DONETSK – Metallurg Zhlobin defeated the Bolzano Foxes 1-0 in a shootout and earned two points. However, it was not enough to stay in contention for the Continental Cup.
Alexei Yefimenko scored two goals in the shootout while Czech goalkeeper Tomas Duba was the best player for Bolzano with 40 saves.
“We played a good game but it was a tough one. They had a very strong defence, so we needed to work really hard and eventually we won in a shootout,” said Metallurg Zhlobin head coach Vasili Spiridonov.
For Metallurg Zhlobin the tournament will end in second or third place in the club’s first-ever international season while Bolzano remains in fourth place.
The tournament win will be decided in the late game. Donbass Donetsk needs to defeat the Rouen Dragons or at least gain one point (overtime/shootout loss) while the Rouen Dragons need a win in regulation time to claim the Continental Cup for the second year in a row.
One year ago, the Rouen Dragons defeated Donbass Donetsk 5-2 on home ice in the last game to win the competition.
While Metallurg Zhlobin shone with offensive skill in the beginning, the Bolzano Foxes played the pattern known from the previous matches with a game built on strong defence.
“We played hard and did our best. Our goaltender played well. It was a long weekend for some of our players who got lot of ice time,” Bolzano head coach Brian McCutcheon commented after the game.
The result after the first period was a scoreless tie and 15-2 shots on goal. Although Bolzano had more scoring opportunities in the second period, there was little change in the direction of the game. The Belarusians were the dominant team but their forwards’ desperation grew bigger with each shot Bolzano goalie Duba saved.
Despite the discrepancies in scoring chances and puck possession, the game remained open for both teams. While the Metallurg Zhlobin forward missed out on an incredible amount of great scoring chances, the Bolzano Foxes created more scoring opportunities themselves in the third period.
The Foxes tried to switch the momentum when they got their second power-play opportunity of the game with 8:21 left in the third period and coach Brian McCutcheon took a time-out, but no significant chances emerged for the Italians.
The game went to overtime with some scoring opportunities for Metallurg Zhlobin. Defenceman Georgi Yaskevich had the biggest scoring chance when his shot from behind the blueline hit the post with 20 seconds left in the extra period.
Instead, the scoring drought lasted until MacGregor Sharp converted the first shot in the shootout. Eventually, after four rounds, Metallurg Zhlobin prevailed as the winner also thanks to the two goals from Alexei Yefimenko.
“I’m pleased about my players and for the fans who came in big numbers to support us in Donetsk,” Spiridonov said. “It was our first time [in the Continental Cup] and we’re just in the beginning of our way. The players saw the quality of hockey and how they should play at this level and what we can potentially achieve in the future.”
Game-winning shot competition:
MacGregor Sharp 0-1, Konstantin Baronov 1-1.
Mark McCutcheon saved, Alexei Yefimenko 1-2
Alexander Egger 2-2, Valeri Khlebnikov missed.
Alexei Yefimenko 3-2, MacGregor Sharp saved.