Medveščak defend the title

Medveščak defend the title

20 Mar 2014 | Alan Ilijic

KHL Medveščak Zagreb have won the back-to-back title of Croatian champion - their 18th in the history of Croatian championship.


With a sweep 3-0 over Mladost Zagreb in the Finals, the last game being a shutout, Medveščak Zagreb defend the title of the currently best team in Croatia. It wasn't too difficult for them with the addition of KHL-ers after having been relegated from the playoffs by Lev Prague also with a sweep 4-0. So the Bears were seeking some revenge for what had happened.

After 18 gamedays had been played, the final standings were this: Mladost reigning as seed #1 with 47 points, ten more than second placed KHL Zagreb, Medvescak II (mostly amateurs and players that didn't make the KHL lineup) came in 3rd and Sisak kept their reputation from last season, and some more of the previous, and finished last with the score 1-17, their only win being on Day 1 when Medvescak forfeit the game.

Again, every team play in the playoffs that separate into semifinals and the Finals. The exception this year was that Maribor didn't take part in the regular season though even if they did, the fact they're a Slovene team would prevent them from going into the playoffs as they can't be proclaimed Croatian champions.

Semifinals were played in two games - Mladost and Medveščak proceeding to the next round. Mladost being the most complete team of the championship and the backbone of the Croatian national team deservedly won the regular season and were in the Finals, but Medveščak played something people might call - unfair game.

Namely, after relegation from the KHL playoffs, they added some of their professionals into the team roster thus taking up someone's place who had been playing all season and putting Mladost into an ancillary position. Hockey is not Croatia's number one sport, it's not even professional and these players are all amateurs. So it's normal their level of play is a lot less than professionals', especially KHL-level players.

We're not trying to condemn Medveščak for anything, the KHL-ers are still their players, part of the franchise and have the full right to play in the domestic championship. And it's normal, anyone would do it.

So the Finals series were something any layman could foresee, even if they didn't follow hockey - an easy sweep for Medveščak. Though it was a bit tougher the result might suggest, Medveščak won the Final series with a 3-0 sweep and the celebration could commence.

Game 1 was a tough one for Mladost, having lost 7:2, but managed to bounce back in the second game and forced the overtime. A total of 15 goals were scored in Game 2, 7:7 the score after 60 minutes and Medveščak took the win in overtime. The last game finished with a shutout on Medveščak's side - 11:0.

What kind of team Mladost have and bear in mind they're forming most of the national team, is illustrated enough in statistics of the playoffs:

-Goals: Tomislav Čunko (Mladost) has most with 10; 4 of the Top 5 are Mladost players.

-Assists: Janko Kučera (Mladost) best with 8; Top 5 only Mladost players.

-Points: Tomislav Čunko (Mladost) tops the standings with 15; only 2 Medveščak players (both KHL-ers) and one Zagreb in the Top 10.

The situation in the regular season doesn't differ too much from the playoffs.

"This is my first senior gold in the Croatian championship. I'm utterly happy for it and so glad we could defend the title. We won the series 3-0, but in spite Mladost never gave up, they put on a good fight", said Marko Šakić after the game for KHL Medveščak's official site.

After the final game of the season, the awards for the best players of the season were awarded:

-Best goaltender: Tihomir Filipec (KHL Medveščak)

-Best scorer: Tadija Mirić (KHL Mladost)

-Championship MVP: Marko Tadić (KHL Mladost).

That's it for the club championship in Croatia until September, now the players turn to their national team duties and the World Championship ahead in April.

(Photo: Krume Ivanovski)

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