ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - Czech champion Sparta Prague is qualified for Sunday’s European Champions Cup final to end the Russian-Finnish streak in the ECC final. Sparta won an entertaining game against Swiss HC Davos 6-4.
Sparta did not seem to be concentrated enough after yesterday’s surprising win against Karpat Oulu at the beginning. Davos did not need more than 41 seconds to open the score. After a face-off won by Davos’ Czech centre Josef Marha, it was the Canadian Mike Maneluk, who defeated Sparta’s goaltender Tomas Duba. The Czech reaction was heavy: From then on, the game was mostly played in the defensive zone of the Swiss during the following minutes. While Davos was playing shorthanded, Tomas Netik could equalise at 6:31. Also the Swiss managed to profit from their first power play situation: At 13:17, Marha scored from the blue line.
The Czechs, who played for the group win, tried to correct the result in the second period - and did it. Martin Strba scored at 29:00 with another power play goal while Jiri Vykoukal was successful with a 17-metre shot just 91 seconds afterwards. Sparta continued its good second period in the 35th minute, when Netik and Petr Ton used a mistake of defenceman Benjamin Winkler and skated towards Davos’ lonely netminder Leonardo Genoni to score the 4-2. Now, the Swiss, cheered by 500 fans creating a home atmosphere, reacted with more offensive action.
Dino Wieser, who recently played at the U20 World Championship, yielded hope by scoring the 4-3 in a counter-attack before the second intermission. Davos must have hoped to come back into the game but after a mistake of Genoni, who faltered to catch a puck in front of him, Netik scored a third time to regain the two-goal lead. The game became again thrilling when Sven Helfenstein - in his third game ever for Davos - scored his first goal at 52:32 after a great pass by Marha. The Czechs could prevent the equaliser and scored and empty-netter to beat Davos 6-4.
“We had a good beginning and finish but three or four goals were too easy for Sparta”, said Davos’ head coach Arno del Curto, “on this level you cannot make such mistakes. These were even worse than ‘really bad’.”
Sparta Prague has now a free day before the final on Sunday. “We hope to play against Metallurg,” says Frantisek Vyborny, the head coach of the Czechs, and points out the performance of his younger players. “They were the real strength of our team today. They were physically and tactically ready for the game.”
Click here for the game's photo gallery.
500 Davos fans cheered on their team in St. Petersburg's Ice Palace. Photo: Irina Zygal