Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wild finish to Jr Extraliga quarterfinals

After the weekend's events, the eight remaining teams in the Junior Extraliga have been reduced to four. Sparta Praha, Slavia Praha, and Energie Karlovy Vary all completed sweeps of their best-of-three quarterfinal series on Saturday. Meanwhile, Orli Znojmo beat out PSG Zlín in a series where the road team won each game, despite the efforts of Zlín star Petr Holík, who gave Bill Mosienko's hat-trick record a challenge.

After needing overtime to beat Oceláři Třinec in game 1, Slavia was completely dominant at home in game 2, winning easily 9-3. The Slavia junior team possesses an impressive group of 17-year-old players on its roster, many of whom will be seen at next month's U18 World Championships, and the most impressive of them all is Dmitrij Jaškin. Despite his age, he truly looked like a man among boys on the ice at Eden Arena on Saturday. Tomáš Hertl and Pavel Klhůfek both notched 4 points. For Třinec, 17-year-old defenceman Filip Pavlík is their most noticeable player, quarterbacking the power-play, killing penalties, and seemingly always on the ice.

At the north end of the city, in Holešovice, Sparta needed overtime to eliminate Benzina Litvínov 2-1. Litvínov actually led a fast-paced game 1-0 until Daniel Přibyl tied the score with 4:07 left in regulation time. In the first minute of overtime, Tomáš Rubeš finished off a goalmouth scramble by shovelling in the loose puck. Přibyl and Rubeš assisted on each other's goals, and the 18 year olds are both candidates to play in next year's World Junior Championships.

In the surprise of the first round, seventh-ranked Karlovy Vary finished off a two-game sweep of second-ranked Vítkovice Steel on Saturday. Vítkovice had a 2-0 lead on home ice and was 20 minutes away from extending the series, but they were outscored 4-1 in the third period and lost 4-3. Michal Vachovec scored the winning goal with 5:34 remaining, to go along with 2 assists.

Wild scramble in front of the Znojmo (red) goal. Photo: Petr
Sagner, Zlín Press,
In the most interesting series of the Junior Extraliga quarterfinals, Zlín won the opening game in Znojmo and went home with a chance to wrap up the series. With game 2 tied 2-2 with 8 minutes remaining in regulation time, Znojmo scored 3 times in 4:29 to seemingly wrap up the game. At that point, Petr Holík took matters into his own hand and produced a natural hat trick on one shift, 51 seconds to be exact, and tied the score to send it to overtime. However, in overtime, Znojmo's Martin Plánek scored his second of the game to force a third and decisive game on Sunday.

On Sunday, Znojmo scored twice in the second and held that lead until late in the third, when Holík scored for Zlín with 2:11 left in regulation time. In the dying seconds, there was a wild goalmouth scramble in which Holík and Jakub Šlahař both took whacks at the puck and it eventually ended up in the net, a fraction of a second after the expiration of time. Ondřej Kacetl kept the puck out of the net long enough to preserve the victory for Znojmo, and send them into the semifinals.

The semifinals begin Tuesday, with Sparta at Karlovy Vary and Slavia at Znojmo. Both series return to Prague on Thursday and then Friday, if necessary. Times are yet to be announced.

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