Slavia Prague battled to a 4-2 victory against Karlovy Vary in the Extraliga Playoff Finals on Thursday evening. It all came down to a decisive Game 7. In the knockout competition 8 teams in the Czech hockey league battle to be champions, more prestigious and important than overall position in the regular season. Jamie Brindley has the story.
The series of matches between Slavia Prague and Karlovy Vary had been tied at 3-3 going into the final and decisive seventh game of the playoffs. Slavia, who knocked out Liberec White Tigers to make it through to the final, won last night four goals to two to take home the trophy. The final contest between took place before a record sell-out crowd of 17,123 in the Czech capital.
Slavia, who finished second in the regular season, had won the playoff title only once before, in 2003. Karlovy Vary, on the other hand, fourth in the regular season have never clinched the title and will have to wait at least another year. On Thursday the team really didn’t come close: Slavia led by Josef Beranek, dominated the first two-thirds of the match with a 3:0 lead. Karlovy Vary did pull the score line back to 4-2 but could not level the game. Despite his side’s dominance in the final, Slavia coach Vladimír Růžička told reporters afterwards in a game like this one can never be certain:
"Every one tells me that when we play at home we seem very calm and composed, but to me, watching from the sidelines, it didn't seem that way! Karlovy Vary are a strong side with dangerous players and a great goalkeeper. In a match like this, anything can happen and prove decisive."
Slavia forward Roman Červenka – part of the most successful attacking line in the Czech Extraliga was jubilant:
"I'm really glad that this turned out the way it did and we won, for me it’s the first time that I've won something like this and it's great. No one had any confidence in us before the season started and I think it was actually good for us to be considered underdogs. We worked as a team and that's why we won."
Slavia will now join top finishers in the regular season Mountfield České Budějovice as the Czech Republic's two entrants for the inaugural season of the Champions Hockey League. The IIHF announced that the first edition of the new competition, starting October 8 2008, will be played with 12 teams from seven countries. Qualifying for this new tournament could prove lucrative for Slavia should they do well, with a 1,000,000 Swiss franc ($1,000,000) bonus going to the winner - the largest reward ever to be given in a European hockey competition.
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