It was young Mate Tomljenović’s KHL debut. It was a night where Steve Montador’s life was honored. At the same time, it was a night where Medveščak’s bad old habits reappeared. A bad first period, defence that didn’t live up to the challenge, lacklustre play by certain individuals.
Dinamo Riga came to Zagreb which was Medveščak’s second to last game of the season. Mate Tomljenović got the start in net, but was pulled after the first period following the goals by Kaspars Saulietis, Linus Videll and Milan Jurcina. The final score after 60 minutes of play was 3:1, when Edwin Hedberg sent home a deflection from Bill Thomas with 2:19 minutes remaining in the second frame.
Medveščak has been eliminated from the playoff race for more than a week now, leaving these last games without a real goal, other than to play for the fans. In fact, that is more than a real goal.
“Yeah, you know, it was obviously a game we wanted to win“ said Mark Flood. “Our last two home games, we want to play hard for our fans, respect the guys in the room, the coaching staff and the staff. We didn’t have the first period that we wanted to, but I thought we battled hard after that and I respected our guys and respected the game“
The main point of interest of the game was Tomljenović’s KHL debut, which was spoiled by three quick goals in the opening frame. While he wasn’t to be blamed for any of them, he was pulled after 20 minutes and replaced by Cal Heeter.
“Coach told me yesterday that I would be starting“ said Tomljenović. “I slept well, it was normal. Honestly, it was a rough start to the game. We didn’t get into it the way we needed, the way we wanted ourselves to. Oh well, though, it happens. You need to make a save there, too. It didn’t work out the way I would have wanted it to, but maybe I just wanted it all a bit too much. Maybe that’s what killed me. At least I got to play, that’s something“
“It certainly wasn’t Mate’s fault, he played great“ said Flood. “We were giving up some great A chances, it had nothing to do with Mate. He played great, we’re all happy for him and we’re all proud of him in that room. He battled hard all year and he’s a great guy and a great teammate. We were happy that he got in to play for a period“
“You know what, I don’t think it proved that he’s not ready for this league, I didn’t want the score to get embarrassing at home either, so I didn’t want him to be really embarrassed either“ said Doug Shedden. “I thought that we get Cal back in there, and Cal played really well the rest of the way“
“Well, overall, we played a young kid, his first game as a pro in the regular season, I wanted my guys to be ready to play for him, I wanted them to sacrifice“ said Shedden. “This kid has stayed out after practice all year round, all year taking shots, he’s been a shooter tutor all year for these guys. He’s a good kid and I really wanted our guys to really battle for him in the first period. Not to fault him, certainly on Videll’s goal and then the third one was through about six players screening the net. I just wanted to get some new life in the team, and even though we were shorthanded, at least they battled the rest of the way“
Although Shedden did want Tomljenović to play the full 60 minutes in the first place.
“Yes, I did, but when it went on to get 3:0, I certainly didn’t want to lose at home 7, 8:0, so I thought it was, not only for the guys, but even for him, all the way around, let’s get some life in, let’s get Cal in there to get us some life, and it did provide us with life“ said Shedden. “We won the second period, which we wanted to do, we just didn’t have enough for the third either“
“I don’t think they (the skaters) did enough“ said Shedden. “We didn’t play to our system in the first period, and that’s what made us coaches mad. We have a system and all of a sudden we’re not playing it. They scored two goals almost off the rush. It was disappointing how we came out in the first period. Being shorthanded, we need to be ready to play. Everybody’s going to get lots of ice time, everybody’s got to have a great game“
Outside the rink, candles were lit in honor of Steve Montador. Inside the rink, a book of eulogies was filled with goodbyes for Steve Montador. Before the puck dropped, a minute of silence was held in honor of Steve Montador.
“A lot of guys in there played with him and the organisation knew him“ said Flood. “He was a special guy, it was really nice of the organisation to do something for him before the game“
Sunday’s matchup against Jokerit will be Medveščak’s last of the 2014/15 KHL season.
“Well, you know, it’s our last game“ said Flood. “We got to battle hard. Our fans are great, so we have to play hard for our fans. Jokerit’s a good team, too, so they’re going to want to come in and play well here heading into the playoffs. We got to be ready to go and beat the tank“
“Well, you know, you don’t want to play too many of these games when they don’t mean anything. It’s tough. The give-a-shit gage is low, everybody is just playing it out here. It feels like they’re playing it out where their bodies want to look good on the beach and not injured on the beach. These are tough. Mentally, these are very tough games. It’s our last home game, and I don’t think the game means anything to Jokerit now, which is a break for us. Hopefully we can get a win and something to put a smile on our face, because we did such a great job to get back in the race. We got within four points, and then that game in Belarus really hurt us. It’s disappointing, but I was proud of the way we fought back, got back in the race“ concluded Shedden