Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Is it time yet?

Around this time of year in many of the leagues serious contenders for playoffs are profiled. First third is already down, most teams know their ups and downs and first changes are being made. Weakest links and all that business.

EC KAC is a team with tradition, history and passionate fans. They do lean towards the right a bit too much, but as long as there is beer and food there is no problem in Klagenfurt. However... the title keeps eluding their grasps for a few years now despite big names and players coming to play in Corinthian club. Four seasons without the title makes KAC a place with lot of pressure both on players and management. Last year's "shock" therapy with removing Manny Viveiros from the head coach bench has proven to be a "minor improvement" and then managed to get to the finals for the second year in a row just to get demolished by EHC Black Wings Linz. Now they tried to shock the team back on track again.

Andy Chiodo (EC KAC) doing a crazy dance in front of Adam Miller (Medveščak)
On Sunday KAC lost to Vienna with 1:0, and then a change happened. Weber took some time off to be with his wife, and Manny Viveiros managed to hustle his way back on the bench. 11 injured players and a new import Andrew Cogliano. Cogliano is friend of an NHL Lockout player on a stint in Klagenfurt, Sam Gagner. While KAC is steering towards utter fail, signing of Gagner and Cogliano isn't helping. Two "good" players have between them a total of zero pro seasons when they played in playoffs. Is time for them to try the taste of it finally? Only time and Bettman will tell.

Sam Gagner chewing his moutpiece while Bears own his a$$ (photo: Igor Šoban)
Sam Gagner fires a shot from a blue line. 
Sam Gagner appeared (sorry for the pun) in 11 games so far for EC KAC and got 14 points on his sheet. Not bad though, but he's also +- 1. KAC is still looking for a home win in November, and Head coach change wont help with it. On the road they're terrible, five losses in a row.

Sammy said he's all alone there and he needs a friend from americas. So the management went to ask Cogliano whether he's bored over there. Lucky for them he came over and in one game added a single assists so far. Oh boy. So good.

Another Bull in Salzburg - Johnny Boychuk
Red Bull Salzburg on the other hand is slightly worse than Klagenfurt. With 20 points in 23 games RBS is firmly holding 10th place. Bernd Bruckler is injured, terrible Alex Auld holds one win for the team, while Gračnar, a terrific young goalie is out for next one to two weeks. Clarkson and Enstrom left the team few weeks ago, while the Bulls added Johnny Boychuck to the roster.

PAN Arena Ice Fever (photo: Igor Šoban)
After suffering a defeat in front of 15.200 fans in Arena Zagreb, with brave youngster Gračnar between the pipes, Bulls had no choice but to have Auld in goal on Tuesday. NHL veteran goalie had a stunning 83% SVS% and they managed to lose against their arch nemesis Szekesfehervar devils with 4:5.

Also check out this gnarly interview that an NHL player gave. He did lose but still, that's one poor loser. You can hear everything under the dub that Croatian commentator did live. Good job Tyler Myers, you're a complete twat.

Are NHL players really worth it regardless of teams they play in? Vanek certainly wasn't. Ever since he left Graz 99ers are on the roll, last five games they won clearly. VSV is slowly dropping and now they're third with 4 points behind leaders, while Andreas Nodl is not to be mentioned ever again. Clearly one of the best additions to the league currently is Jan Muršak in Olimpija who in 18 games has sky high 33 points (12 goals).

Medveščak just finished their first series of Arena games with two wins and one loss in 5 days. Rougly 40 000 fans saw Medveščak playing against Olimpija, Salzburg and Klagenfurt and quite few NHL players: Sam Gagner, Tyler Myers, Alex Auld, Dustin Jeffrey and Jan Muršak. A game on Sunday, 18th of November, had a special meaning to all Croatians, as it was the day when 21 years ago Vukovar fell. In honor of that heroic city there was a minute of silence for all victims of the war horrors. And it was quite the picture.

18.11.2012. PAN Arena Ice Fever KHL Medveščak Zagreb - EC KAC 4:1 (photo: Mirko Janković)
Three home games in a row meant that its time for Bears to hit the road. First stop was again a game against Klagenfurt, just this time Red-White had Cogliano to back up their battered roster. It wasn't enough once again regardless of 3 point game by Sammy Gagner.
Dustin Jeffrey (Pittsburgh Penguins) scores a decisive penalty shot for the victory.
Yeah, no chance for Andy Chiodo there...

Last week I also met some guys, so shutout to Barbara Kavčič, Matej Grošelj from Ljubljana and Hannes Biederman from Vienna. You all owe me beers now. Officially. Only Rok Županc gets a free pass but he's EBYSL Team Manager now. Lucky guy!

Hopefully next update will be soon, so spread the love, we're back!

P.S. Simmonds and Stewart broke up and Stewart ran back to East Germany to cry manly tears. Simmonds decided not to return to Germany, had a family issue and returned to Toronto area. Hopefully guys will get back together in NA or somewhere else if Lockout lasts. I would hate to miss all this love and energy.

P.P.S. A friend of mine, Ned Lukacevic also left Crimmitschau but went to Slovakia and Banska Bystrica. So far in 4 games Neddie has 2 goals and 4 assist. Not bad buddy, by Xmas I want atleast 2ppg or we're not going to Adriatic this summer.

Ned Lukacevic and Dennis Bozic with a friend

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Fight for your right party!

Hockey brawls are common. They're a reason why we love hockey as well. An occasional one on one can turn the tide, change a loss to a victory, energize players and fans. But when does the game of hockey turn into a massive brawl? Are fights inevitable when the refs show their incompetence and annoy the players and fans alike?

Tensions rise, one bad foul leads to another bad call, and then all hell breaks loose. This is a story of such a game. 
Adam Naglich (Medvescak) vs Kevin Moderer (Graz 99ers)
Have you ever seen a game with 295 PIM? If not go to the official highlights and check it out. There is big rivalry between the teams of KHL Medvescak Zagreb and Medical Moser Graz99ers dating to season 09/10. Back then the last seeded underdog Medvescak kicked Graz 99ers in the nuts and made a miracle on ice. G99ers were first seeded team before playoffs. 

Naglich and Moderer flashing the fists

Mile is our hero
Dennis Bozic (Photo: Sanja Berend)
Sundays' game started with lots of penalties and a dance
between Croatian/Swedish youngster Dennis Bozic and G99ers' tough guy Gill Lefebvre. Former Flyers prospect proceeded to teach Dennis a lesson. He learned later its not nice to pick on younger guys. 

38 PIM in first period and no goals led to an even wilder second period. Curtis Fraser took on himself to dance with Lefebvre but was knocked down in the process. However Lefebvre recieved a GM and was sent off. 

Three goals later, at 2:1 for Graz, Dario Kostovic used his extensive knowledge of swearing in Croatian and translated it to German while trying to say to refs what they've done wrong and where should they stick it. He was awarded with a complementary shower. 
Kosta Kosta!
Dario Kostovic scored 4 goals in 4 victories. So far when he scores his team wins (Photo: Sanja Berend)
Vanek tallied his first goal of the night and probably thought he will leave Graz with a nice win to seal the one month vacation in Austria. But refs and Van Ballegooie decided otherwise. Ganahl decided it was time to settle the score with MacAulay and Van B. jumped in to help his buddy. Meanwhile Naglich went on to beat Moderer into a pulp. Few minutes later and 130PIM later (Match penalty for VanB) refs returned Greentree who was sent of instead of MacAulay and sent Kenny to shower early. 

You can see the video of the brawl below:

And here:

Second period ended with 3 PP goals by the Bears. Brandon Buck, David Brine and Tomislav Zanoski decided to score and turn the game around.

Halfway through the third period Ouzas got injured in the net (upper leg muscle, up to two weeks off the ice) and refused to get out of the net. Vanek took it really nice and awarded Ouzie's dedication to the team with a wrap-around for the tie. He left the crease and got changed by Robert Kristan in the net.

Vanek scored a brace in his last game of Euro trip
However, 99ers didnt laugh for long. After apparently a big mistake by former Flyers and Medvescak defensman Andy Delmore (my dear friend, hi Peter!), Nathan Perkovich scored for the lead. Two minutes later, Andy Sertich added a 6th goal of the night for the Bears. With two minutes to go Coleman Rodney Jarrett scored for 99ers, who pulled their goalie for another attacker but the Bears held firm. 92% of PK in 18 games for Bears and excellent defense (best SV/SA ratio in league) were enough for them to take a 9th win in a row and continue a streak of wins since Jeffrey joined the team.

Vanek and Brady bunch didn't laugh at the end of the game,
and David returns to Buffalo with a memory he'd  soon like to forget. 

In other news

Grabner decided to puncture young Red Bull goalie Luka Gračnar, Slovenian prospect and a GK with future with yet another trademark shorthander.

Grabner grew a lockout beard. Will it last until playoffs? Whats he implying with his hand gesture?
Gračnar didn't manage to get a 3rd win in a row and took 4 pucks out of his goal but still keeps team best 92.4% SVS and 2.34GAA. Not bad for a 1993. born kid.

Sammy Gagner is on fire. 5 goals and 3 assists in 7 games are kinda okay I guess. His team is so good it wins even with him sitting out.
Sam Gagner resting during the game against HDD Telemach Olimpija (1G 1A)
So far, with 16 points in 9 games for Medvescak, Dustin Jeffrey (or Justin) is the best NHL lockout player in the league. 9 games, 9 wins and 6 goals. Nice signing by the team. Sutter, be scared. Be really really scared.

Photo bombing Jeffrey's moment by the Author (photo: Igor Šoban)
The league goes to a break now, some of the players will be joining their National teams for a take on last 3 spots for 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, including Grabner, Nodl, Vanek (?), Kopitar, Muršak and few other "normal" players of EBEL.

League resumes in 10 days with and Medvescak is going for another venue change, 3rd of the season. Games on 14th, 16th and 18th of November are being played in 15,200 seat Arena Zagreb. HDD Telemach Olimpija, EC KAC and EC Red Bull Salzburg will be playing once again in the "big Arena" during a 3 game streak "PAN Arena Ice Fever".

Arena Ice Fever 2012 (Photo: Igor Šoban)
7 NHL lockout players will be playing during those 3 games, three (or four if Alex Auld stays) for RBS, two for EC KAC and one for Olimpija and Medvescak. It could be a record high fan attendance for all of them this season if the talks don't conclude something soon.

NHLPA and NHL had some talks on Sunday, and NHLPA continued this with a conf call earlier on Monday. This might be progress. But who cares, we got to see real class players in Europe this season so I hope Lockout lasts for a while more.

Biggest losers so far are NHL and hockey fans in North America and all over the world. Last punch they got was a confirmation that Winter Classic is cancelled.

Lost boys

are still talking about the incident when fans yelled "Opice, opice, opice" (Opice=monkey in Czech) to Simmonds. Looks like a day later he still didn't know what happened, and he found out next morning from the Internets. You can read a full article on it here on Puck Daddy. 

As we wrote earlier, Simmonds and Stewart started their bromance road trip in Crimmitschau and here's a story from the road (also by Puck Daddy author Nicholas J. Cotsonika):
They ended up in Crimmitschau, Germany, a town of only 20,000 people with a team in the German league's second division. They signed one-month contracts, hoping to find a higher level of competition later. They made no money. Though the team covered hotel rooms, hotel meals and cars, their salaries covered only the insurance on their NHL contracts.
Off the ice, it was quiet. Everything closed at 8 p.m. and stayed closed on the weekends, so they bought a TV and an Xbox to entertain themselves. On the ice, it was an adjustment. The NHL is so structured that Simmonds said "it's almost like you're programmed a certain way." This league was so unstructured that Simmonds didn't know where to be. He'd go to check his point man, and all five guys would be down low.
"I had to completely change my game," Simmonds said. "You can't do that, or else you're not going to be a good player in European hockey. You've kind of got to go with the flow of things."
But some of those things, they'll never forget. One end of their home arena was open to the air. You could see the woods. It could be cold. "If it was warm outside, you'd have the fog roll in," Simmonds said. It was packed with about 6,000 fans, who would go nuts and throw things on the ice, like cups and a chicken.
Yes, a chicken. Ready to cook.
"A [bleeping] chicken?" Stewart said with a laugh. "I was like, 'Whoa. Don't piss these fans off, man. They're throwing a chicken on the ice in Crimmitschau, they're no joke.' "
One game, Stewart scored two goals, and Simmonds assisted on both. In the NHL, they announce the three stars, and the guys take a little twirl, raise their sticks and disappear. In Crimmitschau, the fans would chant the players' names. The players would come out and dance.
Yes, dance. On the ice.
"They called him out first," Simmonds said. "The whole team is in a semicircle. He goes and does a dance, and then I had to go do a dance in front of the fans."
"Then literally you skate around the ice," Stewart said. "It's like a Stanley Cup party. I'm like, 'Is this every game?' "
That is the stuff Simmonds will remember most.
"The fan situation in Germany," he said, "that was probably the best part I think of my trip so far."
Wayne's happy face
Wayne Simmonds plays with his bro Chris Stewart for White Tigers of Liberec
Lockout lasts, and great stories are written all over Europe. I do hope it lasts a while longer. It could get pretty cool soon when even more players come over for insurance and allowance money.

Until next time, K.

P.S. for all of you who wonder what happened to Andy Nodl in this post.. well nothing. Just like his scoring, there's nothing to report on. He did get some flu or something in Innsbruck though. Get better Andy <3