Black Wings eliminate the champions

Black Wings eliminate the champions

22 Mar 2015Lucas Bradelj»

It was Game 7 time in the EBEL quarter finals on Friday, as the Bolzano Foxes tried their luck in Linz to keep their dreams of defending the title alive. Home ice advantage had been crucial in this series before though and so also in the last game of the series the road team was on the losing side.


The game started with an incredibly high intensity right from the get-go. Linz tried to control the game, but it was Marco Insam who, with one of his feared slap shots, gave the Italians the lead after little more than 1 minute played. It did not take long though for the home team to respond as Andrew Kozek scored the equalizer on a perfectly executed rush.

A minute later Linz-netminder Michael Ouzas could not control a shot of Derek Nesbitt and the rebound hit Justin Keller’s skate while falling on his back to make it 2:1 for HCB again. While the referees were looking at the instant replay to make sure there was no kicking motion involved, the home town fans in Linz were hoping goalkeeper Michael Ouzas could stay in the game, as he was hurt during the play. He could not, so 22 year old Thomas Dechel had to go in with 56 minutes to play. Bolzano on consequence tried to put every puck on net in this period, but Dechel overcame his anxiety. Especially on a shot by Justin Keller from the slot area the young Austrian proved to have nerves of steel. Bolzano could not capitalize on a PP-situation and so the defending champions went into the first intermission with this close one-goal lead.

In the 2nd period Linz came out of the dressing room with a completely different mindset. Foxes-goalkeeper Jaroslav Hübl was able to deny some quality scoring chances, but he could not do anything when Franklin MacDonald scored the equalizer in the 23rd minute. Linz kept the pressure high and did not leave Bolzano any room. It paid off for the Black Wings, as Rob Hisey beat a screened Hübl from an impossible angle. Hübl definitely would have liked to get that goal back, but you can hardly criticise him after all the games he has won this and last season for Bolzano. The Black Wings kept playing this way, but the score stayed at 3:2 for the home team.

In the 3rd Bolzano wanted to respond, but Linz was superior in this period as well. Right when nobody expected it, Phil DeSimone brought the puck into the slot and Justin Keller, who played incredible playoffs after an only mediocre regular season, with 12 minutes remaining. The Foxes and the 200 HCB-fans in the sold-out “Keine Sorgen Arena” began to believe again, but Mike Ouellete scored on the first PP-situation for Linz on an excellent assist by Hisey.

Bolzano tried to come back once again, but the Foxes could not find a way to get another real high quality chance. Linz could celebrate their qualification to the EBEL semifinals, where they will face the Vienna Capitals in what should be another very tied series.

For Bolzano ended a tough season with a lot of ups and downs. Consistency was often a problem and so 3 great wins in CHL (one of which against Liiga-club Turku) were often followed by mediocre performances against worse teams on paper. After the coaching change (Don MacAdam came in for Mario Simioni) HCB found its grit again and in the end Bolzano could leave the ice with the heads hold high, since not a lot of experts predicted them to go thus far in this series.  And who knows what would have happened, if Bolzano did not give up that 4:1-lead in Game 5…

In the 2nd semifinal pairing the Red Bulls Salzburg will try to get closer to their mission of winning the cup against Austrian record champion Klagenfurter AC. Salzburg finished the regular season at the pole position, whereas KAC squeezed into the playoffs in the last game. The 4 semifinalists will also represent the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga in next season’s Champions Hockey League.

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