VIENNA – It is the Eastern Derby in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga, and on Friday night it was a game between the first placed team and the last placed team. In their last matchup of the regular season, the Vienna Capitals hosted the Znojmo Eagles. It was an evened out match up until the end, not really the most interesting one either, but Znojmo prevailed in the shootout.
Ryan McKiernan (Vienna) and Jan Lattner (Znojmo) both went to the box at the start of the final frame, but McKiernan got four minutes, however the Eagles hadn’t managed to hit the back of the net for the third time in the game. The Capitals do have the league’s best penalty kill, while Znojmo ranks tenth out of 12, with a PP% of 15.3.
The kill sparked a fire in the Capitals lineup – they showed that they were the faster and better team. The entire game wasn’t the Capitals finest showing, they’ve proven many times that they can play at a higher pace, with fewer mistakes and more high quality chances, but let us stay reasonable and keep in mind that it is January and that the team from Vienna already locked up a playoff spot. While you aren’t supposed to just sit back and relax, there really is no need for any extravaganza.
Both teams had some chances in overtime, but it generally followed the pace of the game, which was rather uneventful. It wasn’t as, some might dare to say, a snoozefest, but it was not far from the general consensus of January games.
Riley Holzapfel, Taylor Vause and Tyler Cuma all missed their shootout opportunities, while Michal Plutnar managed to beat JP Lamoreux in the second round and earn Znojmo the extra point.
“I haven’t seen us play a first period like that in a long time,” said Vienna head coach Serge Aubin. “We weren’t as good as we were supposed to be, our execution simply wasn’t there. We had to pull the goalie early, which is always a tough decision, but that’s hockey.”
Znojmo had the lead twice during the first two periods, the first coming shortly after having their previous strike disallowed due to offside, and after the Capitals tied it up, the Eagles regained possession of the lead on the man advantage. Marek Spacek then took a hooking penalty and Jerry Pollastrone levelled it all up with a loose puck in the slot, setting up an interesting final period of play.
Vienna initially started their backup, Matthias Tschrepitsch between the pipes, but seven and a half minutes and one goal into the game he was replaced by JP Lamoreux, the league’s leading goaltender in save percentage (93.3%) and the for goaltenders irrelevant statistic, goals against average (2.00).
As a side note, the argument why the GAA is more a team statistic, just like the irrelevance and inaccuracy of plus/minus is a different story and might be addressed at a later time.
To sum it all up, honestly and objectively, a shootout was the proper way to end this game. Sixty minutes of regulation hadn’t quite distinguished the better team, 3-on-3 overtime showed no winner, so the universe had its ways and brought us a shootout. Only one goal, no flashy moves and no outstanding saves, just like the rest of the game. Znojmo are, however, taking home the extra point, while Vienna have a day to prepare and reset for the game on Sunday against Klagenfurt, which (hopefully) promises more entertainment.