Saturday, February 26, 2011

Plzeň and Karlovy Vary face elimination Saturday

A pair of Extraliga playoff games will be played in West Bohemia Saturday night, with each of the home teams facing elimination. To the surprise of many, Plzeň 1929 dropped both games in Litvínov and now must win three in a row to advance to the quarterfinals. Likewise, Energie Karlovy Vary lost twice in Prague, and now must run the table against Slavia to advance. In Plzeň, the teams will face off at 19:30 Central European Time (UTC +1) on, while the puck drops in Karlovy Vary at 19:40 on ČT4 Sport television and

"We are in a difficult position but we will fight. We haven't lost yet," said Plzeň left winger Tomáš Vlasák, who played 10 games for the Los Angeles Kings in 2000-01. Vlasák led the league this season with 30 goals and 68 points and linemate Martin Straka was tops in assists with 44 and second in points with 61. Both picked up a goal and an assist in the two games in Litvínov. In each game, Plzeň dug themselves a hole by falling behind by 2 goals in the first period, then spent the rest of the game trying to battle back. "Both games were very similar. It was more battling than pretty hockey. We weren't particularly successful in the first, Litvínov took advantage and deservedly won." 

 Assistant coach Milan Razým thinks that they can't rely too much on the duo of Vlasák and Straka, and must get some offensive production from other players. "We rely on them, but the opponent knows that and they put on a special defensive formation against them. But we are a team, so when the top five don't produce, we need others to step up, which didn't happen. We failed on the power play, we need to get that going."

Nick St. Pierre scored his first Extraliga goal Thursday, but Plzeň
still trails the series 2-0. Photo: Milan Podpera,
Plzeň did get a goal from one unexpected source in game two when defenceman Nick St. Pierre scored his first Extraliga goal. "The truth is the loss takes away the joy at the end of the game, but at the moment I was really very happy," said the 25-year-old native of St-Étienne, QC who went to Colgate University. He went goalless in 33 regular season games, but his slapshot in the second period of game two cut the deficit to 3-2. Plzeň ultimately lost 5-2. "But we're not playing badly, we're trying as hard as we can. The coach keeps reminding us that we have to work hard, really battle. And Martin Straka leads us on the ice."

For their part, Litvínov isn't counting their chickens before they hatch. "We're up 2-0, which is absolutely perfect so far and better than we expected, but we still have one step,"said assistant coach Jiří Kučera. He also said that injured forward Martin Ručinský will definitely not return before the end of this series.

Karlový Vary lost a pair of close games in Prague, 4-3 in overtime and 3-1. Coach Václav Baďouček is optimistic about his team's chances, and thinks they were unlucky to leave Prague down 2 games. "The difference is cashing in on our chances," he said. "We can create them, but in the end we didn't finish. We need to improve."

"I wouldn't count Karlovy Vary out at home," said Slavia assistant coach Jiří Čelanský. "They play good hockey, they have nothing to lose and will play hard."

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