Red Bull defends EBEL title

Red Bull defends EBEL title

15 Apr 2016Lucas Bradelj»
 

Despite Colton Yellow Horn's MVP perfomances for Orli Znojmo, Salzburg has confirmed its dominance in EBEL.

 
 
 
 

However, it did not always look as pretty as it ended for the favourited Red Bulls. After taking the series’ lead thanks to late game winner by Matthias Trattnig to start the finals, the Czech Eagles stroke back with two impressive performances. In the second game of the series, 21-year-old forward Lubor Sulik turned the game around in the final period to win 5-3, before Znojmo exploded in Game 3 with a 7-3 win on the road. Anton Buroda led the way for the Czechs with 3 assists, but it was an all-around team-effort to outwork the Red Bull and get under the skin of Salzburg. Head coach Dan Ratushny even benched top line winger Brett Sterling for the entire game after he he took an avoidable spearing penalty in Game 2.

Championship teams though know how to turn the momentum around and this is what Salzburg did in Game 4, returning the favour with a clear win in the Czech Republic. A great start into the game with two goals by Manuel Latusa and one by reactivated Brett Sterling set the stage for a 6-2 victory.

Salzburg’s top line with Sterling, John Hughes and Ryan Duncan stayed hot in Game 5, leading the team to a 4:2 win and earning the first ‘championship puck’.

Znojmo had to win on home ice to force a Game 7. In the first two periods, the teams showed an exciting battle just as was the entire series, finding quick responses to each goal. In the third period Zdenek Kutlak’s slap shot on the power play beat goalkeeper Jan Lukas, who was phenomenal in the playoffs. The Eagles would not find any other response to the 4-3 goal and Red Bull could celebrate its second title in a row.


41-year old Peter Pucher underlined his skill again in the playoffs.

Experience and depth

In the end, it was the best team of the league to win the Cup. Salzburg was able to find a way to minimize the damages done by the league’s MVP Colton Yellow Horn, who was awarded the ‘Ron Kennedy Trophy’. This was just one of the keys for Salzburg to win its sixth EBEL title in history. Experienced net minder Juuso Riksman, who has been awarded best goaltender of the Finnish Elite League three times during his career, grabbed Luka Gracnar’s starting job in the quarterfinals, giving the team security throughout the entire post-season. Overall, it was especially the Red Bull’s depth with four strong lines to make the difference in its third straight final appearance.

Logo Orli ZnojmoDespite coming up short in the end, it was a very successful season for Znojmo. Not only did they qualify for the Champions Hockey Leauge finishing on second place in the regular season, but they also were finally able to carry their strong performances into the playoffs. Injuries to some of their top defenceman, such as Andre Lakos, forced them to use forwards as blue liners, making it even tougher to compete with such a deep and skilled Red Bull line-up. Despite that, the Eagles put on a strong fight and may have just lacked some experience in the decisive moments compared to their opponents. Players like Peter Pucher, Jan Latter or Lubomir Stach have proven to be among the best in the league and will strive for success next year as well.

Big decisions coming

Next season seems far now, but Salzburg will have to make up for the losses of Konstantin Komarek and Dominique Heinrich, who will leave to play in Sweden.
Znojmo might lose its star player Colton Yellow Horn (29 points in 19 playoff games), who is rumoured to join league rival Linz.

The two teams might also play against a new club next year, as the league management is considering whether financially troubled Olympija Ljubljana remains a part of Erste Bank Eishockey Liga. If Ljubljana leaves the league, either Slovenian club Jesenice or MAC Budapest will be given the vacant spot. However, the league is not considering an expansion for the 2016/2017 season, meaning that there will still be 12 teams in EBEL.

EBEL Playoffs 2016

Quarter Finals:
Red Bull Salzburg – Klagenfurter AC 4:3
Orli Znojmo – Dornbirn Bulldogs 4:2
Vienna Capitals – Villacher SV 1:4
Bolzano Foxes – Black Wings Linz 2:4

Semi Finals:
Red Bull Salzburg – Villacher SV 4:2
Orli Znojmo – Black Wings Linz 4:2

Finals:
Red Bull Salzburg – Orli Znojmo 4:2

List of EBEL champions
2016 EC Red Bull Salzburg
2015 EC Red Bull Salzburg
2014 HC Bolzano Foxes
2013 Klagenfurter AC
2012 EHC Black Wins Linz
2011 EC Red Bull Salzburg
2010 EC Red Bull Salzburg
2009 Klagenfurter AC
2008 EC Red Bull Salzburg
2007 EC Red Bull Salzburg
2006 Villacher SV
2005 Vienna Capitals
2004 Klagenfurter AC


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