Mike Little scored two goals including the game-winning goal. Neman outshot SonderjyskE 32-29 with SonderjyskE goaltender Adam Ohre getting player of the game prize of his team on his 25th birthday.
“The margin in this game was so thin. I thought we stayed together, had a lot of sacrifice from everyone,” Little said after the game. “Our captain, Sharpy, had a couple of great blocks when they had the power play. When you have the home ice there’s some little extra energy that can help for sure.”
The two teams as well as the Nottingham Panthers are now tied at four points going into the Super Sunday. SonderjyskE will start against Cracovia Krakow before Nottingham will take on Neman Grodno.
Few people may remember it but this wasn’t the first Continental Cup game between these two teams. Six years ago in the Continental Cup preliminary round SonderjyskE Vojens already hosted Neman Grodno. The Belarusians won 1-0 thanks to Andrei Makrov’s power-play goal in overtime.
Only few players from both teams today were on the ice back then but the game followed a similar pattern in the first period that ended scoreless and a small surplus of chances for Neman. But that was it when it comes to similarities as the fans were treated to more goals this time.
“It was a good game from both teams. We knew needed to make pressure against them and play physical. It was two teams who wanted to win and nobody wanted to make mistakes,” said Neman Grodno forward Pavel Azhgirei.
The teams exchanged penalty calls early in the second period and that’s when SonderjyskE broke the deadlock during a 4-on-3 play. MacGregor Sharp sent a diagonal pass from behind the goal line back to Steffen Frank, who opened the scoring at 5:23. But a few minutes later Artyom Levsha tied the game on a fast counter-attack after a takeaway from his linemate Timo Hiltunen in the own zone.
Early in the third period the puck bounced in SonderjyskE’s favour. The Danes started a quick attack, Justin Maylan shot from a seemingly hopeless position at the right boards, Neman goaltender Vitali Trus blocked but the puck went straight to Mike Little, whose laser shot went in for the 2-1 lead.
Also this time the home fans didn’t get much time to enjoy the lead. Just over four minutes later Sergei Malyavko’s shot into the top-right corner tied the game at two. And just 70 seconds later Neman Grodno got its first lead on a breakaway. Artur Savinov skated towards the net, deked Adam Ohre to make it 3-2 for the Belarusians.
SonderjyskE didn’t give up and a late penalty call against Viktor Turkin gave the Danes an opportunity they used. With the man advantage close to finish, Sharp redirected in front of the net a Mike Little shot from the blue line to tie the game at three with just over four minutes remaining in the period.
“It was a tough game. Both teams had chances. They started well in the first period, we were maybe a little bit down there,” Neman Grodno defenceman Valtteri Hietanen said. “We came much better in the second period and had our chances there. Maybe we should have scored one more at the end of the period. We should have won the game but they scored and used the momentum better.”
The excitement remained high and when SonderjyskE had six skaters on the ice, it was Neman Grodno that got its chance on the man advantage to score and get the full three points. But they didn’t. Instead SonderjyskE saw another game go to overtime.
In the extra period Mike Little got little resistance when he outskated the entire Belarusian defence to shoot the puck under the crossbar at 3:18 and SonderjyskE to its second straight two-point victory.
“I felt unbelievable excited. I knew it was in right away, I knew I hit the back bar,” Little said. “It was a really good play all the way around. Justin made a good pass at the wall to me and Daniel made a great job cutting through for me. I was lucky enough that the puck stayed flat.”
With the win SonderjyskE Vojens, Neman Grodno and the Nottingham Panthers are all tied at four points. A regulation-time win in the last game on Sunday afternoon against Cracovia Krakow would give the Danes the tournament win. Otherwise the winner can be decided among the other two teams as the Nottingham Panthers will play Neman Grodno in the late game.