Friday, March 25, 2011

Defending champs Pardubice on the brink

After winning eight consecutive playoff games at home, Eaton Pardubice dropped back-to-back games against Vítkovice Steel on Wednesday and Thursday, and now find themselves in a very difficult situation.

After earning a split on the road to start the series, Pardubice looked to be in a good position heading to the friendly confines of (their) ČEZ Arena. However, they were stymied by Vítkovice goaltender Roman Málek in game 3, who stopped all 34 shots he faced, and lost 3-0, creating a nearly-must-win situation in game 4. They turned in a solid performance and, on the strength of second-period goals by Tomáš Zohorna and Jan Starý, were three minutes away from evening the series. However, Petr Vrána tied the score with 2:47 remaining in regulation time and then struck again in overtime to capture the game for Vítkovice, giving them a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Pardubice will have to get more traffic in front of Vítkovice goalie
Roman Málek of they hope to prolong their title defence. Photo:
Jan Jedlička,
The defending champions now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to win three games in a row, two of which would be on the road. Their biggest challenge seems to be a way to solve Málek in the Vítkovice goal, who has been nearly unbeatable.

"More traffic in front of the net, shooting more and going hard at Málek for loose pucks," was Starý's suggestion for what they have to do better. "Continue working hard, but especially around the net, not letting up there."

The series resumes on Sunday at Ostrava's ČEZ Arena, where Vítkovice will try to advance to the finals.

On Friday and Saturday, the other semifinal series resumes in Prague, with Slavia hosting Oceláři Třinec in games 3 and 4. The series is tied 1-1.

Friday is a busy day for die-hard Slavia hockey fans. The U20 team can advance to the Junior Extraliga finals with a win over Orli Znojmo at Eden. That game begins at 15:30. Fans then will quckly have to travel from Kubánské náměstí to Českomoravská to catch the opening faceoff at O2 Arena at 18:10.

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