Thursday, April 7, 2011

Vítkovice goes home in 0-2 hole, disappointed but confident

After a sloppy performance in game 1, Vítkovice Steel was looking to get back to playing their type of hockey in game 2. For 58 minutes, they played exactly the type of game that they wanted.

Třinec's Václav Varaďa breaks the 0-0 tie with 1:01 to play.
Photo: Marian Ježowicz,
For 58 minutes, they kept all of Třinec's big guns in check, and did so by playing typically strong-yet-disciplined Vítkovice hockey. Martin Růžička, an offensive stalwart who has averaged 2 points per game over this year's playoff run, was handcuffed and barely noticed. Even when they did take a penalty, they were strong on the kill, rendering the normally lethal Třinec power-play largely ineffective.

If Vítkovice had managed to score a goal in those 58 minutes, they might have got the result they wanted. But Třinec's defence was equally stingy, as they seemed content to play this style and bide their time until they got their chance. With overtime looming, they got it.

When Pavel Trka was sent off for hooking with 1:45 to play, the Třinec power-play went to work. And work is a good description of how they scored, as it was more the result of brawn than skill.

Just over a minute before the end of regulation time, Vítkovice goaltender Roman Málek tried to cover a loose puck in a mad scramble in front of the goal. A mass of bodies and the puck ended up in the net, as Václav Varaďa managed to force it over the line. "I knocked the puck, stopped it, I kept it in front of me, but that's about all I know," said Málek, trying to describe what happened. "The player who scored the goal fell on me and about half of my body was already over the goal line."

An empty-net goal by Martin Adamský made the final score 2-0. After being kept in check most of the game, Růžička managed to fill his 2-point quota by assisting on both goals. That extends his playoff record to 30 points in 15 games.  

In the Třinec goal, Peter Hamerlík stopped all 25 shots he faced. He added to his league-leading 6 shutouts during the regular season by recording his second of the playoffs. Málek stopped the first 24 he faced.

"We played a great game, it hurts a lot," the defeated goaltender continued after the game. "For sixty minutes we worked like horses and didn't get anything. We have to get it done at home. The third game especially will be tremendously important."

For all the disappointment, the veteran players on the team still aren't panicking. "I think we played a lot better than the first game. Although we spent some time on the penalty kill, which cost us a lot of energy, the performance was definitely not bad," commented veteran defenceman Marek Malík. "We just have try to win the two games at home, like Třinec did."

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