ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – Karpat Oulu has participated twice at the European Champions Cup until last year and qualified each time for the final. This season, it is not likely to happen. The Finns were beaten by Sparta Prague 5-3.
After this loss, Karpat needs a minor miracle to make Sunday’s final. For this to happen, HC Davos must defeat Sparta tomorrow while the Finns need to beat Davos by at least two of goals on Saturday. If this three-team tie scenario happens, goal differential will decide. Sparta is through to the gold medal game in case of a win against the Swiss champion on Friday.
Group front-runners Karpat Oulu did not have a good start into their first game against Czechs Sparta Prague with two penalties. Sparta made use of it with Petr Ton opening the score at 4:10. Also at full strength, the Finns were far from equalising as their play was passive.
Michal Dragoun had good chances for Sparta when he did not find the net with two rebounds in the 17th minute but one minute later, after getting a power play, Tibor Melicharek extended the lead to 2-0 with a straight shot.
Karpat was showing a reaction when re-entering the ice after the first intermission and tried its luck in front of the opponent’s goal during two power play situations. Nevertheless, it was the Czechs who scored after that with their first chance of the period. Jakub Langhammer finished his breakaway successfully with the 3-0 lead.
The Finns continued to search their first goal but did not have the best power play and also had not the necessary luck as Ondrej Kratena just hit the post at 26:29. After 30 minutes, the 3-1 happened when Janne Pesonen used one of several rebounds during a five-against-three power play, but Jan Strbak destroyed the Finnish hopes with one more power play goal to score the 4-1. Also Kratena’s 4-2 at 42:34 was answered with a goal: Ton’s second one at 50:25. Michal Bros' 5-3 while 31 seconds left was too late for Karpat.
It was completely a Czech day as also five out of seven Karpat’s scoring points were done by Czechs. “Both (Bros and Kratena) were our best players today”, said Karpat head coach Kari Jalonen. Petr Ton for Sparta and Ondrej Kratena for Karpat were chosen the best players. Together with Karpat’s third Czech, defenceman Jan Novak, they had all played for Sparta head coach Frantisek Vyborny before. Vyborny was not so surprised about today’s success: “It was an interesting game without any favourite.”
More surprising was Karpat’s inability to adapt to the stronger rule enforcing with the four-man system especially at the beginning as games are already officiated with two referees in their league. “The penalties were more because we did not skate as much as we can. Four power play goals against us were too much to win the game,” Jalonen said.
Click here for the photo gallery.