New champion HKM Zvolen won the final series against Poprad 4-1 but in the deciding game the whole team had to battle hard until the end.
Even when they went ahead 3-1, Poprad brought back with the second marker just one minute before the final buzzer in the third period. But that was it and Zvolen was ready to prepare the champagne.
“Those are incredible moments. It wasn’t easy, but we made it. Such a great group of people have met here so I enjoyed doing it every day. That’s why the emotions came up so high,” said Zvolen head coach Peter Oremus.
“We really didn’t have a bad series in the playoffs so no one could doubt our victory. Poprad played very good hockey, that’s because I am even more pleased.”
Although Zvolen won the series 4-1, every game was so close. Expect the third one, where Poprad beat their opponent 7-4.
Poprad’s first offensive line Hascak-Svitana-Skokan shone in that game while they scored three of seven goals. At the same time, it was their first victory in the final, which added oil to their wheels.
“First of all, I want to show respect for all of our guys. Everyone played so well tonight. They made an unselfish play, blocked the shots which showed our team power,” said Marcel Hascak after the fourth clash. “We want to be the champions, and if we will play like this, I’m not worried.”
But the fifth game went completely the other way for Poprad. Although Zvolen didn’t shine with a star-studded first line, everyone saw the great spirit inside the team.
“Just as it ended 4-1 for us, it could have finished in a quite different way,” acknowledges Zvolen forward Juraj Mikus.
“All games, expects the last one, where we allowed them to score seven goals, were so tight. Twice we won in the overtime.”
“Even before the series I said, we don’t need to be better, the most important is to win,” concluded silver medallist of the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
And he proved his words right before the claiming the trophy. Juraj Mikus took it with captain Radovan Pulis together for the whole team, where they rose the trophy as one man.
“You can see those emotions. I am so happy that we succeeded. We have showed up character during the whole year. We have deserved to be the champions, because we have been one of the best teams all the season. “That´s why we won the regular season and why we won the Vladimir Dzurilla Cup,” said Radovan Pulis, who couldn’t help his team in last two final games due to multiple fractures of the facial skeleton and nose.
His injury came from second clash where he received late hit in the second period from Petr Ulrich. Even this proves how though the whole series was.
The new champions played consistently during the entire season. They jumped to the playoffs from the first place and showed up their power straightaway when knocking out Nove Zamky in four games.
But the second round looked bit more challenging where they faced Slovan Bratislava. Zvolen won the first in a shootout and Slovan Bratislava the second in the overtime.
But Zvolen surprised Bratislava’s team on their home ice, while they won both games and went home with one victory left from the final. And Zvolen made it and defeated their opponent again in a 2-1 overtime victory.
“Winning against Slovan is not easy at all, but we deserved to be in the final because in full strength we scored more goals than our opponent,” said Zvolen coach Peter Oremus.
The road to the final wasn’t easy for Poprad either. While they swept Detva 4-0 in the first round, the second one was tight.
They played against Michalovce, which had its first Extraliga playoff appearance in club history even though it came through a second-place finish in the regular season. And their performance proved it. They won their first two games at home, but then Poprad showed up their strength with four consecutive victories en route to the final.
“We went for it. Even when going 0-2 behind in the series, we showed an inside power of the team. I must praise the entire team because we wanted to reach the ultimate goal. But still, we are not where we wanted to be,” said Poprad forward Michael Vandas.
A couple days later Poprad they were beaten by Zvolen, which became champion of the Slovak Extraliga for the third time of the club history.
For Poprad it was only the second final experience in the Slovak Extraliga and they remain without a successful finish.
“Congratulate to Zvolen. I have big respect for every opponent. But at the same time, I am proud of our team. Everyone could be pleased to themselves. Since August we have worked so hard and we were whole season on the top of the league,” said David Skokan, who won the MVP honours with 15 points in the playoffs.
He was part of the dangerous line in the league with Patrik Svitana and Marcel Hascak, who led in regular-season scoring with 69 points.
“We all wanted to do our best. Our team had to fight in the final with many injuries, but we stuck together as one team. We had a good start, but it’s a shame how it all ended up even though I’m very thankful that I could be part of this team and fought with these guys on ice in every game,” added Hascak.
Spisska Nova Ves moving up
While Zvolen celebrates its title, a couple of days before similar celebrations happened in another Slovak town. Spisska Nova Ves surprised Zilina in the final of the second-tier league beating them 4-1 in the series to become a new member of the temporary expanding Extraliga.
Spisska Nova Ves jumped into the final series with two victories even on Zilina’s ice. This gave them chance to finish in the hometown, but they lost the third game 5-1.
Despite that Spisska Nova Ves didn’t let Zilina come back in the series. They won next two games and after a twelve-year absence they celebrated promotion back to the Slovak Extraliga.