Online commentary, Gagarin Cup Finals: Game 6, Mon Apr 28: LEV Praha 5 - Magnitogorsk 4 (OT). Game 7, Wed Apr 30: Magnitogorsk 7 - LEV Praha 4. Metallurg win series 4-3.
6.9.2012 | Derek OBrien

LEV wins 2-1 nailbiter in KHL debut

LEV wins 2-1 nailbiter in KHL debut
On opening night, HC LEV Praha fought off first period jitters, overcoming a 1-0 deficit and winning 2-1. Ľuboš Bartečko tied the score in the second period and Tomáš Surový scored the winner halfway through the third. Tomáš Pöpperle was solid in goal, stopping 18 of 19 shots, including an early penalty shot.
Round 1, Thursday 6.9.2012, 20:00
(0:1, 1:0, 1:0)

Goals and assists: 37. Bartečko (Klepiš), 51. Surový (Němec) - 17. Karsums (Indrašis). Shots on goal: 23:19 (7:10, 10:6, 6:3). Penalties: 4:4. Powerplay goals: 0:0. Shorthanded goals: 0:0. Attendance: 6358.

Lev: Pöpperle - Mojžíš, Němec, Hunkes, Picard, Sersen, Oystrick, Pavlik - Bartečko, Vrána, Klepiš - Hossa, Novotný, Christensen - Surový, Sczechura, Řepík - Rachůnek, Karamnov, Sekáč - Svoboda.

Riga: Jučers – Galvinš, Redlihs K., Carle, Redlihs J., Sotnieks, Rekis – Karsums, Johnson, Indrašis – Niživijs, Schremp, Giroux – Bukarts, Džerins, Meija – Biiezais, Bičevskis, Skvorcosvs – Podzinš.


This highly-anticipated contest was preceded by an outdoor motorcycle show, an indoor fire show, player introductions choreographed with a laser show, speeches and a ceremonial faceoff that built up the atmosphere in the arena, and perhaps the anxiety level on the part of some Lev players. When the game finally started, there was still a veil of smoke visible from the stands, and perhaps that too affected the judgment of some players.

Whatever the reason, the Lions came out pushing hard for the opening goal, but seemed out of sync with one another and turned over the puck on numerous occasions. They were fortunate that Riga was not able to convert on the chances they were given, either because they were thwarted by Tomáš Pöpplerle, some hardworking defensive work, or just failed to finish. Just past the five-minute mark, a turnover at the Lev blueline sent Andris Dzerzinš in alone, forcing defenceman Ondřej Němec to put a hook on him. On the ensuing penalty shot, Pöpperle closed the door.

With just over three minutes to play in the opening period, Miks Indrašis won a battle for the puck behind the net and then found Martins Karsums alone in front, whose one-time backhander made it 1-0 Riga. Late in the period, Lev played their most inspired hockey to that point and nearly tied it on some good pressure from the top line. Maris Jučers, a surprise starter in the Riga goal after a strong training camp, made a nice toe save off of Erik Christensen, but then fell out of position, giving a wonderful rebound chance to Jiří Novotný. However, the Lev captain rang his shot off the goalpost in the dying seconds and the score remained 1-0 at the intermission.

The home side seemed to play a much more stable game over the last 40 minutes, greatly reducing the number of chances against. The visitors from Latvia continued to play stingy defence, though, and much of the middle frame was played in the neutral zone. Finally, in the last four minutes of the period, Lev got on the board when Jučers stopped a shot from Tomáš Klepiš, but Ľuboš Bartečko was in the right place to put in the rebound for the club´s first ever goal in the Kontinental Hockey League. Right after the goal, Karsums had a chance to get Riga the lead back on a breakaway, but he hit Pöpperle in the chest.

As the midway point of the third period approached, Lev started getting better chances. Their most dangerous pair was Christensen and Novotný, who nearly converted on a pretty passing play. Then with 9:01 to play, they got the go-ahead marker. Němec put the puck on the stick of Tomáš Surový, who used linemate Paul Szczechura as a screen and sent a shot into the top corner that Jučers never saw.

Dinamo then tried to tie the game, but their efforts were derailed when Aleksandrs Nizivijs took a needless boarding penalty in the attacking zone. On the power play, Michal Sersen almost made it a two-goal difference, firing a couple of hard shots from the point, one of which rang off the post. Though they didn´t score, they did manage to kill off the clock effectively and win their first KHL game, 2-1.

Comments of coaches

Josef Jandač (HC LEV Praha): In the first period we did not play so well, our performance was a little nervous, but our game improved. Riga played well on defense and we worked hard and played very effectively. Finally, we were able to penetrate and we got the result we wanted.

Pekka Rautakallio (Dinamo Riga): We were not able to play our game the way we wanted. We did not take advantage of the chances that Lev gave us and we made ​​a few mistakes that Lev punished us for.


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