Saturday, April 9, 2011

Třinec 1 win away from 1st national championship

Until now, Třinec has never won a Czechoslovak or Czech national championship, but in 2011 they seem to have all the earmarks of a champion. Whatever strategy their opponent wants to employ to combat them, they are more than happy to engage.

Martin Růžička tied the game at 1 on a first-period two-man
advantage. Photo: Marian Ježowicz,
Wednesday night, Vítkovice Steel did a good job of shutting down the dangerously offensive Třinec squad for most of the game, but like a champion, Oceláři didn't force things, but confidently sat back, played solid defence, and waited for their opportunity.

When the series shifted to Ostrava on Friday night, Vítkovice entered the game with the apparent realization that they would need to score in order to win. On their home ice, fueled on by their home crowd, Vítkovice attacked hard out of the gate and got the first goal of the game halfway through the opening period when Petr Vrána re-directed an airborne puck past Peter Hamerlík.

Late in the period, however, Vítkovice was down two men and its penalty killers weren't able to cover Martin Růžička, leaving him unchecked at the side of the net, and David Květoň found him with a perect pass across the goalmouth. Mirroring his play throughout the playoffs, Růžička made no mistake converting it, and the game was tied.

On a second period power-play, Vítkovice looked to regain the lead, but a bad pass in the neutral zone resulted in an Erik Hrňa short-handed breakaway. Roman Málek made one save from point-blank range, then another when Hrňa recovered his own rebound. A few minutes later, Vítkovice turned over the puck at the Třinec blueline, resulting in an odd-man break. Málek bailed his team out once more on the initial shot, but this time Jiří Polanský fired home the rebound to give Třinec a 2-1 lead. Late in the period, Martin Adamský scored a back-breaking goal on yet another breakaway, and Třinec went into the final 20 with a two-goal lead. 

By this time, frustration was beginning to show on the Vítkovice side. Marek Malík, who is looked upon for leadership, drove Růžička head-first into the boards and was penalized. Ružička seemed to have a cut on his lip, but was otherwise alright. Jan Peterek added a late insurance marker, and Třinec won 4-1 to take a 3-0 stranglehold on the series.

"We expected a difficult game and it was. Vitkovice came at us hard at the start, put pressure on us, forced us to take penalties and took the lead," was how Třinec coach Pavel Marek saw the early part of the game. 

"Then it was fortunate that we managed to score on the two-man advantage because it was critical to the development of the game. We kept it balanced because we didn't want to let Vítkovice put more pressure on us, so we played very carefully. We had a great deal of luck. Then we managed to score a second goal. Peter Hamerlík held us in there. We're happy that we won this game, but nothing is done. Vítkovice today showed its strength, we can't get carried away with the victory. Our opponent played well, had great movement and so we can't let up."

In truth, Vítkovice is a good team and played a good game, but Třinec is a better team and played a better game. Now, with a 3-0 series lead, it would take a collapse of Boston Bruins proportion to prevent Oceláři from winning its first championship.

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