norwegian newcomers were the undoubted beneficiaries from this improbable round-robin scenario. The Oilers lost the opening game against Donbass in a shootout and thought they couldn’t overtake the Ukrainian KHL team anymore. On Sunday they needed to gain two more points from their game against Asiago than Donbass needed to earn against Rouen. But that’s exactly what they did. The Oilers defeated Asiago 7-2 in the early game and then watched as Rouen won a nail-biting final game against Donbass in shootout.
“It was a really exciting game. I was really nervous at the end. If you play you don’t get that nervous than when you just watch. It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Oilers goalkeeper Ruben Smith.
“It was a very tough tournament. We were really happy the way we played as a group. When we do that we can accomplish things like this. No Norwegian team had ever made it to the Continental Cup Super Final before us and we win it in our first year. It’s a moment I take with me forever.”
Both Rouen and Donbass created scoring chances from the very beginning but it was the defending champs from Ukraine who scored first.
After a centering pass from Maxim Yakutsenya, Yevgeni Dadonov deked Rouen goalkeeper Fabrice Lhenry and circled the puck around him to open the scoring at 13:06.
The goal came as the game was seeing many chances on both sides and Rouen having a slim shot advantage of 8-6.
The second period started with a bang. After some tic-tac-toe passing around the Donbass cage the Rouen players were cheering a score after 80 seconds of play in the frame, but the goal was disallowed because the cage was moved before the puck crossed the line.
The Dragons continued to put pressure on the Donbass net but had to be happy that Teemu Laine didn’t score on a breakaway. The French had chances but rarely managed to fire shots on Donbass goalie Michael Leighton until Thinel got the puck on a giveaway close to the net and brought it past Leighton to tie the game at 9:14 of the middle frame while Julien Desrosiers was ready for the rebound.
The teams showed entertaining north-south hockey with chances, shots and giveaways on both sides. It remained only a question of time until the next team would score while the crowd at the sold-out Patinoire Île Lacroix including 400 fans from Donetsk created an electric atmosphere.
Tuomas Kiiskinen was at the right spot at the right time to give Donbass the lead. Rouen goalkeeper Lhenry initially deflected a long shot from Petteri Wirtanen but the puck went straight to Kiiskinen, who circled the puck around Lhenry at 8:31 of the third period.
However, it took only one-and-a-half minutes until Thinel tied the game with his second marker. But at 15:18 Lhenry let in a shot from Clay Wilson from the face-off circle and it was 3-2 for Donbass. Again the Ukrainian fans were silenced very quickly as Desrosiers tied the game at three with the next attack 11 seconds later.
The game went to overtime and the extra period started with a Thinel breakaway but neither the Rouen captain nor any other player on either side managed to score. A shootout had to decide about the winner of this game and whether Donbass Donetsk would defend the Continental Cup title or the Stavanger Oilers would become the surprise winner.
“Fabrice! Fabrice!” the local fans were cheering, knowing that they would need a strong goalkeeper to win the shootout.
And Lhenry was red hot. He had four saves after four shots while the first three shooters of his team didn’t score, but French national team player Anthony Rech did with Rouen’s fourth attempt to decide the game.
Rouen outshot Donbass 33-31.
It was a win for Rouen’s honour celebrated with loudly chanting the French national anthem. And it was a big blow for Donbass Donetsk, which was probably too sure about winning the game and the tournament and didn’t expect Rouen to fight that hard in a game that wouldn’t change the Dragons’ fourth-place finish.
And then there was a smiling third team on the tribune. The Stavanger Oilers, who didn’t expect to win the tournament after losing to favourite Donbass Donetsk in a shootout on Day 1, went back to the ice to receive the Continental Cup’s winners’ plate.
“We were taking a beer and heard that the score was 1-1 and then saw the great effort. They’ve shown great character,” said Jean-Michel Daoust, Stavanger’s French-Canadian forward.
“We’re pretty happy. Rouen did a great job. They have a great organization from the players to the coach and management and great fans. They deserved the win.”
The Oilers celebrated with the 150 fans who came from Norway and with the Rouen fans who were cheering on them. And then everybody danced in a circle on the ice when the Stavanger Oilers’ club anthem “Hjemmakamp” – which means home game in the local dialect – was played.
With their solid game and great team spirit throughout the tournament, the Oilers won the local fans’ heart and were cheered on during their last game and the celebrations. It almost felt like a home game for the Oilers.
Game-winning shot competition:
Round 1: Vas – missed, Robitaille – saved.
Round 2: Riendeau – saved, Nedorost – saved.
Round 3: Desrosiers – missed, Dadonov – saved.
Round 4: Yakutsenya – saved, Rech 1-0.
1. Stavanger Oilers 7
2. Donbass Donetsk 6
3. Asiago Hockey 3
4. Rouen Dragons 2
Individual Awards as selected by the Tournament Directorate:
Best Goalkeeper: Ruben Smith, Stavanger Oilers
Best Defenceman: Clay Wilson, Donbass Donetsk
Best Forward: Christopher di Domenico, Asiago Hockey
Click here for scores, stats and photos.