ZURICH – The first round of the European Women’s Champions Cup is complete with MODO Örnsköldsvik finishing with a clean record in Group C on Monday. Aisulu Almaty and Slavia Prague already won their groups during the weekend.
The Bolzano Eagles are the fourth team to advance. The Italians won their group on home ice two weeks earlier (see story
Bolzano and MODO will travel to Dornbirn, Austria, for Group E with Swiss host ZSC Lions Zurich and German champion ESC Planegg.
Aisulu Almaty and Slavia Prague will travel to northern Finland to face host Kärpät Oulu and defending European and Russian club champion Tornado Moscow Region.
The second round will be played 7-9 December. The top two teams of each group advance to the final tournament.Group B: Aisulu with the stronger end
It all boiled down to the final game on Sunday night in Molodechno, some 70 kilometres away from Minsk. In a segmented group both the host team Pantera Minsk and the Kazakh champion Aisulu Almaty were virtually unchallenged against the other teams, SC Miercurea Ciuc from Romania and Milenyum Ankara from Turkey.
It would have been difficult to pick a favourite. Aisulu Almaty came in with a lot of international experience and the team also brought with it seven Canadian players after the national team’s training camp in British Columbia.
But Pantera Minsk, which was founded only two years ago with the launch of the Belarusian women’s hockey program, used reinforcement as well. Apart from players with international experience from Latvia, Russia and Slovakia, the Belarusians also had three North American imports on the team. After two days they were leading the group with a 47-0 goal record while Aisulu had a comparably modest 19-0 goal record.
However, on the night when it mattered most, the Panthers were not able to score more than a power-play goal on Kazakh national team goalie Daria Obydennova, who put on a 30-save performance in the 7-1 victory.
Captain Zarina Tukhtieva scored two first-period goals and her linemate Christina Sharun added another one for the 3-0 lead before the first intermission. Lauren McCusker netted two goals in the second and third period and Kyla Thurston also scored for Aisulu.
Jessica Jones scored Pantera’s consolation goal to cut the lead to 5-1 midway through the game.
Thanks to the win Aisulu Almaty made it to the second stage for the sixth straight time since the EWCC was extended to three stages and seven tournaments in 2007.
The prize for the third-place team went to Miercurea Ciuc. In the clash of the winless teams the Romanians defeated Milenyum Ankara 9-2.
Up to 1,700 fans filled the small but modern Ice Palace for the international premiere of the arena that opened one year ago.Click here for scores & standings.Aisulu Almaty and Pantera Minsk pose for a group picture after Aisulu’s 6-1 win in the game for first place. Photo: Pantera MinskGroup C: Successful Swedish comeback
Sweden had not been represented in the European Women’s Champions Cup for the last three years due to lack of funding at Stockholm region clubs AIK and Segeltorp. This year the golden helmets went north to MODO and the club from Örnsköldsvik didn’t need to be asked twice for its participation.
The return of the Swedes began with a 6-0 blanking of Danish champion Hvidovre, with goals coming from six different players.
On Sunday MODO defeated Norwegian champion Vålerenga Oslo with the same score. Erika Grahm and Maria Lind each scored a pair of goals in the game. On Monday evening MODO completed the tournament sweep after defeating Laima Riga 8-0.
Hvidovre claimed second place in the group. The Danes recovered from the opening-day loss and had a coming-from-behind 3-1 win over Laima Riga thanks to two goals from Line Ernst. On Monday they also beat Vålerenga. Again it was the opponent that opened the scoring, but with 30 seconds remaining in regulation time Silke Glud scored her second goal of the day for a 3-2 win.
Vålerenga finished the tournament in third place after its only victory on the opening day, 4-2 against winless Laima Riga.Click here for scores & standings.Group D: Czech revenge in Austria
One year ago the Sabres Vienna defeated Slavia Prague 6-2 in a heated contest to advance to the second round for the first time. This year the Czechs took revenge and defeated the Austrians on the opponent’s ice at the Albert Schulz Eishalle.
After lopsided wins for the favourites on the opening day against the other two participants, HK Poprad and Polonia Bytom, the Austro-Czech clash was set for Saturday night.
The game was tight and shots on goal were 38-38 as both goalkeepers had a strong evening, but the Czechs managed to break through when Tereza Vanisova brought her team the lead at 3:40 of the first period after coming out from the penalty box.
The Austrians weren’t able to bring the puck past Slavia netminder Katerina Becevova, who earned a shutout with 38 saves. Kacy Ambroz scored the 2-0 goal into an empty net with six seconds left in regulation time.
Slavia Prague confirmed first place on Sunday blanking Poprad 4-0 while the Sabres’ 15-0 win over Polonia Bytom was only of statistical value.
Poprad finished the event in third place behind Slavia Prague and the Vienna Sabres after defeating Polonia Bytom 4-1.Click here for scores & standings.