Despite having a club name translated as "ice man", the Turkish champions were red hot throughout the round-robin tournament played inside the recently inaugurated 3,000-seat Zeytinburnu Ice Rink.
Head coach Caner Bayan’s roster sealed top spot on Saturday night following a 4-1 win over the Liege Bulldogs of Belgium. Earlier in the tournament, Buz Adam had gotten off to a flying start thanks to four power-play goals beating the Hockey Punks Vilnius 7-0. With progress already a done deal ahead of the final round of games, the Turkish champions maintained their perfect record by downing FC Barcelona 9-4 in their closing game.
With a Continental Cup roster including a dozen Russians, Sergei Kochetkov led Buz Adam Istanbul in scoring. Last season’s head coach of the team had grabbed his skates and laced them up again to finish as the tournament’s top scorer with seven points (3+4) in three games.
But it was not all plain sailing for Buz Adam Istanbul en route to the next round. They faced their toughest opponent for top spot mid-way through the round-robin tournament. Having both blanked their opponents in their opening day wins, Buz Adam Istanbul faced off against Belgian champions Liege Bulldogs on Saturday night.
“The game plan, was to play our normal 2-1-2 system and ice our second line against their top line. We knew these guys would be good on the power play, so we couldn’t get too many penalty calls,” said Liege Bulldogs head coach Ulrich Egen ahead of the game.
Equal in penalty minutes only one goal divided the teams heading into the first intermission. At 12:43 and with the puck in control in Liege’s defensive zone, Dennis Sander weighed up his options from the right face-off circle, picked out an onrushing Vladimir Somsikov in the slot, who carefully picked his spot high past Troy Passingham to score Buz Adam Istanbul’s opener.
A loud crowd of 321 inside Zeytinburnu Ice Rink saw chances being created at both ends in a penalty-laden second frame. But once again the sole goal of the period fell to the Turkish champions. Belgian national team defender Loris Darques had seen his physical play get punished for elbowing at 11:02. 61 seconds later on the ensuing power play, the home crowd was cheering again as Buz Adam doubled their lead. Carefully quarterbacking the play, Igor Korenkov stopped Sergei Piskunov’s pass with his foot, hesitated first before picking out his spot to fire one past Passingham with traffic.
During a heated third period, minor penalties continued to disrupt the flow of the game as the Bulldogs from Belgium looked to bite back. Just as they looked like getting into their flow on the power play, defender Frank Neven got a slashing minor defending his own net on a breakaway at 6:30. It was a call proving to be costly. Playing four on four, the speedy 24-year-old Somsikov capitalized just 13 seconds later. In his second season with the Turkish champions, he scored his second of the night after barreling down the Liege defensive zone unleashing a wrister from the left face-off circle to stretch the Turkish lead to 3-0.
Desperate for a goal and with the game seemingly slipping through Liege’s fingers, the Belgians went for bust. Following Buz Adam’s Vyacheslav Seluyanov’s interference call at 12:24, Liege head coach Egen called a time-out. With Passingham pulled from the net Liege finally got a life-line. At 13:02 Boet van Gestel one-timed it high past Saveli Voronov in Buz Adam’s net. But despite a Belgian consolation, van Gestel’s minor penalty call in the immediate aftermath of the goal disrupted the Belgians’ momentum in their hunt to get even closer. Passingham was yanked once again with 1:53 left of the frame, before Somsikov completed his hat trick with an empty netter 69 seconds before the final buzzer.
“We were in better shape than these guys, but in the end we had so many penalties and it killed us,” said Liege’s head coach Egen. “But I am proud of my players who worked really hard. Playing three games in three days, is hard for the players who are semi-professional.”
The Bulldogs Liege bounced back in the closing game of the tournament blanking the Hockey Punks Vilnius 5-0 to finish second. Including two members from Lithuania’s bronze winning roster from 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A, Laisvydas Kudrevicius and Tadas Kumeliauskas, they finished third in Istanbul thanks to a 6-3 victory against winless FC Barcelona.
A clean sweep in Istanbul means that the reigning Turkish champions now roll on to Asiago in Italy for the second round of the Continental Cup. In Group D, hosts Asiago Hockey, Slovenia’s Acroni Jesenice and Vojvodina Novi Sad of Serbia await in the round-robin tournament played between 14-16 October 2022.