Sunday, April 10, 2011

Vítkovice stays alive with shootout win

Down three games to none in the Extraliga final, Vítkovice had the nearly impossible task of needing four straight victories to win the title. Their uphill climb got ever-so-slightly more probable with a 5-4 shootout victory on Saturday.

Ondřej Šedivý opens the shootout with a goal, as nervous Vítkovice
fans watch in anticipation. Photo: Petr Kotala,
In what can best be described as a see-saw battle, which saw three lead changes, Třinec led 1-0 and 2-1 before Vítkovice tied it late in the first period. They then scored the only goal of the second, when Peter Húževka converted on a power play after Třinec had been called for having too many players on the ice.

Vítkovice managed to protect their slim margin for half of the third period, but Třinec clearly wanted this to be the final game. First Martin Lojek tied the game with a blast from the point on the power play to tie the score. Then, only a minute and a half later, Lukáš Krajiček made a great play behind the Vítkovice goal, making a one-handed pass out in front while he was being pinned against the boards. In an example of a terrible defensive breakdown, Ladislav Kohn was able to skate untouched to the front of the net and fire Krajiček's pass top shelf over a stranded Roman Málek, giving Třinec a 4-3 lead with 7:53 to play.

Třinec now seemed to be brimming with confidence and Vítkovice seemed to be reeling. Television coverage saw the league's large-yet-generic-looking championship trophy being readied. The contingent of Třinec fans in the building were jumping, literally, while the majority of the home fans were quiet, and not many people would likely have bet on a Vítkovice victory at that point.

However, they were given a breath of life when Martin Richter was sent off for holding with 2:57 left, and the team called a timeout and pulled the goaltender, giving them a six-on-four advantage. Třinec managed to kill off the power-play by effectively icing the puck. In the last minute, Jan Peterek had a golden chance to put the game and the series away, but his shot from the neutral zone missed the empty net by cetimetres. Vítkovice recovered and, two passes later, Jan Kaňa was flying down the right wing and fired a shot at Peter Hamerlík. He stopped the shot, but couldn't control the rebound, and Lukáš Klimek pounced on the loose puck and fired it over a fallen Hamerlík to tie the score with 30 seconds remaining.

In overtime, Třinec still clearly wanted to finish off the series and had the best scoring opportunities, but Málek made a couple of point-blank season-saving stops. After a scoreless period, the game went to a shootout. Ondřej Šedivý and Viktor Ujčik scored on Vítkovice's first two attempts, while Málek denied both shooters he faced, sealing the victory for the home side.

"I'm not often in shootouts," said the 21-year-old Šedivý, a little-used winger who scored 3 goals in 30 games this season. "But recently, I was scoring in practices and the coach said to me that if there's a shootout, I'll go. So I went, I tried what I wanted and luckily it worked."

After two days off, the series will resume on Tuesday in Třinec. Oceláři will then have a chance to win its first championship on home ice.

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