Friday, March 23, 2012

Pardubice & Plzeň advance to semis with dramatic game 7 wins

A pair of dramatic seventh games this week rounded out the final four of the Czech Extraliga playoffs. On Tuesday night, Pardubice beat Víktovice in overtime and on Wednesday, Plzeň scored late in the third period to beat Zlín.

Pardubice 5 - 4 Vítkovice (overtime)
(Pardubice wins series 4-3)

Daniel Rákos wins it in overtime. Photo: Jan Jedlička,
The first 50 minutes of the game in Pardubice offered a fair amount of excitement for the fans of the two teams; three times the visitors from Ostrava took the lead and twice, once each in the first and second, the home team tied it. As the third period reached its midpoint, Roman Szturc's unassisted goal at 6:56 of the second period was the difference in the 3-2 hockey game, and a tone of nervousness was coming over the Pardubice fans. They were getting lots of chances, but Vítkovice goaltender Roman Málek was showing no chinks in his armour and they were slowly running out of time.

Then Petr Pohl was sent of for slashing, and the crowd became energized. Pardubice saw its chance, and capitalized, when Radovan Somík finished off a pretty passing play with 8:30 on the clock. The game was tied, but the drama was just starting.

Just 2:23 later, veteran Jiří Burger hushed the crowd when he deflected a shot from the point into the net. It was his second goal of the game, and his team's fourth go-ahead goal. Then Jan Kolář went off for slashing with 5:36 left.

By the time the minor penalty was killed off, there was only three and a half minutes left. With two minutes to go, goaltender Martin Růžička was lifted for a sixth attacker and Pardubice continued to get chances. Finally, with just 31 seconds on the clock, Martin Bartak fired home the tying goal, his second goal and third point of the game.

According to Extraliga rules, a seventh game that goes to overtime is not limited to ten minutes. However, in this game, not even one minute was needed. The intermission did not stop the scoring barrage, as Daniel Rákos fired a long shot that went over the shoulder of Málek at the 55-second mark to end the game and the series, send the Víktovice players and fans into sudden shock, and Pardubice players and fans into utter euphoria.

Plzeň 4 - 2 Zlín
(Plzeň wins series 4-3)

Celebrating the series-winning goal.
Photo: Milan Podpera,
The next day, in Plzeň, there was more drama for fans of Czech hockey. Again, it was a game that saw the visitors taking the lead and the home team tying it. Zlín led 1-0 after one period and led 2-1 late in the second when defenceman Jiří Hanzlík fired a shot from the point to even the score after 40 minutes.

Most of the third period was played in the end of Luboš Horčička, who was by far the busier of the two goaltenders on the night, but the Zlín keeper made several saves to keep his team's chances alive. In the game, Plzeň fired 52 shots at Horčička, while Adam Svoboda in the Plzeň goal faced 32, plus one shot that didn't count that almost cost his team the series.

With less than five minutes left, it looked like the visitors had pulled ahead. From behind the net, Zlín's Petr Leška received a pass in front and beat Svoboda with a quick shot. However, in the battle behind the net for the puck, the back of the net had come up and the referee quickly stopped play, blowing his whistle before the puck went into the net, which was back in position by the time it went in. The Zlín players on the ice pleaded for a video review, but it was not a reviewable play, as the whistle had gone before the puck entered the net.

Given a second win, Plzeň scored the series winner shortly afterward. With just over two minutes to play, Hanzlík fed a pass to Nick Johnson in the slot, and the American made no mistake, firing a perfect shot off the post and in, and causing the arena to erupt.

Radek Duda added an empty-net goal, his second tally of the game, to put it away.

As the highest seed remaining, Plzeň now plays Kometa Brno in the semifinals. Eighth-place Kometa pulled off a huge quarterfinal upset, eliminating the regular-season winning Sparta Praha in six games. The series begins on Monday. On Saturday, Pardubice hosts Bílí Tygři Liberec to start the other semifinal series.

From, here is the semifinal schedule. Home teams are listed first and all times are Central European. All games will be televised by ČT4 and streamed live and on-demand on its website. All games are also available live internationally at

Semifinal schedule
  HC Plzeň 1929 - HC Kometa Brno
Mon, 26.03.2012HC Plzeň 1929HC Kometa Brno19:10
Tue, 27.03.2012HC Plzeň 1929HC Kometa Brno17:40
Fri, 30.03.2012HC Kometa BrnoHC Plzeň 192918:10
Sat, 31.03.2012HC Kometa BrnoHC Plzeň 192918:10
*Mon, 02.04.2012HC Plzeň 1929HC Kometa Brno18:10
*Wed, 04.04.2012HC Kometa BrnoHC Plzeň 192917:40
*Fri, 06.04.2012HC Plzeň 1929HC Kometa Brno18:10
  HC ČSOB Pojišťovna Pardubice - Bílí Tygři Liberec
Sat, 24.03.2012HC ČSOB Pojišťovna PardubiceBílí Tygři Liberec18:10
Sun, 25.03.2012HC ČSOB Pojišťovna PardubiceBílí Tygři Liberec18:10
Wed, 28.03.2012Bílí Tygři LiberecHC ČSOB Pojišťovna Pardubice17:40
Thu, 29.03.2012Bílí Tygři LiberecHC ČSOB Pojišťovna Pardubice18:10
*Sun, 01.04.2012HC ČSOB Pojišťovna PardubiceBílí Tygři Liberec17:10
*Tue, 03.04.2012Bílí Tygři LiberecHC ČSOB Pojišťovna Pardubice17:40
*Thu, 05.04.2012HC ČSOB Pojišťovna PardubiceBílí Tygři Liberec18:10
* Game to be played if necessary.

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