Monday, March 28, 2011

Vítkovice advances to finals, Slavia 1 win away

There will be a new champion of the Czech Extraliga in 2011, as defending champion Eaton Pardubice was eliminated in the semifinals. On Sunday, Vítkovice Steel became the first team to qualify for this year's final with a 3-2 shootout victory to win the series, four games to one.

Vítkovice played early on like they wanted to finish the series and scored in the early going, but the goal was negated after a lengthy video review determined that the net was slightly ajar. Undaunted, the home team kept the pressure on and quickly got a pair of goals 45 seconds from Petr Vrána and Viktor Ujčík apart for a 2-0 lead. The score stayed that way into the third period when Pardubice got a quick pair of its own. Petr Koukal finally solved Roman Málek on a power-play and then Aleš Píša tied the game 45 seconds later. After no goals were scored in 10 minutes of overtime or in the first five rounds of the shootout, Jiří Burger beat Martin Růžička in round six for the series-winning goal. Ružička relieved Adam Svoboda in the Pardubice net, who stopped 40 shots in 70 minutes of hockey.

"For me, personally, that we finished so quickly," began Ujčík, regarding the importance of finishing off the series in 5 games. "Of course, (age) 39 is around the corner and we won four games to one, so that's perfect. I can rest a bit, definitely mentally and physically."

"I don't ever want to wish to play anybody," he continued, when asked who he wanted to face in the final. "But if I have to say who I really want this time, it would be Slavia," said the ex-Slavia and Třinec forward.

They could find out their opponent as early as Monday night, as Slavia Praha travels to Třinec to try to wrap up that series; they currently lead it 3-1. Třinec, who were the league's top team during the regular season, won the first game but have now lost three in a row, including two in Prague on Friday and Saturday.

Miroslav Kopřiva turned away everything he faced on Saturday
night. Photo: Pavel Vrtiška,
On Friday night, Slavia's Vladimír Roth opened the scoring in the first period and then finished it with a goal in overtime, as Slavia won 4-3 to take the lead in the series. The following night, goaltender Miroslav Kopřiva was the hero, as he stopped all 37 shots he faced in a 4-0 victory. The game was played before a crowd of 13,052, the largest of the Extraliga playoffs so far, but a number sure to be eclipsed if Slavia advances to the final.

Game 5 goes Monday at 18:10 in Třinec, and will be televised live on ČT4.

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