NUREMBERG – SC Bern earned Switzerland a second spot in the first Champions Hockey League. Bern defeated Slovakia's HC Kosice in a tight 5-4 game and won the right to compete with the best teams in Europe.
With two wins in two games, Bern advanced to the group stage, where the team will face against HV71 Jönköping from Sweden and the Espoo Blues from Finland.
In their first CHL appearance, Kosice came up short and will now meet host Sinupret on Sunday to avoid the "wooden spoon" in the qualifying tournament.
In front of 1,859 spectators in Arena Nürnberger Versicherung, Kosice got off to a strong start as the Slovaks were determined to make their Sunday meeting against the Ice Tigers a real showdown.
However, the first penalty of the game came against Kosice as Juraj Kledrowetz was penalized for interference, putting Bern on the power play. Juraj Faith compunded the Slovakian problems getting whistled for hooking and giving Bern a 5-on-3 power play.
At 6:59 Lee Goren capatalied on the power-play, scoring with a perfect wrist shot between the face-off circles to make it 1-0 for the Swiss. Bern kept the momentum going and Christian Dubé scored at 10:48 on yet another power play. Dubé sent a phenomenal slapshot past Kosice goalie Miroslav Lipovsky into the top left corner of the goal.
Richard Jencik tried to respond, but Bern netminder Marco Bührer closed the door on Jencik's effort from close range.
In the second period things got crazyas the game turned into a classic.
First, Kosice got the momentum with two quick goals. Juraj Faith scored on the power play and Marcel Simurda tied it 30 seconds later.
However, Bern struck back immediately when Patrik Bärtschi converted a rebound off Lipovsky. But seconds later Simurda, with his second goal of the evening, things up again, once more on a rebound.
After that, both sides did their best to keep the tempo up. Ramzi Abid changed Bern's fortunes once more when he took advantage of a scramble in the crease and put a wrist shot past Lipovsky with five minutes left in the period.
The Slovaks came out desperate to tie the game once more in the third period and finally their efforts paid off when Faith netted his second goal of the game off a pass from Michel Miklik bounced off his skate and into the net.
Kosice kept the momentum and pushed Bern deep back into their own zone, but Ramzi Abid shocked the Slovaks with his second goal of the evening eight minutes before the end.
A wicked wrist shot from the blue line on yet another power play found its way past Lipovsky and broke the heart of the Kosice supporters. Bern held on to their 5-4 lead and earned qualification to the CHL.
"We came to this tournament as a team, and I think we played really well. We have got off to a good start in the Swiss league, and that's given us confidence – and it shows," says Ramzi Abid, who scored the game-winning goal tonight, his third goal in the tournament. "Qualifying to the Champions Hockey League means a lot to us, this is something we've talked about since our training camp in 2007. This has been one of our goals, and once there, anything can happen," he said.
Abid’s line was the most successful with six goals in two games. "I've played with (Sébastien) Bordeleau since last year and Bärtschi is a great player for the other wing. Sébastien is the playmaker, and he has the speed. He sees the ice really well so my job is to get the puck to him, go to the net, and good things will happen," he said. "I think the Swiss league and the Champions Hockey League can feed off each other nicely. Playing in the Champons Hockey League will give us energy that we can use in the Swiss league, and good games in the Swiss league will carry over to the CHL."
“It was an emotionally tough game with scoring going back and forth. This was a huge win for us. It was important to qualify for the Champions Hockey League. Those games were like two playoff games. Everyone took it seriously, it’s very special for us and the fans, and there’s also much money involved,” SC Bern head coach John van Boxmeer commented after the game. “Before we can think about the Group Stage, we have to go back and to play to our league and we have to get the team emotionally ready for regular season games.”
While SC Bern is going home Sunday morning, HC Kosice will play the last game against hosts Sinupret Ice Tigers. “Now we want to do everything to win the game against the Ice Tigers, we’re sportsmen by heart,” Kosice head coach Anton Tomko said. “We are of course sorry that our possibility of qualifying has gone by already after the first game. We knew that the crucial point in the game would be the power play, where we had three goals against.”
SC Bern will travel to Sweden to play HV71 Jönköping on October 8th. The Espoo Blues are the other opponent in Group B.
Click here for the photo gallery.SC Bern's Christian Dubé (left) and Simon Gamache celebrate the opening goal. Photo: Getty Images/Günter Meier