Neman wins Continental Cup

Belarusians to play in Champions Hockey League


The Neman Grodno players celebrate the Continental Cup win after defeating the Fischtown Pinguins Bremerhaven 6-2. Photo: Andre van Elten

BREMERHAVEN – Belarusian champion Neman Grodno wins the 2015 IIHF Continental Cup Super Final to become the qualifier for next season’s Champions Hockey League.

The team from the city of 350,000 inhabitants at the Neman River close to the border with Lithuania and Poland is already known as the tournament winner because the only other teams that can reach the six points Neman has after two days were beaten by the Belarusians, the Angers Ducs (5-0) on the first day and now the Fischtown Pinguins Bremerhaven (6-2) as well.

Neman Grodno – Fischtown Pinguins Bremerhaven 6-2 (2-0, 3-1, 1-1) Video

Neman Grodno presented itself as the faster and more skilled team and was for most of the time not in danger to lose against the host club if not for some unnecessary penalties.

Jaroslav Kristek, a world junior champion with the Czech Republic in 2000, netted a pair of goals, the other Neman markers came from Vyacheslav Lisichkin, Pavel Korsakov, Andrei Korshunov and Sergei Malyavko.

Maxim Samankov saves 15 shots and has the best save percentage after two games days, 94.44%.

We prepared very well to play this team. Before the tournament nobody expected us to win it after two games. We’ll enjoy it even more when driving back to Belarus on the bus,” Kristek said.

“We were skating well, we outskated our opponents. When we knew we can win the Continental Cup with this game everybody believed we can do it. Our goalie was also playing very well.”

The Czech forward plays in his third year with Neman Grodno. He started the season in Zilina when his wife was pregnant and returned to Grodno only last month.

“I enjoy playing in Belarus. It’s a good country, I have nice teammates here and as a Czech the language barrier is not so big for me,” he said.

Neman Grodno capitalized already on the first scoring chance of the game at 2:22. A long shot from Neman captain Korshunov was deflected into the net by Lisichkin.

The local side had the chance to react when Neman took two penalties but the Fischtown Pinguins did too little out of this opportunity. The Belarusians capitalized on the other end. At 14:53 during their second power play Korsakov scored on a rebound to make it 2-0 for Neman Grodno. Like the day before it was another great start that helped Neman.

At the beginning of the second period it was again the Belarusian team which scored. Kristek made it 3-0 on a breakaway at 5:09 shortly after a successful penalty kill. But with two consecutive penalties Neman offered the Germans the chance to get back and Timothy Miller accepted the invitation when he notched the puck at the boards and used the free space to score at 7:37.

However, Kristek restored the three-goal lead with his second marker just five minutes later. And after two minutes during the next power play Korshunov even made it 5-1 forcing Bremerhaven coach Mike Stewart to replace goalkeeper Brett Jaeger and bring Benjamin Meisner.

After the goal Neman Grodno again had trouble with its own discipline. With Aleksejs Sirokovs already in the penalty box the atmosphere got heated when Korshunov hit Marian Dejdar’s knee and a brawl broke out. But the game remained scoreless until at 8:34 of the third period Jan Kopecky cut Neman’s lead to 5-2. With 4:16 left Sergei Malyavko made it 6-2 for Neman.

“I’m very, very happy with the win and the entire tournament. It was the second time I reached the final as a coach and winning here with Neman is a beautiful debut for me with the club,” said Neman head coach Vasili Spiridonov, who led Metallurg Zhlobin to a second-place finish two years ago.

“My team was physically a little bit stronger than Bremerhaven and mentally the team was better prepared than our opponents. That was an important factor in the win because Bremerhaven is a very skilled team,” Spiridonov said. “Big thanks to the organizers who did a great job. It was a great atmosphere in the arena and it was touching to receive the warm applause of the German fans after our win.”

“From our view Neman Grodno was the best team and deserved to win here,” added Fischtown Pinguins team manager Alfred Prey.

Neman Grodno will remain in first place no matter of the outcome in Sunday’s game against winless Kazakh rival Yertis Pavlodar.

The club became the second Belarusian team to win the competition after Yunost Minsk in 2007 and 2011. And the win will also ensure them a wild card to play in the 2015/2016 Champions Hockey League as the first Belarusian team to do so.

Yertis Pavlodar vs. Angers Ducs 2-4 (0-1, 2-0, 0-3) Video

After a 5-0 loss against Neman Grodno and being behind against Yertis Pavlodar after two periods, the Angers Ducs fought back in the third frame to earn a 4-2 win against the Kazakh champion.

For Yertis Pavlodar it was again a game with ups and downs, and the better end for the opponent. And this time for Angers there was no reason to replace French-Canadian netminder Jean-Sebastian Aubin who was busy with 31 saves.

“We knew this was a great team. We had to come back for our own self-esteem and to show that we can play at this level,” said Ducs coach Real Paiement.

Like yesterday against Bremerhaven, Yertis Pavlodar wasn’t lucky in front of the net while the Frenchmen scored their first goal of the tournament in the opening frame. A distance shot from Timothy Crowder gave the Angers Ducs the lead at 16:16.

Yertis, which played in its Kazakh-coloured jerseys today, had a stronger start into the second period. At 1:43 Richard Huna received a pass from Denis Rehak for a breakaway to tie the game. Five minutes later the Kazakh team earned the lead for the first time. After a horizontal pass in front of the net from Denis Klemeshov, Richard Huna scored his second goal to make it 2-1.

Penalty trouble for the Angers Ducs worsened the situation for the French. Brian Hendersen was sent to the penalty box for boarding Martin Cakajik and 70 seconds later Lauri Lahesalu had to go out for interfering Samuel Mlynarovic.

Before the 5-on-3 was over, Yertis forward Tomas Vak was awarded a penalty shot because Jean-Sebastien Aubin threw his stick. But the Angers netminder made up for it with a save.

Another penalty against Braden Walls for tripping gave Yertis another man advantage. With hard work and a portion of luck Angers survived 4:40 of box play unscathed. With so many chances missed Yertis had to hope the scoring inefficiency wouldn’t fire back. But it did.

The French did better when the third period started. They did not capitalize on a power play early in the game but at 1:53 captain Julien Albert deflected a long shot from Gary Leveque to tie the game at two.

“It was great for us. They got two easy goals but we reacted well and that makes us positive for tomorrow,” Albert said.

50 seconds after his goal Angers was even leading thanks to Johan Skinnars’ marker. And with Peter Fabus sent out for high-sticking, Yannick Tifu capitalized on a rebound to shovel the puck past Jan Chovan to make it 4-2 just 35 seconds later.

“We played two good periods but we didn’t play well during the first minutes of the 3rd period,” a disappointed Chovan said.

The Angers Ducs played better defence for the rest of the game and didn’t allow Yertis Pavlodar to come back anymore. The win keeps Angers’ hopes alive to win the tournament and qualify for the Champions Hockey League.

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