EHC Cage Sharks
Olympic Ice Stadium, Munich – There can be a legitimate concern when your coach has another job. When EHC Red Bull München head coach Pat Cortina accepted a similar position for the German national team, one could be worried if there would be a drop off in quality.
A little less than a month after winning the Deutschland Cup, Cortina has EHC playing solid, beating second place Cologne Sharks 4-1 for the club’s third consecutive home win.
EHC moved them up a spot in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) to 11th, still out of a pre-playoff spot but only four points behind the Straubing Tigers.
“It was an important three points for us,” said Cortina, after beating the second place team Cologne. “It’s the DEL, anyone can beat anyone. They are probably the best team coming hard to the net, we did a pretty good job in front of Jochen (Reimer, goalkeeper).”
After a scoreless first period in which the Sharks outshot Munich 15-6, it was EHC that jumped out in front when Christian Wichert set up Viktor Ekbom who got a shot by Danny Aus den Birken for a 1-0 lead only 3:15 into the second period. It was a power play goal, after Andreas Holmqvist was in the penalty box for tripping.
“It was a tight game, so it was important to get that first goal,” said Ekbom.
Cologne were not phased, as they continued to attack, racking up another 14 shots on goal. However Reimer was solid in goal for the hosts, extending a home shutout streak that started back on October 31st.
Mike Kompon scored for EHC at 14:30 to build a 2-0 confident lead for Cortina’s men. And it stayed that way into the break.
Munich’s defense turned it up a notch, giving up only one shot on goal from their visitors, but it counted. Felix Schütz was able to get it by Reimers as he stood in front of goal. It was the first score by an opponent against EHC in over 176 minutes. The score did open up the game, as the Sharks were going for the equalizer, while EHC hoping to counter.
The key point of the game was a power play advantage for Cologne with 10 minutes left after a bodychecking penalty by Buchwieser, however EHC held. They were a perfect 4-for-4 in penalty killing situations, clearly the difference in the game along with Riemer’s play between the pipes.
On the other side, Munich took advantage of both their shots. A turnover created a counter attack for EHC led by Buchwieser. After a few passes that confused the Cologne defense, Buchwieser was unmarked on the weak side, the team captain received a great cross pass from Paul Stastny, and the mouth of the goal was clear for a shot. 3-1 Munich with almost two and a half minutes left and it was over.
The Sharks’ head coach Uwe Krupp decided to mount a comeback, pulling Van den Birken but his offense failed him, both on creating a chance and then getting back in time. Blake Wheeler put a puck in the empty net, and the 4-1 victory was complete.
“We played our best period in the third when we needed it the most,” added Cortina. “That says a lot about our energy level. We got contributions from everybody, all who dressed up displayed our identity. I’m happy if we can do this on Sunday and look for some consistency. It’s a competitive league, with a little streak, we can get a little closer to the top.”
Ekbom agreed with his coach. “A win like this against one of the best, I think the best and toughest teams in the league, is great for our confidence.”
“It was a difficult game for us to lose today,” said Krupp. “We battled, fought for the next goal chance, but we didn’t convert, we didn’t use the chances we had. EHC defended well, they spent most of the time on their end in the first two periods. We had to open up on the third period and we ran into one or two counter attacks and they were able to finish one of them.”
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Cologne will lick their wounds and pride, heading home to host the Hannover Scorpions on Sunday. EHC travel to take on the Krefield Penguins, also on Sunday, and return home for a Bavarian Derby on Friday against the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers from Nuremberg, who sit 5 points ahead of Munich in the standings in 9th place.
Game notes: EHC have outscored opponents 12-1 in the last three home games, all wins. On the road, Munich has lost 3 of 4, outscored 13-8… Cortina is back as EHC coach but balancing his role nicely as the German national coach. “It’s about balancing, it’s about having good people around me who are on top of things.”…. Krupp was the national coach before Cortina and gave his thoughts on the new era: “Pat just took over, it was one tournament, but he did a great job with the group and he’s an accomplished, experienced coach and he’ll do a good job.” Qualification for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia will take place in February.
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