Saturday, December 17, 2011

And then there were none: Czech teams swept out of RBS quarters

With three teams in the field of eight at the Red Bulls Salute, there was a decent chance of a Czech team winning the 2011 European Trophy, or at least qualifying for the finals. Instead, all three lost their quarterfinal match-ups and will now battle for fifth to eighth places. České Budějovice was blown out by Jokerit Helsinki, while Plzeň and Pardubice both lost close ones.

Pardubice goaltender Martin Růžička had a lot of traffic to deal
with in Salzburg. GEPA-Pictures, 
In the early game in Vienna, the South Bohemian club which plays under the corporate name Mountfield stayed close for one period. After Ben Eaves opened the scoring early for Jokerit, Jiří Šimánek tied it on a rebound after goaltender Frans Tuohimaa had stopped Pavel Kašpářik on a breakaway but was unable to freeze the puck. Less than two minutes later, however, Antti Kerälä put the Finnish club back in front to stay. Not even the goaltending of Jakub Kovář, who was kept off the Czech national team this weekend, could help his team's cause. Three goals in the first half of the second period put it away, and the game eventually finished 7-2.

In the latter two games, which ran concurrently, HC Plzeň 1929 took on Swedish club Luleå HF in Vienna and HC ČSOB Pojišťovna Pardubice played an EC Red Bull squad that was on its home ice in Salzburg.

Plzeň fell behind 1-0 in the second, then got an equalizing goal on a blast from Jan Kovář early in the third period. After killing off a late penalty, captain Martin Straka got a chance to win it on a breakaway in the dying seconds. However, the combination of chasing down the puck and trying to get his shot off in time caused him to lose his balance and the save was a relatively easy one for David Rautio. After a scoreless five-minute overtime period, the game was decided in a shootout.  Luleå's second shooter, Johan Harju, scored the only goal, one which goaltender Adam Svoboda actually re-directed into his own net. Rautio stopped all three shots he faced to vault his team into the semi-finals.

Pardubice was the Czech Republic's last chance to be represented in the tournament's final four, but they fell 2-1 to the host team. All the scoring was done in a five-minute span late in the second period. Petr Koukal scored Pardubice's lone goal, but Tyler Redenbach scored the game-winner with 1:25 to go in the middle frame. Late in the third, Martin Růžička was pulled for a sixth attacker, but the Czech visitors were unable to beat goaltender Marty Turco.

Saturday's semifinal match-ups will be Jokerit against Luleå and Salzburg against Linköpings HC, who beat fellow Swedish club Frölunda in the other quarterfinal. In placement games, Frölunda plays Pardubice in Salzburg, while Plzeň and Budějovice play each other in Vienna.

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