DUNAUJVAROS, Hungary – Dunaujvarosi Acelbikak won Group B of the Continental Cup to advance to the third round of the European club competition. The “Steel Bulls” came atop in a three-way tie with HYS The Hague and the White Caps Turnhout.
In the Continental Cup third round, Dunaujvaros will travel to Denmark to face host team Herning Blue Fox, Italian champion HC Asiago and Great Britain’s Sheffield Steelers in Group D.
It was all but a promising start for the host squad on Friday when the Hungarians lost 3-1 to The Hague in what looked to be the tournament-deciding match-up. After an early lead from Akos Kiss, the Dutch scored a coming-from behind victory with markers from Jordy van Oorschot, Jan Jaap Natte, and an empty-netter from Trevor John Caig.
The Hague’s opening-day victory could have been the foundation for winning the tournament, but the event ended broken-hearted for the team of player-coach and former NHLer Alexander Selivanov.
On day two, despite 56-22 shots on goal, The Hague lost the neighbourly rivalry to Belgian champion White Caps Turnhout 5-3. So even an 11-1 smashing of Spain’s CH Jaca on Sunday couldn’t prevent the drop-down in the standings.
White Caps’ win was a major surprise as teams from Belgium (35th in the World Ranking) have traditionally fallen short against opponents from the Netherlands (25th), but with Belgium club teams starting play their neighbours in joint competitions, the gap is closing.
After the surprise win against The Hague and following Friday’s 7-3 victory against Jaca, the White Caps were in the run to becoming the surprise team of this year’s Continental Cup, with a real possibility to advance straight from the first round to the third, something which very rarely happens in the Continental Cup.
However, there was a host team that wanted the party on Sunday to be theirs. After Saturday’s 7-1 win against Jaca, Dunaujvarosi Acelbikak was still contending for the tournament win, knowing that they were able achieve a three-team tie by defeating the White Caps in regulation time. Because they lost the first game by two goals, they’d have to make up for that and defeat the White Caps by a three-goal margin.
And they did it by winning 9-4, after holding a 9-1 lead with nine minutes left.
Although the Hungarians had more chances in the first period, it was Marek Zierny who opened the scoring for Turnhout after nine minutes, but Attila Pavuk tied it up two minutes later.
Whatever the Steel Bulls’ Swedish coach Stephan Lundh told his players in the dressing room during the first break, it worked out astonishingly well in the second period. This time the Hungarians didn’t miss out on their opportunities as Zsolt Asari hit the back of the net just ten seconds after the face-off with a man-advantage.
At 2:52 of the middle stanza Imre Pederdi capitalized on another power play for Dunaujvaros, and one minute later Azari scored his second goal on a penalty kill to make it 4-1.
The Hungarians reached the three-goal margin they were desperately looking for, but the goal galore went on. Daniel Kiss brought the puck in midway through the period, and with 32 seconds left before the second intermission, Attila Pavuk made it 6-1.
The game became heated at times with many penalty calls for roughing, but the direction remained the same. Adam Hegyi, Viktor Papp and Daniel Kiss’s second marker extended the lead to 9-1 with less than eight minutes left to play, and the Hungarians were ready to celebrate their triumph. Late goals from Ryan Warsofsky Valerijs Filimonovs (2) were not more than consolation for the Belgians.
Thanks to the high-score win Dunaujvaros climbed to first place ahead of The Hague and the White Caps Turnhout, all of them having six points on their accounts, while Jaca remained winless.
As the players were celebrating after the final buzzer, coach Lundh was already thinking ahead to the third round which will be played in five weeks. The Steel Bulls will travel to Denmark to face host team Herning Blue Fox, Italian champion HC Asiago and Great Britain’s Sheffield Steelers in Group D.
“We’re happy with the win and that we performed well for about 50 minutes,” Lundh said. “Then, however, we became undisciplined and allowed them to score three goals. In the third round we can’t afford to play like that. But for now we will enjoy the victory.”
In the other group of the second round, Latvia’s Liepajas Metalurgs won the event in Miercurea Ciuc, Romania (see separate story
) and will play in Group E in Ukraine against host Donbass Donetsk, Polish champion Cracovia Krakow, and Rubin Tyumen, the winner of Russia’s second-tier league VHL.
The winner of each group qualifies for the Super Final that will be played in Rouen, France, 13-15 January 2012, with host Rouen Dragons and title-holder Yunost Minsk from Belarus.