Medveščak Croatian champion

Medveščak Croatian champion

28 Mar 2013 | Alan Ilijic

Another season of the Croatian Ice Hockey Championship draws to an end. After 18 games played and the semifinal and final series, KHL Medveščak Zagreb II defended the title in a thrilling final series, winning 3-2 in best-of-five series.

 
 
 
 

Croatian championship cruised to the end of another interesting season. It consisted of three parts:

the first part featured 4 teams: Maribor, Mladost, Medveščak II and Zagreb. Maribor finished in first place with the score 11-1 and 33 points. Second was Mladost with 20 points, Medveščak II had 11 in the third spot, while last placed Zagreb recored only 3 wins and 8 points.

Then came the second part where only Croatian teams played, 4 of them: three afore mentioned with the addition of Sisak. Maribor couldn't compete in the intermediate round due to the fact they're a Slovene team and can't be proclaimed the champion of Croatia. Only six games were played in the intermediate round, Medveščak II finished first with the score 5-1, only losing to second seeded Mladost in the final match 9:4. Second was Mladost with 18 points on the board, third Zagreb with 11 and dead last Sisak with 0-6 and no points. As all the teams go into the playoffs, Medveščak II was set to play Sisak, who decided not to play, so both games were recorded 5:0 wins for Medveščak.

The other semifinal pair was Mladost and Zagreb. The first game finished 7:3 for Mladost, while the second 11:2, and the finals were set for old and fierce rivals, Mladost and Medveščak.

As the finals are played as best-of-five series, the first to reach 3 wins in the Croatian champion. Medveščak won the first game 6:5 after shootout, but Mladost stroke back twice with 8:3 to take the lead and get close to sensation. Game 4 was somewhat decisive, as Medveščak won, so the winner had to be claimed in game 5. It was all about Medveščak and they earned the title with 7:3 victory in Dom Sportova.

Medveščak II - Mladost 7:3 (3-2), last game of the final series

Every time those two meet there are a lot of emotions and fierce rivalry. This time, it was again the case.

Young Croatian talent, Mate Krešimir Tomljenović started in net for Medveščak II facing Matija Tačković in the other net. Damir Buković saw his game-winner 1:47 before the end, when Ivan Brenčun assisted to make it 7:3 and assure the title stays with Medveščak.

Medveščak II was strengthened by 4 EBEL Medveščak players: defenseman Dennis Božić and forwards Adam Naglich, Nathan Perkovich and Anthony Yelovich. At 11:31 Anthony Yelovich brought Medveščak the lead. David Brine stole the puck in the defensive zone and sent it forward to Yelovich, who was in front of the defense and scored 1-on-1.

Nevertheless, at 12:56 Mate Tomljenović leaves the net to collect the puck behind it, Marko Lovrenčić skates to it and puts a lot of pressure on the goalie who misses the puck and Petar Trstenjak didn't have much trouble scoring on empty net.

"I'm a goalie that likes to communicate with the defense. At that moment it was pure miscommunication and nobody covered for me. I thought it was safe to take the puck", Tomljenović said after the game.

With Plahutar in the box for hooking in front of the net, at 15:50 Yelovich scored his second of the night on assists from Šijan and Naglich. Medveščak came to two-goal lead through Ivan Šijan who scored with 22 seconds to go in the first. Brine was on the assist.

Medveščak scored only one and only goal in the second period to increase their lead to 3 goals. At 38:47 a shot from Mikulić was deflected to Naglich at the far post, who had no problems putting it behind Tačković. At this moment it seemed Medveščak is on the edge of winning and it should be an easy job in the last 20 minutes.

A highlight play came about at 4 minutes before second intermission, Mario Čunko with great solo effort managed to get a shot on net in a circle of three Medveščak's players. It was an easy save for Tomljenović.

Midway through the third period it was already 5:1 Medveščak (Naglich, asst. Senzel) when Mladost reduced to lead to two goals. First at 50:40 Tadija Mirić scored unassisted and then at 54:31 Mario Čunko on an assist from Petar Trstenjak scores to give Mladost some hope.

Two more crucial things happend in between two goals. First Miro Smerdelj of Mladost skated past three D-men, two of them even collided with each other, fell during the shot and injured himself. Afterwards Medveščak's Igor Lazić got called for roughing. He wanted to come back to play after Medveščak conceded but the referee signaled to him he was on 2+2 penalty so he had a word with the ref. The outcome: game misconduct for Lazić. Mladost really had a chance of a lifetime.

With 3:56 to go, Mladost pulls their goalie and try with extra attacker. Ten seconds later, Medveščak has a huge opportunity and they practically hold the puck in the offensive zone and play up with it, not executing a shot. But in the last two minutes, two more strikes (Oreščanin and Buković) bring the game to a close.

Adam Naglich finished the game with 3 points (2G, 1A) while Yelovich, Brine and Šijan had 2 points respectively. On Mladost's side, the only 2-pointer was Petar Trstenjak (1G, 1A).

In hindsight, Mladost was a respectable team, in two games even a better team and the series could have gone either way.

At the awards ceremony, awards were given for the best goalie, the best scorer and league MVP.

Goalie: Tihomir Filipec (MED II), 87,19 SVS% (goalies with low percentage of games played were not taken into consideration)

Scorer: Tomislav Čunko (MLA), 14 goals

MVP: Tomislav Čunko (MLA), 14G, 6A


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