Salzburg wins Austrian league

Continental Cup winner also succeeds on home ice

09.04.2010
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Red Bull Salzburg won its third Austrian title. Photo: Andreas Robanser / puckfans.at

SALZBURG, Austria – After one year in Klagenfurt, the Austrian championship trophy goes back to Red Bull Salzburg. It’s the third title for the Dietrich Mateschitz-backed club after the wins in 2007 and 2008. Salzburg won the final series vs. Linz in six games.

Salzburg, which also won the 2010 IIHF Continental Cup in January, finished the regular season in second place but took advantage of regular season winner Graz 99ers’ elimination in the quarterfinals by Croatian Medvescak Zagreb.

Salzburg also had its toughest series in the quarterfinals edging last year’s champions KAC Klagenfurt in seven tight games. In the semi-finals, Salzburg defeated Medvescak Zagreb, 4-1, before meeting fourth-seeded Black Wings Linz in the final series.

Linz eliminated third-ranked Vienna Capitals in seven games in the semi-finals. Linz also took the lead in the finals against Salzburg (winning the first two games 3-2 and 6-4), but Salzburg turned the series around with four victories: 6-3, 3-2, 3-2 and 4-3. The last game was the only game that went into overtime and it even needed two sudden-death periods to decide the champion.

The longest game in the history of the league ended with Doug Lynch’s goal at 82:27. It was not the only record. The total attendance 1,052,909 (+16%). Also the capacity utilization increased, from 71% to 75.6%.

Linz goalkeeper Alex Westlund was named MVP of the league after the game.

In Salzburg, some of the most important players in Pierre Pagé’s team were Austrian national team players Thomas Koch, who had 78 points, Marco Pewal and Daniel Welser. Canadian forward Ryan Duncan was second in scoring on the team.

Red Bull Salzburg will celebrate the title on Friday at Mozart Square.

The newest entry in the multinational league, Medvescak Zagreb (see separate article) from Croatia was the best foreign team in the playoffs, reaching the semi-finals after finishing eighth in the regular season.

Hungary’s Fehervar AV19 reached sixth place in the regular season, but lost to the Vienna Capitals, 4-1, in the quarterfinals.

The first foreign nation to enter the Austrian league, Slovenia, finished at the bottom of the standings this year. Acroni Jesenice was ninth and Olimpija Ljubljana tenth in the ten-team league.

After Fehervar won the Hungarian title, also the national champions in the other countries involved in the Austrian league were determined.

Jesenice with Slovenian title and scandal

The Slovenian league became a “second tier” competition in the region, hosting totally eight Slovenian teams, two Croatian teams, Partizan Belgrade from Serbia and the farm team of Austria’s Graz 99ers.

Stavbar Maribor won the league title in the final against Partizan Belgrade. Partizan surprisingly eliminated regular season winner HK Triglav from Slovenia in the semis. Maribor won the first game 3-2 thanks to a goal in the last minute of the third period before the team repeated the scenario in the second game in front of 1,500 fans in Belgrade with Kadic’s last minute 3-2 goal to win the series.

After the league title, the Slovenian championship started with the four best Slovenian teams from the domestic league plus Acroni Jesenice and Olimpija Ljubljana.

It didn’t come to a surprise that the two teams from the Austrian league qualified for the final series for the Slovenian title. After Acroni Jesenice won the first game, Olimpija Ljubljana replied with two victories. Jesenice turned the series again with two wins to lead 3-2 after five games. And they ended up winning the championship on the road in Game 6 before 2,800 fans in Ljubljana. The host team tied the game at one at the end of the third period, but Olimpija won 2-1 in overtime.

The post-championship celebrations were marred by an incident that made major headlines in Slovenian and international media. On the day after the party, six Jesenice players reportedly paid a visit to the home of coach Mike Posma and abused him physically. The club condemned the incident and, after an extraordinary board meeting, Acroni terminated the contracts with the six players involved.

In Croatia, the four-team national championship was already decided in February. Medvescak Zagreb won both games of the best-of-three final series against Mladost Zagreb 5-2 and 6-3. KHL Zagreb claimed third place after a 13-4 victory against KHL Sisak.

MARTIN MERK

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