NUREMBERG – SC Bern is 60 minutes away from the Group Stage of the Champions Hockey League. In their way is a high-scoring Kosice team that has produced thirteen goals in their three first National League A games. If Bern wins, they are through. A Kosice victory opens the qualifier again.
SC Bern comes off an emotional 4-1 win over host Sinupret Ice Tigers on Friday. It may look like an easy win on paper but it was anything but. The score was tied 1-1 after two periods before Swiss national team player Patrik Bärtschi scored the game-winning goal – and what a beauty it was.
Bärtschi charged into the Ice Tiger zone, was stopped by a Nuremberg defencemen but, standing virtually still, unleashed a great shot that went high on goaltender Frédéric Cassivi. The goal came only 1:13 into the third period and changed the momentum of this tightly fought encounter.
With less than ten minutes left, Simon Gamache scored the goal that finally broke the spirit of German team. Major credit goes to Lee Goren, who won a one-on-one battle behind the net and sent the puck in front. Sébastien Bordeleau made the score look good with an empty-net goal.
There is no question that Bern will be playing with fatigue. The key game against Kosice comes only 20 hours their first game, while Kosice has been idle since their 3-1 loss against Dukla Trencin on September 9.
The loss was Kosice’s first of the Slovakian regular season. Coach Anton Tomko’s team defeated MHK Kezmarok 7-1 in their season opener and followed up with an impressive 5-2 thrashing of Slovakian champion Slovan Bratislava.
There is no doubt that Kosice’s first line will be the major threat to Bern’s CHL ambitions. The unit, with 35-year-old team captain Peter Bartos, Juraj Faith and Michel Miklik, has scored ten points in three league games.
But the second line can also put up decent numbers. Rudolf Huna has four points (1+3) in the three league games, while Stanislav Gron has scored a team-high three goals and Igor Rataj has added two helpers.
Bern’s best line in the qualifying opener was the Ramzi Abid (scorer of the important 1-0 goal), Bärtschi and Bordeleau.
It is no secret that the Swiss are hoping that their goaltender Marco Bührer is a stronger performer than Kosice’s Miroslav Lipovsky. Bührer was not excellent, but still very solid against Sinupret while Lipovsky has still to prove himself in this competition.
At around 20:45 on Saturday evening we will know. If Bern wins, they can book their tickets for Jönköping, Sweden, for the Champions Hockey League opener on October 8. A win for Kosice will make Sunday’s Sinupret vs. Kosice game all decisive.
Note: The winner of the CHL Qualifier will be seeded into Champions Hockey League Group B with HV71 Jönköping and Espoo Blues (FIN).
Compiled by IIHF.com staff