The Lion´s Roar: HC LEV storm to Prague Hockey Cup win
Niko Kapanen scored two goals against his former team as HC LEV Praha ran out 4-1 winners over Ak Bars Kazan in the Prague Hockey Cup Final. The Lions avenged Thursday´s loss to Kazan by outplaying their Russian opponents. Nathan Oystrick added three points from the blueline, while Petri Vehanen made 23 saves for the victory.
Penalties: 2:6, plus Medvedev 5 min + do konce. PP goals: 0:0. SH goals: 0:0.
Referees: Olenin, Bulanov - Hlavaty, Tosenovjan. Attendance: 1857.
It was an open affair in the first period of the Prague Hockey Cup Final. HC LEV battled hard in the opening frame, weathering an Ak Bars storm in the first five minutes before piling on the pressure in the second half. They outshot their opponents from Tatarstan 12-4 in the opening twenty minutes, although it was Petri Vehanen who was busiest at the start, being called into action to make a solid blocker save on Alexander Burmistrov three minutes in.
However, for Ak Bars it simply was a case of not getting enough pucks to the net. While the Russian side had good zone time and had HC LEV scrambling on an early powerplay; they struggled to really test Vehanen. On the other hand, Emil Garipov, replacing Konstantin Barulin for the first time this tournament, was kept busy by shots by Martin Ševc and Michal Birner, but the veteran Russian made the saves with his blocker and glove respectively.
American forward Tim Stapleton went close to giving Kazan the lead with four and a half minutes to go in the opening frame. He broke away through centre, receiving the stretch pass and going in alone on Vehanen. However, Mathias Porseland showed great speed to get back and bring Stapleton down. To the surprise of many, there was no penalty called on the play.
A penalty would be called a minute later though, as Evgeni Medvedev rocked Mikko Mäenpää with a knee-on-knee hit, which drew a 5+game call from the officials. Fortunately for HC LEV, Mäenpää would return to the game in the second period. On the extended powerplay, Niko Kapanen lit the lamp with fifteen seconds left in the period, pouncing on a rebound off a Nathan Oystrick point shot and firing the puck into the empty net.
Speaking after the game, Oystrick commented, ‘I think we just took what we did right from the third period last night into the game today. We picked it up half way through the first period and we really started playing our game. We weren’t on the penalty kill for fifteen or twenty minutes out of the game so that’s a plus.’
Ak Bars managed to get the wheels turning in the second period and start getting pucks to the net. They fired fourteen shots at former Kazan netminder Petri Vehanen, but the Finnish goalie was in top form to deny all of their early efforts, Denis Abdullin and Tim Stapleton going close early on.
Mid-way through the period, HC LEV gained the man advantage on a delayed penalty call, and they managed to get their second goal of the game. Once again, it was a Nathan Oystrick point shot which Garipov saved, but Niko Kapanen was there, this time backhanding the puck past a stricken Garipov to double HC LEV’s lead.
Despite that Ak Bars still looked threatening, and Vehanen had to be alert. With three minutes to go in the second period, Kirill Petrov went agonisingly close with a wrist shot which needed a great pad save by Vehanen to stop. However, HC LEV would take the puck and launch into a counter attack and score. Patrik Zackrisson carried the puck with speed up the right wing, and dished a perfectly weighted pass across the face of goal to Martin Thörnberg, and the Swedish sniper roofed the puck past a diving Garipov.
Speaking about his goal, Thörnberg said, ‘It’s always nice to score when you’re supposed to be a scorer. It’s only pre-season so I’m not used to score that much in pre-season. I wait for the season to start.’
‘We played pretty physically and we tried to put the pressure on them. I think that was the key today. We worked hard and did the small things good’, commented Thörnberg on the game in general.
Tomáš Vincour gave the Lions something to think about with 83 seconds left in the period though, as the big bodied Czech winger hammered a rocket of a one timer into the top corner after the drop pass from Chris Bourque, beating Vehanen for the first time in the game.
However, Ak Bars could not capitalise on this momentum as HC LEV continued to look the better side in the third period. Tempers frayed as Chris Bourque downed Martin Ševc after a whistle which resulted in a number of players having disagreements. Only a few seconds later, Ilya Nikulin was called for a minor kneeing penalty after colliding with HC LEV forward Calle Ridderwall in the neutral zone.
Kazan were only able to get six shots on goal in the third period, and none of them really caused Petri Vehanen too much danger. The Finn making 23 saves for the victory. At the other end of the ice, Garipov had to be in fine form to deny a Nicklas Danielsson one timer. However, on his next shift Danielsson would not be denied, as Nikolai Zherdev’s centering pass from behind the goal line went right on his stick and the Swede’s wrist shot was too hot for Garipov to handle.
Nathan Oystrick picked up the second assist on that goal, his third point of the game, and the Candian defenceman said after the game, ‘It’s nice to have guys in front of the net when you’re shooting from the point. The forwards were working really hard to get the puck back to us.’
‘I was just trying to get pucks on net and hope for a tip or a rebound, and luckily two times tonight it happened. It’s not going to be like that every night, but it happened tonight and I’ll take it.’
Alexander Burmistrov went close in the dying seconds, but he wasted his chance by shooting wide after dancing through the HC LEV defence. Ak Bars were unable to generate the zone time to think of pulling Garipov, who made 27 saves, which allowed the Lions to run the clock down to be crowned winners of the inaugural Prague Hockey Cup.