|Petr Sýkora. Photo: hcplzen.cz.|
For Plzeň, the line of Jaroslav Hlinka, Ondřej Kratěna and Pavel Mrňa scored three of their goals, all at even strength. All three players are summer acquisitions for Plzeň, and all are products of the Sparta Praha organisation. "We came here to win," said Kratěna after the game. On his linemates, whom he is familiar with from their Sparta days, he said, "Jarda is the kind of player who you really can't put a price on, and Pavel is very studious, fits in well with us."
The other two were power-play markers by Sýkora, both assisted by Martin Straka. Straka, who turns 39 on Saturday, is now tied for third place in tournament scoring with 8 points.
The win means that Plzeň becomes the first team to qualify for the Red Bull Salute, as they are now 4 points clear of second-place Slovan Bratislava, who have only one game left. Third-place Mountfield České Budějovice could still catch them, as they are 5 points back but still have three games to play. With two games in hand on Slovan, Mountfield is in a good position to take the East Division's second playoff spot.
On Thursday, Mountfield will make up one of those games when they travel to Salzburg to take on Red Bull, while Bílí Tygři Liberec hosts Adler Mannheim in an important South Division match-up.
While they have not mathematically clinched a spot in the Red Bull Salute yet, HC Pojišťovna Pardubice has one all but wrapped up and can secure it on Thursday, even though they are idle. If Mannheim concedes a point to Liberec or HV71 concedes 2 at Färjestads, they're in. They just need Mannheim to get fewer than 6 points over their final two games, HV71 to get fewer than 5 points over their final two games, or failing that pick up a single point in their last game at Plzeň on Tuesday. Any one of those scenarios will help Pardubice join Plzeň in the Elite Eight.
To that end, Liberec can aid Pardubice's hopes on Thursday with a win, but helping their countrymen is the furthest thing from their mind. Liberec only trails Mannheim by a pair of points and can leap-frog over them and into a second-place tie with HV71 with a win.
Mountfield's game in Salzburg can be seen streaming online, starting at 19:15 CET at europeantrophy.com/livesalzburg.php.
Complete tournament standings and statistics can be found here.
The tournament schedule, with live commentary on games in progress and summaries of completed games, can be found here.