Away ice advantage in Serie A finals

Away ice advantage in Serie A finals

11 Apr 2016Lucas Bradelj»
 

Ritten and Pustertal, after sweeping their opponents in the semis, are going head-to-head in the finals. In the first four games of the series there have only been victories in enemy territory, as the race for the 'scudetto' is tied at two.

 
 
 
 

The Wolves from Pustertal and the ‘Buam’ (Boys) from Ritten have dominated the regular season and have continued so in the playoffs. Ritten reached the finals winning all its eight playoff games, sweeping both Cortina and Sterzing/Vipiteno.

Pustertal, looking for its first Italian championship title after losing in all three final series appearances since the 2010/2011 season, took only one more game to qualify for the finals. After eliminating Gherdeina in five games in the first playoff round, defending champion Asiago was the Wolves’ opponent in the semifinals. The Lions from Asiago however had no response to the team captained by Armin Helfer, as Pustertal surprisingly decided the series with a 4-0 sweep.

This led to a very tied final series, with the two South Tyrolean squads showing exciting hockey. Three out of the four games thus far have been decided in either overtime or in the shootouts. In Game 1, the Rittner Buam took an early two-goal-lead thanks to Thomas Spinell and Julian Kostner, before Armin Helfer scored two goals in the final ten minutes to tie the game. The goaltenders Andrew Engelage (Ritten) and Tyler Weiman (Pustertal) did not let any other puck through them in twenty minutes of four-on-four overtime hockey. In the shootout Pustertal’s Armin Hofer decided the contest.

In Game 2, Ritten’s ‘big boys’ stepped up, as Christian Borgatello, Brendan Cook and playoff-topscorer Mark Von Guilden led the team to a 4:1 win in Brunico. The Wolves responded, as in the third game of the series Trevor Johnson’s overtime winner gave Pustertal the lead.

The Wolves carried the momentum into Game 4, going up by two goals in the first period with goals by Patrick Bona and Francois Bouchard. The ‘Buam’ came back with 18-year old talent Markus Spinell and Brendan Cook, eventually leading to the game being tied with three goals each after 60 minutes of hockey. In overtime, Ritten’s 23-year old forward Alex Frei beat Weiman to once again tie the series at two.

With the series tied after four games and no win on home ice to show for, the series looks like a rematch of the 2014 finals between the two rivals. Two years ago it was eventually Ritten to win the series in six games and its first ever ‘scudetto’, in large parts to an incredible goaltending performance by former NHLer Chris Mason. Back then it was Ritten to have the home ice advantage to start the series, whereas this year Pustertal has entered the playoffs as the better seeded team. So now everybody is asking: Is it finally Pustertal’s turn to win a national championship?


Photo: hcpustertal.com

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