Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Slavia celebrates 110th anniversary with shootout win

Czech hockey legend Augustin Bubník acknowledges the
crowd before dropping the puck between captains Martin
Straka (left) of Plzeň and Marek Tomica of Slavia. Photo:
Pavel Vrtiška,
It is sometimes said that O2 Arena is too large for the needs of the Czech Extraliga, and perhaps that's true on many nights. But when a special occasion takes place, it can definitely provide the needed big-league atmosphere.

The pre-game ceremony involving Slavia stars from the past and the appearance of both teams, sporting uniforms of years gone by, gave everyone the feeling that this was a special night. And when the game got underway, the home team wasted little time in bringing the crowd to its feet.

Petr Jelínek scored for Slavia just 39 seconds after the opening face-off, but Plzeň 1929 showed that they weren't just going to be polite guests on this evening. Jakub Jeřábek set up league scoring leader Tomáš Vlasák to tie the score seven minutes later. It was the first of 3 assists on the night for Jeřábek, who was the Czech captain at the World Junior Championships, and the first of 2 goals for Vlasák.

After a scoreless second period, the teams traded 2 goals each in under 10 minutes in the first half of the third period, and then the sticks went silent again, as regulation time and then overtime finished with the score tied 3-3. After the first round of shooters finished with the shootout tied 2-2, Tomáš Svoboda came for his second attempt and scored to give Slavia the lead. Goaltender Miroslav Kopřiva then stopped Martin Straka to end the game.

Radek Duda, the Plzeň winger who has recently been in the news for his involvement in a traffic incident in Karlovy Vary last week, was notably absent from their lineup. Also missing was defenceman John Slaney of St. John's, NL, who has now missed the last 7 games with a concussion. Earlier in the year, he missed 11 games with a broken jaw.

Despite the loss, Plzeň picked up a point, and is now tied for ninth place with Energie Karlovy Vary, who lost 5-3 in Mladá Boleslav. Falling out of the playoff picture for now is Kometa Brno, who lost 5-2 on home ice to Mountfield České Budějovice. Once tied for third place, Kometa is 3-1-0-14 in its last 18 games on the 3-2-1-0 points scale. Climbing to eighth place is Benzina Litvínov, who now has 4 wins and a shootout loss in the 5 games since making a coaching change with their surprising 3-1 victory over first-place Oceláři Třinec.

Třinec now shares first with Bílí Tigři Liberec, who shut out Vagnerplast Kladno 3-0. Rounding out the night's action were two more shutouts: PSG Zlín over Sparta Praha 3-0 and Eaton Pardubice over a floundering Vítkovice Steel squad, 4-0. Once league-leaders, Vítkovice is now tied for third with Zlín, 7 points behind Třinec and Liberec.

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