Nitra starts with win
by Martin Merk|13 JAN 2023
photo: Theo Bariller-Krine
It was a tight rematch from the preliminary round but HK Nitra got what it wanted. The Slovaks beat Asiago 5-3 to open the 2023 IIHF Continental Cup Final.

After a good start Nitra had a lead of two or three goals for long parts of the game before Asiago came back for an exciting ending of the game.

Eight different players scored the goals while Nitra outshot Asiago 36-33.

Nitra head coach Antonin Stavjana named his goalkeeper Matthew O’Connor as the difference maker. The 197-cm (6’6”) tall Canadian kept his net clean for a long time before Asiago became stronger as of the second period.

“We hoped to have a bit more of a stronghold in the game but that’s hockey. We got the result we needed and we need to keep building, keep playing hard. This tournament means a lot to us,” O’Connor said.

“In the second period we were definitely tested and made a couple of saves that helped but our D and our entire team helped really out and we had young guys scoring. That helped us as well.”

It was a north-south game for most of the first few minutes with few breakthroughs to the net until Nitra opened the scoring at the seven-minute mark. The Slovaks won a puck battle before the offensive zone, Sebastian Cederle entered the zone from the left past the opponents and beat Asiago goalkeeper Justin Fazio with a shot just above his pads. Two minutes later the puck went past Fazio again when Jakub Lacka extended the lead for Nitra.

Asiago came out red hot for the second period and was looking to get back into the game. At 4:03 Lorenzo Casetti saw his shot from the left side saved but Nicholas Saracino reacted fastest and scored Asiago’s first goal from the right side. However, with the team’s second scoring chance of the period, Nitra restored the two-goal lead at 6:22. Tomas Hrnka converted a rebound. With 3:56 left in the middle frame, a Juraj Pekarcik goal extended Nitra’s lead to 4-1. The three points seemed almost to be in Ntra’s hands but Asiago didn’t give up.

Asiago Hockey came one goal closer with Allan McShane’s 4-2 marker and with 6:53 left in the third period the Italians made it a one-goal game for the final minutes of regulation time. After a won neutral-zone battle Bryce Misley received the puck at the blue line and completed the breakaway with the 4-3 marker.

A penalty call against Nitra’s Martin Bodak for tripping with 2:02 left gave Asiago an additional boost, which was playing 6-on-4 during the last minute but Nitra defended well and Filip Krivosic scored the 5-3 marker into the empty net.

Asiago will need to beat the Cardiff Devils in tomorrow afternoon’s game to keep hopes alive while Nitra will face the Angers Ducs on Saturday evening.

“The opponents will be difficult. We need to prepare well and tomorrow will be our probably most difficult test. We need to be ready,” said O’Connor.
HK Nitra vs Asiago Hockey - 2023 IIHF Continental Cup Final