Jurassic shootout

Small-town Swiss clubs set record in men’s hockey

14.11.2016
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Ajoie goaltender Ludovic Waeber celebrates the win after the 46th shot. Photo: Georges Henz / HC Ajoie

PORRENTRUY, Switzerland – It took some time but after three hours of play HC Ajoie’s Thibault Frossard hit the back of the net and with the 46th penalty shot of the shootout HC La Chaux-de-Fonds’ Anthony Huguenin missed his chance to tie the game again.

Ajoie won the game of Switzerland’s second-tier National League B 3-2 on home ice in front of 2,215 ecstatic fans in a derby between two small-town teams from the Jura mountain range, and against the league leader.

The game took place in Porrentruy, the biggest town of the Ajoie region, a Swiss bridgehead surrounded by France on one side and the Jura mountain range on the other connected to the rest of Switzerland through the Col de la Croix pass and later a railway and highway tunnel.

Less than 7,000 people live in the town that has a wild boar in its coat of arms and a wyvern, a dragon-like mythological creature, in the logo of HC Ajoie, the local hockey club and most famous institution of the region. It’s usually quiet in the area unless the club plays at its ice rink located in a chilly, barn-like building the club hopes to replace with a newer structure in the next few years.

Its location outside of the town and next to watchmakers and a Lamborghini car dealership may be a bit misleading. The club has the image of a workers’ club with a French-Canadian history of coaches and import players, and with an ice rink visiting teams know it’s not easy to win even though the last three home games ended with one-goal losses for the Ajoulots.

La Chaux-de-Fonds gave it a try and was leading 2-0 after goals from Devin Muller and Laurent Meunier, a French national team forward who obtained Swiss citizenship a few days before the game. But Ajoie came back with two third-period goals from its Canadian players Jonathan Hazen and Anthony Verret, the game-tying goal coming with 63 seconds left in regulation time.

In the first five rounds of the shootout Ajoie tied La Chaux-de-Fonds twice. 12 scoreless tie-breaking rounds followed before Ajoie’s Simon Barbero hit the back of the net but Patrick Zubler tied it for La Chaux-de-Fonds. After another four scoreless rounds it was Frossard who scored the shootout winner with the 45th attempt.

The shootout broke an old Swiss record with 28 shots and is believed to be the longest ever in a men’s hockey game and in professional hockey worldwide. In 2010 a game in the top German league DEL between EHC Munchen and the Straubing Tigers ended after 42 shots. In 2014 the Florida Panthers won a shootout in the NHL against the Washington Capitals that was decided after 40 shots.

The longest shootouts in hockey were registered recently in women’s hockey. In January Memmingen beat Bergkamen after a 54-shot shootout in the top German women’s hockey league. And on 15 February 2015 AIK Stockholm’s Emmy Alasalmi scored with the 56th shot to lead her team to a victory at Brynas Gavle in the Swedish women’s hockey league.

MARTIN MERK

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