NUREMBERG – After SC Bern’s wins in the first two games of the qualification tournament, the only thing at stake in the game between the Sinupret Ice Tigers Nuremberg and HC Kosice was pride. For the home team, that was enough, as it rallied over HC Kosice to a comfortable 5-3 win.
The Ice Tigers were poised to prove to their home fans that they belong in the elite group of European hockey teams andcame out strong from the opening faceoff.
A HC Kosice penalty after just one minute gave the Ice Tigers the start they wanted. Just nineteen seconds into the penalty, defenceman Christan Laflamme got the puck on the blue line, sent it to the front of the net where Brad Leeb deflected it past Miroslav Lipovsky, the puck slipping through the five-hole.
While Kosice battled its way back into the game, their second penalty gave the advantage to Ice Tigers again. This time it was their second power play unit, with Andre Savage and Brian Swanson, that took command.
Again, the puck was played to Laflamme to the point, Savage took Lipovsky’s rebound and, with a one-hand pass, the Ottawa native got the puck to defenceman Michel Periard, who backhanded it into the net.
Four minutes into the second period, Kosice got a power play chance and capitalized. Jaroslav Spelda took a slap shot from the point. Jaroslav Kmit deflected it to the pads of Patrick Ehelechner, then grabbed his own rebound and lifted the puck high into the net.
The Ice Tigers woke up. Just 19 seconds later, Brad Leeb got Scott King’s pass from the corner and one-timed it into the net, under Lipovsky’s arm. That was enough for Lipovsky, who skated to the bench, making room for Julius Hudacek.
Halfway through the period, a nice saucer was sent across the Ice Tigers’ defensive zone, straight to the tape on Michel Miklik’s stick. Ehelechner blinked and went down, Miklik lifted the puck over his pads, keeping Kosice in the game.
With six minutes remaining in the period, Kosice was at it again. Hudacek got a two-minute penalty for tripping. Petr Fical and Savage cycled the puck on the power play in the corner, then Fical saw Laflamme racing to the net. A pass through the Kosice defence, and Laflamme got his third point of the night.
In the third period, Kosice lost faith as the game flowed from end to end. About halfway through the period, the Ice Tigers got another power play, first four-on-three, then five-on-four, but couldn’t capitalize. However, just as Kosice was back at full strength, Swanson got the puck in the corner. He faked a pass to the blue line, changed it at the last second sending the puck to Fical in the slot instead. He buried the puck into the net with a quick onetimer.
Juraj Sykora brought Kosice within two goals at 50:19 but the 3,373 Ice Tigers fans in the arena got what they wanted. A win.
“We were here to fight for a good result. Like yesterday, the opponent went 2-0 after the first two penalties. Afterwards, we figured how to score but we didn’t use all of our chances,” Kosice head coach Anton Tomko said after the defeat. “We have to confess that we’re a little disappointing that we leave Nuremberg without any points.”
The home crowd was happy and especially Christian Laflammme was cheered after his two-game comeback was over. “It's not easy to join a team just like that, but obviously it was easier here because I've played with most of these guys here for three years. That said, I hadn't played any games this season, just skated back home, so that was a bit of an adjustment,” he said. “Things seemed to click tonight, but I'm just happy we won. It would have been nice to beat Bern, too.”
“It wasn't hard to prepare the team for the game, but naturally, we were a little down after the loss against SC Bern. We wanted to win this one for our fans. Also, we have another game on Tuesday, so we wanted to play well tonight,” said Ice Tigers coach Andreas Brockmann. “We're a team that likes to skate and that often forces the other team to take penalties. Tonight we managed to capitalize on them. It is disappointing to miss the Champions Hockey League, but we just have to forget this now and look forward to new challenges.”
Asked about the goalie, Brockmann underlined the performance of backup netminder Patrick Ehelechner, a former junior national team goalie. “He had a good game and we know that we can put him in whenever we need him.”
For the next domestic game on Tuesday, the Ice Tigers will probably have to do without two players. Michel Periard got a shot on his ankle and will be examined in the hospital same as Florian Ondruschka, who also had to leave the game.
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