Time for another upset?
by Henrik Manninen|14 OCT 2022
Hoping to create new Continental Cup memories in Angers this weekend. Tihamer Becze is the only remaining player at SC Miercurea Ciuc from the team´s epic 2010/11 IIHF Continental Cup win against Saryarka Karaganda that sealed a ticket to the semi-final stages of the Continental Cup.
photo: Nandor Veres / Szekelyhon.ro
On the back of winning the grand slam last season, Romanian champions SC Miercurea Ciuc return to Continental Cup action for the first time since the 2013/14 season.
Skating in Group C of the second round of the 2023 IIHF Continental Cup, SC Miercurea Ciuc will take on French hosts Angers Ducs, Hungary´s Ferencvarosi TC and KHL Sisak of Croatia between 14-16 October 2022.
Hailing from the Transylvanian hockey hotbed of Miercurea Ciuc in Romania, the team is also known as SC Csikszereda after the Hungarian name of the town, located a region of Romania that is overwhelmingly Hungarian-speaking.

Last season they also became known for bringing home an impressive trophy haul, lifting the Hungarian/Romanian Erste Liga, the Romanian championship and domestic cup. Now their sights are set on trying to upset the odds in the second round of the Continental Cup.
"We know Ferencvaros as we played them a lot. The Croatian team will be coming from the lower group, so I hope we can beat them. Then there is of course the home team Angers who will be the biggest opponent. It´s going to be a tough game as they want to go through to the next round. But I hope we will be able to make it hard for them," said SC Miercurea Ciuc´s captain Tihamer Becze.
31-year-old Becze is well aware of what it takes to cause an upset with SC Miercurea Ciuc at this level of the Continental Cup. He is the sole member on the current team that achieved a seismic shock in the competition back in October 2010.
In Slovenia´s Maribor, Group C of the second round of the 2010/2011 Continental Cup, the then 19-year-old Becze and his teammates recorded the club´s biggest success to date in the tournament. On October 23, 2010 they valiantly rallied back from 0-2 to defeat tournament favourites Saryarka Karaganda of Kazakhstan 4-3. The victory lifted SC Miercurea Ciuc into the semi-final stages of the Continental Cup.
"It was my first year at the club. We didn´t know what to expect because the team was kind of brand new. The imports were new, many of the local guys arrived from other teams, and others such as me had come home from junior hockey in Sweden. We had a really good new coach and a team that played together," Becze recalled.
The newly assembled top line of imports with Lubomir Hurtaj, Vaclav Novak and Ladislav Sikorcin clicked straight away and were vital in the win against Saryarka Karaganda. But this does not paint the full picture of the team´s achievement in Maribor 12 years ago. The bulk of the roster from that time were home-grown players from the Eastern Transylvanian county of Harghita and predominantly from its capital Miercurea Ciuc.
Behind the bench stood the newly appointed head coach Charles Franzen and his assistant Michael Larsson. The Swedish duo complemented each other brilliantly with a combination of motivational and tactical skills in their epic Continental Cup upset.
During a meeting ahead of the team leaving for Maribor, the then newly-appointed mayor of Miercurea Ciuc carefully hinted that the bus heading to Slovenia was not taking them on a vacation. "Vacation? We are going there to win it," Franzen thundered back.
And he was proven right. Upon their arrival they first beat Slovenian hosts Maribor 8-3. Ahead of their second game versus the pre-tournament favourites Saryarka Karaganda of Kazakhstan, it was a Martin Luther King Jr. inspired pre-game talk from coach Franzen that made the players believe in miracles.
"Before our big win against Karaganda, I remember how the coach had a good speech before the game, "Boys, I had a good dream.." He told us to play for fun, to enjoy it and play for each other and that´s exactly what happened on the ice that day. It was a great experience, especially for us younger players. Karaganda had a lot of Russian players on the team, they were a little better than us, but in the end, we won," said Becze of their famous 4-3 win that won SC Miercurea Ciuc a place in the third round of the Continental Cup.
To add a bit of context to this David versus Goliath victory against the Kazakhs: Five months earlier, in May 2010 Kazakhstan´s men´s national team had skated in the top division of the World Championship. Around the same time Romania languished at Division II level where they had lost 7-1 to Estonia.
Life at the next level of the 2010/2011 Continental Cup was always going to be a big ask for the Transylvanians. Following a 23 hour long bus journey, they went ahead in their opener, but lost in the end 5-3 to Denmark´s SonderjyskE Vojens. The Scandinavians went on to qualify for the Continental Cup final stage that season. SC Miercurea Ciuc recorded three straight defeats to finish bottom of Group E.
"I was a young guy back then playing in the third-fourth line. Since then 12 years have passed and I went to play for a lot of teams. I also played for the Romanian national team, I then played a bit for the Hungarian national team. Now I am captain for this team and I learned a lot from my ex-captains and coaches so I hope I can help the team with my experience," he said.
Following their glittering end to last season, SC Miercurea Ciuc has so far failed to hit the high notes during the 2022/23 season. Head coach Rico Rossi´s sudden departure, injuries and suspensions to key players sees the team currently placed in the lower half of the ten team strong Erste Liga. Could the Continental Cup be the catalyst of change to kick-start their season?
"We have good offensive potential within the team even though it doesn´t look like it right now. But if we also can play smart in our defensive zone and with a good goalie behind us then we can surprise once again," Becze said.