BOLZANO/LIEPAJA –British champion, Sheffield Steelers and Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg won the third-round tournaments of the Continental Cup last weekend and will join pre-qualified Grenoble Brûleurs de Loups (France) and Yunost Minsk (Belarus) in the Super Final in Grenoble, January 15-17.British revenge in Bolzano
The Sheffield Steelers won Group D in Bolzano, Italy, with the closest possible results, beating all opponents by one goal and topping the Bolzano Foxes in a shootout in the deciding game.
The Steelers opened with a 4-3 victory against the Dutch qualifier HYS The Hague, which tied the game three times, but couldn’t overcome the game-winner with 10 minutes left in regulations from Jeff Legue.
The second game was also a narrow win despite 40-20 shots advantage. Maribor took the 3-2 lead halfway through the game but in the end the Steelers won, 5-4, thanks to a hat trick from Canadian forward Matt Hubbauer.
In their last game the Steelers met the host Bolzano, which beat Maribor (6-2) and The Hague (3-0), with a roster that had just 14 skaters.
Sheffield took a 2-0 lead after Randy Dowd scored on the power play at 7:03 and Joey Talbot followed up 10 minutes later. But, but Bolzano came back when Ryan Jardines’ scored 34 seconds later. In the second period, Fraser Clair tied things up and at 31:49 the 4,300 spectators gave a hearty cheer when Kenny Corupe gave the Italians their first lead of the game.
Talbot scored his second goal at 33:47 to equalize at three. After a scoreless third period and overtime, the Super Final berth was decided in a shootout when Hubbauer put in the eventual game-winner for Sheffield.
“This is an incredible night for the club. The supporters over here were as fantastic as the players were, they cheered us on every shift of all three games,” said Sheffield coach David Matsos. “We played tonight like I have always known we can play. This weekend we have played to our potential. The defence was outstanding, Bolzano had lots of puck possession but we kept so much to the outside, we protected (our goalkeeper) Verner really well and then when pucks got through he was simply outstanding as well.”
Last year, it was Bolzano who won the deciding game against a British club, the Coventry Blaze, in a narrow 1-0 win. Now the roles have changed.
For Sheffield it was the perfect time for a big win. They have won just five of their 17 games in the British Elite Ice Hockey League and are in seventh place in the eight-team league. “Let’s hope this will now be the start of better times back home for us,” Matsos said.
It’s the first time since 2003 a team from the United Kingdom will play in the Continental Cup Super Final, when the Belfast Giants finished in sixth out of eight teams.Click here for the box scores of Group D in Bolzano.Salzburg wins after two days
Red Bull Salzburg flew high in Liepaja and came away with three wins. Salzburg has played in the Continental Cup twice, but it’s the first time they qualified for the final tournament.
Despite the nine points, it was not an easy weekend for the Austrian champion, which is currently in fourth place in the Austrian league.
In the first game, Salzburg took a 3-0 lead after nine minutes against penalty-riddled Sokil Kyiv, but the Ukrainian champion equalized and was a tough opponent the remainder of the game. In the end, Salzburg earned a 6-5 victory.
In the second game against the host Liapajas Metalurgs, Thomas Koch opened the scoring after two minutes, but the Latvians equalized. Salzburg took the lead again with goals from Mike Siklenka and Doug Lynch, but Liepaja again reacted with two goals in the last period.
Maris Jurcers, the 22-year-old Liepaja netminder, was almost the hero with 46 saves, but he couldn’t deflect the last Salzburg shot. At 59:55, Canadian defenceman Siklenka scored his second goal of the night – making Salzburg the tournament winner after two days.
“It was a great performance and an important success for my young team,” said Salzburg coach Pierre Pagé. “They showed their fast game here in Latvia and were rewarded. Liepajas Metalurgs was a strong opponent that had also many scoring chances. I’m happy about this international success. We’re looking forward to playing in the final in France where we want to play another strong tournament.”
It is the first time that an Austrian team is in the Continental Cup Final.
Salzburg also won the last game, 5-2 against winless Cracovia Krakow. Sokil Kyiv finished in second place after a 5-3 victory versus Liepaja.Click here for the box scored of Group E in Liepaja.
Picture complete for Grenoble
The Sheffield Steelers and Red Bull Salzburg qualified for the Continental Cup Super Final in Grenoble to be played January 15-17. After the successful final tournament last year in Rouen, it will be organized in France for the second straight time. The host club and reigning French champion Grenoble Brûleurs de Loups and Belarusian champion Yunost Minsk are prequalified.
MARTIN MERKMike Siklenka – here against Sokil Kyiv’s Sergei Chernenko – scored four goals for Red Bull Salzburg. Photo: Wolfgang Jannach / GEPA pictures