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phelps

Ice Hockey 2016 - 2017 Discussion Thread

293 posts in this topic

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

2016/2017

 

  :AUT AUSTRIA :AUT

:champion: VIENNA CAPITALS :champion:

2nd EBEL League Title

 

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Vienna takes historic path

Capitals take EBEL without losing a playoff game

9k=

 

For the Vienna Capitals, the pressure for something special had been building over the course of several weeks, if not months, and now something very seldom in the world of ice hockey has become their reality.

Not only are the Vienna Capitals the new champion of the EBEL by defeating Klagenfurt 4-0 in the finals, they have achieved this by going undefeated throughout the entire playoffs.

This is the team’s first national title since the 2004/05 season.

“It’s been a simply crazy season in which we improved from game to game, having been at the top of the standings right from the beginning,” said an elatedly exhausted Raffi Rotter, a 10-year veteran of the club, who netted his second goal and 16th point of the playoffs before the five minute mark of the first period. “Winning here with this crowd is just crazy. Of course, it’s not comparable to the crowd in Vienna, but it’s a crazy feeling being on the road and having so many of our fans experience this moment with us. This is just an incredible thing right now.”

The two finalists kicked off the fourth and final game by exchanging leads in establishing a 2-2 draw within the first 19:09 of the contest. A second-period goal on a precise wrist shot by defenceman Ryan MacKiernan, his second tally of the playoffs, was then followed by a suffocating defensive display and several friendly posts over the last 34 minutes of the game, sealing off Vienna’s historic run with a 3-2 road victory.

MacKiernan’s lethal shot could only be topped by his post-game statement when asked how the team would be spending the night after this victory: “I think we’re going to head back home to get a good night’s sleep. Ah, no way, it’s going to be nuts! Thank you.”

But he sure wasn’t the only hero in putting the nail in the coffin. One of the interesting side stories was the play of back-up goalie David Kickert, an unassuming 23-year-old who has been with the organization since the 2009/10 season. Averaging 17 appearances a season over the past three years, he was called to action twice during the playoffs, including tonight’s series-clinching thriller, and only went about recording an astounding 95.2 save percentage and 0.96 goals against average in those two games.

This only seemed fitting for an organization that continually got contributions across the board and a young man who is felt to truly be on the rise in Austrian ice hockey, affirmed by his having been named the YoungStar before the playoffs. This award serves to honour the young talent in the league who took the greatest step in development.

The fashion in which the Capitals garnered this championship, winning every single one of their 12 playoff games, hasn’t been seen in quite some time, topping the already impressive 12 wins in 13 games achieved by Red Bull Salzburg in the 2014/15 season.

The victory also breaks the streak of two straight championships by the Red Bull Salzburg. This streak was actually already discontinued by Klagenfurt, whose march to the finals came somewhat unexpectedly on the heels of a 4-2 semi-final series victory over Salzburg, a team that had gathered 23 more points than Klagenfurt in the course of the regular season and qualification round. The veteran-laden KAC, as they are affectionately known, turned up its game when it mattered most and hoped to magically win their 6th championship in this century. The fairy tale ending would nonetheless belong to Vienna this season.

Klagenfurt’s path to the final included 4-0 series victory over Znojmo and then the rough and tumble 4-2 win over Salzburg while Vienna marched over Innsbruck and the Italian Bolzano Foxes undefeated in making the final. Despite a 4-0 series domination, the series was tighter than you’d initially expect. The games themselves ended with scores of 4-1, 5-4 (OT), 7-5, and now 3-2. The 7-5 victory included an empty netter, going to show that Klagenfurt kept itself in every game and never went down without a fight.

For both head coach Serge Aubin and assistant coach Craig Streu this season has been quite a wild ride. This time last year, both were wrapping up their seasons in Germany; Aubin with the DEL’s now defunct Hamburg Freezers, Streu with the Neuwied Bears, formerly of the Oberliga. Both hit the offseason already focused on a huge 2016/17 season with their respective clubs, however, still fully in the employ of their respective teams. Both ended up facing a shocking scenario in which their teams completely exited their respective leagues. As widely reported, there is no more Hamburg Freezers. The Neuwied Bears simply pulled out of the Oberliga in what became a shockingly controversial story and are now rebuilding their team in one of Germany’s western regional leagues.

In short, neither could have fathomed at this point last spring that they’d be coaching in Austria, much less winning the EBEL championship.

“It ended up being a wonderful season right from day one,” stated an elated Serge Aubin. “We went about establishing a new identity and putting together these 12 wins in a row is just unbelievable. We were a family where everyone pulled the line and anything was possible.”

“I was part of a fantastic group of people this year. We all worked hard together and it ended up all being worth it."

For assistant coach Craig Streu, whose son is currently suiting up for Germany’s U18 entry at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Bled, Slovenia, the experience has been nothing short of a fantastic journey. “I’m just feeling so good right now. I‘ve had to ask Serge if this really happening," recalls Streu.

“We are both so happy and proud of this season. For both of us it's our first championship as coaches and will always have a special place in our hearts. This group we had was one of a kind and even early in this season, we had a great feeling that we had the right pieces to go all the way.”

A Saskatchewan-native, who is also a former member of the German national team himself, Streu put the events of the past year, and Vienna’s accomplishments, into perspective. “The fact that both our teams dropped out for financial reasons in Germany and Serge and I ended up in Austria together to win a championship is truly amazing. But the situation is also something as a coach you can react to. It is just like being able to change your tactics during a game; you are always prepared for something and in this business we all know anything can happen."

“We were able to come together, establish our hockey culture and core values here in Vienna and the group really bought in. If you have a group that believes and you can get some momentum, anything is possible. Everything worked for us and the work everyone put it was rewarded."

Of course, this championship story couldn’t have been written without the vast contributions of forward Riley Holzapfel. After three rather mild seasons in the SHL, he pulled a ‘veni, vidi, vici’ of his own this season in Austria. Already named the league’s MVP before the finals, he was also named the Playoff MVP on the strength of 12 goals and 23 points in the 12-game journey. But that naturally was only the icing on the cake.

“I was asked about that in the middle of the series. It simply wouldn’t have been a complete or perfect season unless we got this championship. The MVP honour just tops everything off,” explained an elated Holzapfel. “It’s been a special ride all season and I’m just so happy we finished it off the right way.”

The former second round pick of the now defunct Atlanta Thrashers concluded the year with 34 goals, 42 assists, 76 points, and a +25 in 65 total games.

For the Vienna Capitals organization, there’ll be a good bit of celebrating and surely a variety of recognition events coming from various establishments around Vienna and Austria. Many players will go on vacation while a few others may report to the national team.

But all will head into the offseason knowing they made history this spring. As Streu sums up, “This is great group of guys who smashed League records all season and never lost focus on the big prize... and we earned it!”

They sure did. And with that undefeated path to the championship, they did so like few have before them.

 

 

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Friendly Matches

9th April 2017

 

Mens

 

Road to World Championships

France - Switzerland  3-2 After OT

 

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

2016/2017

 

  :POL POLAND :POL

:champion: CRACOVIA KRAKOW :champion:

12th League Title

 

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The million Zloty goal

Cracovia retains PHL title and keeps streak alive

9k=

The million Zloty goal: Cracovia Krakow wins Polish title in Game 7 coming back from 3-1 deficit in series.

 

Sports has its own undefinable laws. Polish hockey has one itself too. Since 2006, Cracovia Krakow and GKS Tychy have duelled for the Polish Hockey League title six times. For the sixth time Cracovia comes out on top leaving their rivals empty handed.

It was a rare lapse in concentration in an otherwise tight match. Less than a minute into overtime of game seven, Petr Sinagl was left all alone on centre ice receiving a pass from Damian Kapica. The Czech veteran sniper made no mistake and found a hole between the legs of Tychy netminder Stefan Zigardy with many fans still finding their way back to their seats; 2-1.

Sinagl’s goal not only meant an instant finish of the game but also completed a remarkable comeback in the 2016/17 Polish Hockey League final series. Being the top seed after having won the regular season, GKS Tychy took a commanding lead winning both games on home ice; 3-2 and 4-2 before the best-of-seven series moved to Krakow.

GKS Tychy were full of confidence entering game 3, not just boosted by the two earlier victories but also knowing that they had defeated their rivals five times during the regular season as well as in the Polish Cup final. Add to that an early 1-0 lead in game three and all the ingredients for a classic case of underestimation were present.

Not impressed by the early goal, Cracovia hit back hard with seven goals in less than 30 minutes to take make it a 7-2 lead, leaving the two late Tychy goals merely having statistical value. The 7-4 loss was supposed to be a wake-up call for the team of Czech GKS head coach Jiri Sejba.

Within a minute of game 4, they took the lead and won the all-important fourth game of the series and put themselves in an excellent position to win the league.

The reigning champions were not going to admit defeat that easily though and fought back with an away win themselves in game 5; 4-2 before tying up the series with another 4-2 victory that made a seventh game necessary to decide on the 2016/17 PHL finals outcome.

“It showed that we perform best when we have a knife on our throats,” commented Cracovia coach Rudolf Rohacek afterwards. “We are then able to show what character the lads are made of.”

Hockey in Krakow and Rudolf Rohacek are a match made in heaven. The 54-year-old Czech head coach arrived in one of Poland’s most beautiful cities 13 years ago and has been very successful ever since. To date the coach has won no less than 509 games resulting in seven league titles, two silver and two bronze medals. His resume also boasts two Polish Cup trophies and as many Polish Super Cups. No wonder Cracovia fans were delighted to hear Rohacek had extended his contract with the club for another three seasons.

One of the key members of Rohacek’s squad is goaltender Rafal Radziszewski, who has been part of each of championship-winning team led by the Czech coach.

“We have shown everyone you can’t break Cracovia,” said the 35-year-old goalie who kept his team in the series during the playoffs. “GKS Tychy had prepared everything for a celebration after game 5 and the arena was packed with noisy home fans but we weren’t in the mood for a party and didn’t give them a chance to cross that last “T”. We won that game and believed we were able to turn this series around.”

Cracovia now is also automatically qualified for the 2017/18 Champions Hockey League again being Poland’s representative. Last year’s CHL debutantes didn’t fare too well, losing all their games against Czech giants Sparta Prague and Sweden’s Farjestad Karlstad but Rohacek is looking forward to next year’s competition.

“Last year was great in terms of learning what is asked for at that level. Even though we lost all our games I believe we played some good games,” said Rohacek. “With that experience under our belts I’m confident we can do better next season.”

Players and fans in Tychy were arguing the value of yet another silver medal. All Polish teams would be proud of such an achievement other than Cracovia and GKS Tychy. All the more if one team has to feel the burden of carrying the load of six silver medals.

By retaining the Polish title, Cracovia now has 12 titles to show for and they will be rewarded with the largest ever bonus in Polish hockey history.

“We will stick to our promise to make one million Zloty (approx. €237,000) available to be split among the team,” team president Janusz Filipiak confirmed.

It is probably the most valuable shot Petr Sinagl has ever released from his stick in his career.

 

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Friendly Matches

11th April 2017

 

Mens

 

Road to World Championships

Slovenia - Hungary  2-1

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12th April 2017

 

Mens

 

Road to World Championships

Czech Republic - Norway  4-0

 

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

2016/2017

 

  :NOR NORWAY :NOR

:champion: STAVANGER OILERS :champion:

7th League Title

 

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Still Stavanger

Oilers win sixth consecutive championship

2Q==

For the seventh time in eight years the Stavanger Oilers celebrate the Norwegian title with their golden helmets

 

The Norwegian GET -Ligaen has always been a league of dynasties, dating all the way back to the 1930s when Grane won four titles in five years. The early 1950s were Furuset’s time, the early 1960s Gamlebyen’s and in the late 1960s, the league was dominated by Valerenga as the Oslo-based team won seven straight titles, and eight in nine years but then had to wait for a decade for its next championship. Between 1985 and 1993, Valerenga won the league six times. The late 1990s were the Storhamar era, as the Hamar-based team won four straight titles (and five in six years).

We entered the Stavanger Oilers dynasty at the beginning of this decade, and they haven’t yet reached the end as the oiltown’s aptly-named Oilers won their sixth consecutive Norwegian championship, beating Frisk Asker Tigers 5-2 in Game 6 of the best-of-seven final.

The two games they dropped to the Tigers were also the only games they lost in the post-season, having swept Stjernen and Sparta Warriors in the quarter-finals and the semi-finals, respectively.

The Oilers domination was complete as they also won the regular season title.

Pretty good for a team that played its first official game in 2001, in the Norwegian II division.

“This is unbelievably huge. It’s fantastic, we’ve been the best team from start to finish, and here we stand. It’s a great group of guys and I’m incredibly proud of them. This is wild,” said the Oiler’s 39-year-old coach Pal Kristian Guldbrandsen, who took the step from assistant to head coach this season, after five years as a player and then six as an assistant coach in the club.

“I think we were the best team, and played smart, except when we lost Game 2. This team is full of winners, and they proved it by rallying back in two straight games. Many people might crumble in situations like that, but not these guys. They refuse to lose,” he added.

The best team also had the top players. Stavanger’s goaltender Henrik Holm, the 2013 playoffs MVP, posted the best save percentage in the regular season and was the only goalie to start every single playoff game for his team. His goals against average in the 14 games was 1.93 and save percentage 93.0, up from 92.4 in the regular season.

The team’s American forwards Mark van Guilder and Dan Kissel finished first and second in both playoff and regular season scoring. Van Guilder won the regular season scoring race with 65 points in 45 games, Kissel was tied for first in goal scoring with 29 goals in 45 games. In the playoffs, they combined for 23 goals and 43 points in 14 games. They also led the plus/minus statistics in a convincing fashion. Van Guilder was plus-25 and Kissel plus-24 in the playoffs.

Both were voted into the First All-Star Team, and both earned contacts in Switzerland with NLB team EHC Visp.

One other key player also disappears, since the Oilers’ Christian Dahl Andersen, 36, has decided to hang ‘em up, having been a key player on the team during its entire dynasty. His eight Norwegian championships also include one with their 2017 opponent, Frisk Asker, in 2002.

“It’s fantastic to win the title with these guys. It’s great to win, but it’s sad that it’s over now,” he says.

He wasn’t talking about the Oilers era. We probably haven’t seen the last of them yet.

 

 

 

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Friendly Matches

13th April 2017

 

Mens

 

Road to World Championships

Czech Republic - Norway  6-3

Slovakia - Switzerland  1-2

Finland - Denmark  3-0

Russia - France  0-1 After OT

 

Again this disastrous shooting efficiency....another one of these typical our strange matches, clearly outshooting the opponent... but without scoring you can not win,

We absolutely need some strikers to come !!!

but well, the good side is it´s still only the preparation..but we clearly have big troubles with scoring, we can have million chances but we will not score goals even if the net will be empty, hopefully some scorers will arrive to help us at worlds..

next test match again against Switzerland Saturday in Žilina

 

and France :bowdown: !!! totally shitty the whole season, but now suddenly they won last week against SUI and now they won in Russia   ...Team France seems finally found the right way

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

2016/2017

 

  :KOR SOUTH KOREA :KOR

:champion: ANYANG HALLA :champion:

3rd Asian League Title

 

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Anyang defends title

Korean team wins Asia League again

2Q==

The Anyang Halla players celebrate after beating Morskie Lvy Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk from the Russian island of Sakhalin in three games to defend the Asia League title.

 

Anyang Halla has defended its Asia League title after beating Morskie Lvy Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk 3-0 in the best-of-five final. It’s the third championship for the Korean team and it’s only the second time a club has won back-to-back championships in the Asia League after now-defunct Kokudo Tokyo in 2005 and 2006.

The nine-team league included four club teams from Japan, three from Korea, one from China and one from the Russian island of Sakhalin.

In the end it was the two teams that dominated the league who found the way into the gold medal series. Anyang had a 41-7 record in the regular season, Sakhalin was second with a 36-12 record followed by the four Japanese teams Oji Eagles, defending champion Tohoku Freeblades, the Nippon Paper Cranes and the Nikko Ice Bucks. The two other Korean teams High1 from Goyang and the Daemyung Killer Whales missed the playoffs as did the China Dragon.

Anyang Halla finished the post season undefeated after beating the Tohoku Freeblades 2-0, 6-2 and 4-1 in the semi-finals where Sakhalin eliminated the Nikko Ice Bucks also in three games.

Anyang had home-ice advantage for the first three games in the finals and made use of it. After defeating the team from Sakhalin 6-2 and 4-0 during the weekend, everything looked set for a championship party in Game 3 for the team of Czech coach Patrick Martinec, who was also part of the championship-winning teams in 2010 (as a player) and 2011 (as an assistant coach).

But it wasn’t that easy. Eric Regan and Sang Hoon Shin brought Anyang the lead twice but the Russians answered with goals from Timofei Shishkanov and Ruslan Bernikov forcing overtime. There Korean national team veteran Ki Sung Kim scored the championship-winning goal for Anyang Halla on the power play at 2:57 and became the playoff’s top goal scorer with five markers. His teammate Sang Hoon Shin was the scoring leader in the playoffs with ten points while Sang Wook Kim co-lead the regular season in scoring with Tohoku’s Matt Pope, both with 68 points, and was named MVP of the regular season. Former KHL player Ruslan Bernikov, who captained the team from Sakhalin, was the best goal scorer in the regular season with 36 markers.

Once dominated by North American imports, the top-five scorers of Anyang were Koreans this year followed by the likes of Mike Testwuide, Eric Regan and Alex Plante, who today received Korean citizenship and could potentially represent the country soon. Brock Radunske missed the last part of the season due to injury.

Anyang Halla also had the best goaltender in Matt Dalton, who had a 93.85 save percentage in the regular season – a number that even rose to 95.93 in playoff play and earned him a Playoff MVP award. For the Ontario-born netminder it was his third and strongest season in the Asia League. He has in the meantime obtained Korean citizenship and plays a key role on the Korean national team that will compete in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games on home ice and later this month in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A.

With the season finished in the Asia League, it’s now time for the national teams. While Korea will compete for promotion to the top division in Kyiv from 22 to 28 April against Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Austria and host Ukraine, the Japanese national team hopes for an immediate return to the second tier.

Japan will play in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Belfast from 23 to 29 April against host Great Britain, Lithuania, Croatia, Estonia and the Netherlands.

 

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Friendly Matches

14th April 2017

 

Mens

 

Road to World Championships

Sweden - Latvia  4-1

Belarus - Germany  3-1

 

Other Matches

Great Britain - Poland  1-4

 

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

2016/2017

 

  :FRA FRANCE :FRA

:champion: LES RAPACES DE GAP :champion:

4th League Title

 

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Birds of Prey

Gap wins Ligue Magnus; dethrones Rouen

2Q==

Despite a budget cut and many players leaving the Gap Rapaces improved and won the French Ligue Magnus.

 

For the second time in three years the Gap Rapaces won the French Ligue Magnus. Three straight wins against last year’s champions Rouen were the key to a 4-2 series victory and having entered the top-5 of most successful French hockey teams in history.

Located in the south-eastern part of France, neighbouring the Alps, Gap counts less than 50,000 inhabitants but its hockey team is working miracles carrying only the eighth-largest budget in the league (€1,3 million).

Having already overtaken Grenoble and Chamonix, the Rapaces (birds of prey in French) have expanded their territory and are now battling further up north where giants Rouen Dragons have been a dominant force with seven titles in the last decade and a budget twice a high as Gap’s.

Entering the playoffs as the top seed, Gap first disposed themselves of Epinal in four games and then outclassing Bordeaux in the last two games of the semi-final series. A tied series after four games was concluded with two convincing victories; 4-0 and 5-1 setting up a repeat of last year’s semi-final against third-seeded Rouen.

The Dragons delivered the first punch by winning Game 1 in Gap in overtime; 3-2. The exact same result was on the scoreboard in Game 4. After both teams had exchanged victories, the Rapaces evened the series with an overtime win and gaining a huge confidence booster ahead of Game 5 on home ice.

The all important fifth game was even for 40 minutes with both teams finding the net twice. Outshooting their opponents 19-5 in the third period, it was a miracle only Christian Isackson was able to put the puck behind a stellar Dany Sabourin. Yet the narrow victory came fully deserved.

The first period of game six was a true roller coaster for Rouen. The Dragons took a 1-0 lead after just 19 seconds thanks to a Marc-Andre Thinel forcing the puck across the line but then fell behind within 15 minutes and also saw goaltender Sabourin being expelled from the game with a game misconduct for a challenge of Maurin Bouvet.

The Canadian veteran was replaced by Quentin Papillon, who on this exact day was celebrating his 20th birthday. Although he played admirably well, the young French goaltender wasn’t given the birthday present he had hoped for.

Despite a ferocious second period in which Rouen limited Gap to just a single shot on goal, it was Gap forward Cedric di Dio Balsamo, who was lethal with the one shot. The goal restored the lead after Francois-Pierre Guenette had tied the game up midway the second period with a power play goal.

Entering the final period with a one-goal lead, Gap was playing conservatively while Rouen lacked the tools to break open the tight defence. In the dying moments with the net empty it was Christian Isackson again who put the dagger into the dragon’s heart by converting an empty net opportunity with 12 seconds left to play.

“We were too inconsistent this season,” admitted Rouen’s head coach Fabrice Lhenry. “We will have to improve in that area next season in order to be successful. Gap was a consistent force all season and deservedly has won this title.”

Gap forward Anthony Rech was voted the playoff MVP after already having won the same title for the regular season. In the post season he scored 11 goals and 20 points in just 14 games. Not awarded for his achievement but being influential for this year’s success was goaltender Clement “Fouky” Fouquerel. Not only did he post the best goals against average totals (2.45) but he also boasted the highest save percentage with 90.7%.

A third pillar behind the rise of the birds is not to be found on the ice but behind the bench. Italo-Canadian coach Luciano Basile is quickly making a name for himself in the world of hockey having now captured three French league titles in four years’ time. Twice he won the title with Gap (2015 and 2017) while he also led Briancon to its last title in 2014. Despite the success, Basile will be leaving the team as he had announced his departure earlier this season.

“The departure of 18 players of last year’s squad proved to be a blessing in disguise,” said Basile. “When working with a limited budget there’s no option to plan for the long term. It does allow me to rebuild and select young French players who believe in my project that is aimed to win. Add to that the special qualities of North American college and university players who always possess great leadership and determination to win and the foundation to a solid squad that plays a modern and aggressive game are set.”

The coach remains modest about his own achievements but is speaking his pride of his team that continued to perform despite the message that their coach would leave after this season.

“The players could have responded negatively, but there were no signs of the team being demoralized but they all showed character all the way until the end. This group has been given me so much pleasure to coach.”

While Gap’s top players like Patrick McEachen, Sean Ringrose, Fouquerel and Rech have signed or will most likely sign elsewhere, Basile does not yet know where he’ll be coaching next season.

Basile: “Time will tell. I do not regret my decision. I have always enjoyed working with a tight budget as it forced me to go beyond my limits.”

Birds were not given wings to sit in a tree and observe. They should use what was given to them to the fullest. The birds from Gap have shown what that could lead to.

 

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Friendly Matches

15th April 2017

 

Mens

 

Road to World Championships

Russia - France  6-0

Sweden - Latvia  3-4 After GWS

Finland - Denmark  2-3 After OT

Belarus - Germany  1-2

Slovakia - Switzerland  0-3

 

Once again the same ...we need desperately a scorer !!! this is the main problem of this preparation. we need some scorers to come, because this is just a tragedy, we play well, we outshoot opponents, but we can´t score even a single goal from million occasions..this is just frustrating...hopefully it will be better already in next camp.

Next week 2 test matches against Finland in Bratislava and Košice.

Looking forward to see who will be invited for the 3rd camp.

 

Other Matches

Great Britain - Poland  5-4 After GWS

Slovenia - Kazakhstan  1-2 After GWS

 

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Yesterday started the Slovak national championship final between Banská Bystrica and Nitra. Unfortunately HC Košice this year finished surprisingly their journey already in the quarterfinals...just the sign of a totally disastrous season :spank:

 

Banská Bystrica won 4-1 and is now leading the best of 7 serie 1-0. Today the second match again In Banská Bytrica (the regular season winner)

 

here the highlights of Game 1

 

 

and some vids about the atmosphere in Bystrica during yesterdays match

 

Spoiler

 

 

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16th April 2017

 

Mens

 

Road to World Championships

Italy - Austria  0-2

 

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

2016/2017

 

  :LAT LATVIA :LAT

:champion: HK KURBADS :champion:

1st League Title

 

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Kicking the habit

HK Kurbads hoists first Latvian league title

17795771_1217747338338202_69686446581521

 

Seemingly cursed for life as second best, HK Kurbads from the town of Ogre clicked into gear when it mattered the most to win their first Latvian championship trophy.

Losing out in three consecutive Latvian championship playoff finals series between 2014 to 2016, perennial silver medallists HK Kurbads looked destined to once again head down that same well-trodden path of disappointment in 2017.

Trailing 0-3 in games in the best-of-seven final series against Mogo Riga, this crop of HK Kurbads players proved however to be made of much sterner stuff that their predecessors as they staged a remarkable fightback to claim four straight victories to prevail 4-3 in the championship series.

The decisive game completing the turnaround saw HK Kurbads win 2-1 on the road on with head coach Peteris Ostosovs relying on three veterans leading the way to glory. A disciplined defensive display saw Martins Raitums being in inspiring form between the pipes, while team captain and blueliner Toms Bloks lead by example to fire his team in front on power play before the winner was scored by Edgars Brancis. HK Kurbads' Toms Hartmanis also stood out and received the Most Valuable Player award.

Based in the town of Ogre, home of 30,000 and 36 kilometres east of the capital Riga, HK Kurbads finished second in the standings behind Mogo Riga during the regular season in the seven-team strong Virsliga. En route to winning gold, they first eliminated HK Zemgale/LLU 3-2 in matches during a tricky semi-final series before Mogo Riga awaited in the finals.

Led by inspirational top marksman Elvis Zelubovskis, Mogo Riga raced clear to edge HK Kurbads during the first three close fought encounters (3-1, 3-2, 3-2) and seemed to be cruising towards their second championship in three years.

By the time game four came around HK Kurbads looked destined to once again wilt under pressure. In front of their home supporters and with the game locked at 1-1, HK Kurbads got themselves into double trouble. A Koba Jass misconduct penalty at 22:15 was followed by boarding call on Aleksandrs Galkins 25:13. Mogo Riga went going for the killer blow but hanging on by the skin of its teeth, HK Kurbads weathered the storm before stepping up a gear to hit four answered goals in around nine minutes before the second frame came to a close. Steaming ahead to win game four 7-4 following a sudden goal explosion shifted the momentum into HK Kurbads favour which they never relinquished.

They won game number 4-3 on the road, followed it up by a 4-1 win in front of their home fans and when crunch time came calling during the decisive seventh game, HK Kurbads powered ahead with the goal sealing the historical win arriving with 2:54 left of the game and scored by 31-year-old Brancis, who had returned to his native Latvia after starting the season in the MOL League with SC Csikszereda.

With Continental Cup hockey now awaiting HK Kurbads, its inaugural championship trophy comes at a time as changes loom around the corner for the club formed in 1996. A new ice arena set to be inaugurated during the close season will see HK Kurbads move into their new facilities further up the Daugava river in the Latgale suburb of Riga, as a new exciting chapter is set to start in the club's history as reigning Latvian champions and the team to beat.

 

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

2016/2017

 

  :WHT KHL :WHT

:champion: SKA ST. PETERSBURG :champion:

2nd KHL Title

 

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