Banners On The Road – Rostock Piranhas vs Black Dragons Erfurt 7/1/14

Nord/Ost Pokal group stage

Rostock Piranhas 7-6 Erfurt Black Dragons (OT)

Rabbani                      Sergerie x 3

Sulcik x 2 (1ps)           Klein x2

Sponholz                     Sykora

Schmidt

Marsall

Vycichlo

IMAG0665

The game: Considering how long the day had been, I was pumped for this game. We’d left the house at 7:30am that morning, gotten a coach to Heathrow Terminal 5, flown to Hamburg and then been driven from Hamburg back to Rostock arriving in the former largest port of the German Democratic Republic about 3 hours before faceoff.

After a quick lift up the road, it was time for the traditional routine of standing around outside for the usual chatting and drinking of beers before Torsten Asmuß appears. Torsten has been promoted from press spokesman to vice president since I’ve last been in Rostock and greets me with usual cheer and a hearty handshake. My wife and I are ushered towards the door, given a stamp and we’re inside. It appears we’re in for free (free-ish, Torsten was sorted out with some tickets to the new ice sculpture show at my friend’s work).

The rink hasn’t changed much but the Piranhas have; beset by injury problems and poor form, Rostock entered this game in the midst of a 3 game loosing skid. Denis Rauscher was the only netminder with Tobias John injured and Rostock icing 13 skaters including 2 additions from the “Freibeuter”, the Rostock second team in Peter Sponholz and Phil Bergemann. With only 3 fit defenceman, free scoring forward Karol Bartanus found himself playing on the blueline to make up two pairings and Erik Haiduk was captain in place of the injured Jens Stramkowski. Erfurt entered the game with multiple scratches and only the one netminder in the form of junior system product Martin Otte.

The game started badly for the hosts; immediately on the back foot and looking short of ideas and confidence with only one shot from Kevin Gall even remotely troubling Otte.

The Black Dragons took every opportunity that came their way. A drive towards the net saw a scramble and Canadian forward Adam Sergerie stuffed the puck past Rauscher at 03:55 for 1-0. Before the Rostock fans could adequately shout their annoyance at the lack lustre play, Sergerie made it 2-0 after being given too much time and space in the slot and fired a wrist shot over Rauscher’s glove at 04:52. When Paul Klein raced past Jan Schmidt and blasted a shot into the net for 3-0 to Erfurt at 05:57, Piranhas trainer Wolfgang Wünsche was forced into a timeout where he visibly berated the outskaters for giving Rauscher no help.

The timeout appeared to wake the hosts up somewhat and something of a game plan appeared to take shape which was expose the fact that Erfurt were playing high and hit them on the counter with speed. This seemed to work as Petr Sulcik started to find his range a bit, troubling Otte but not scoring.

The Piranhas had to face off a powerplay after being given a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct but somehow managed to keep the score at 3-0, at times almost despite their best efforts, the first period being summed up when Petr Sulcik and Anton Marsall managed to skate into each other in open ice. The Piranhas managed to draw a penalty from Erfurt’s Florian Brink for holding to give the home side a powerplay into the second period but everybody, players and fans alike, was delighted at the sound of the horn ending the first period.

The team talk and powerplay to start the middle frame seemed to give the Piranhas a bit of a boost but Erfurt did seem to be taking their foot off of the gas somewhat. Feeling that they had the game sown up, they seemed to just be toying with Rostock.

The Piranhas however were rewarded for their better play when their counterattacking tactics worked; Jan Schmidt fired a pass to Josh Rabbani who was alone behind the defence. The former RPI Engineer, deked and managed to get his backhand shot past Otte at 22:51 for a 1-3 scoreline.

The goal sparked Rostock into life but Erfurt were happy to play a calm game and let Rostock come at them, Paul Stratmann having the best chance to convert but missing past the netminder’s left post. Erfurt were confident to just take their chances, capitalising on some poor Rostock defending which gave chances to Ryan Olidis and Oliver Otte.

Suddenly, Petr Sulcik was sprung behind the Black Dragons defence and was away. Despite being tugged and whacked at, Rostock’s Czech forward managed to force a save from Otte but was awarded a penalty shot all the same. Sulcik made the most of the opportunity, sniping the puck under the netminder’s arm at 33:32 to bring the hosts within a goal.

Sulcik’s reward for his goal was a near immediate trip to the penalty box on a hooking call that was too soft for the home fans but the penalty was killed off. The rest of the period played out with minimal incident as Erfurt managed to keep Rostock at bay, frustrating the hosts’ more attacking game plan and the visitors still held the lead at 3-2 when the second stanza finished.

The final frame of the game was nothing short of insane; just when the Piranhas’ fans were hopeful at the start of the third period, Erfurt struck again. A sustained wave of pressure forced Rauscher to collapse into the butterfly position and a neatly played pass found Adam Sergerie all alone to complete his hattrick at 43:02 and restore a 2 goal lead for the visitors.

Rather than let their heads drop, this seemed to spur Rostock on further and their way back into the game came from the unlikeliest of sources. A makeshift third line of Jan Schmidt alongside the two Freibeuter players had not really troubled Erfurt all night; playing something of a more traditional EIHL/EPL third line role of “don’t get scored on”. Philip Labuhn’s speculative shot rebounded off of Otte in the Erfurt goal on to backhand side of the stick of Peter Sponholz who batted the puck into the net at 45:59 to make it 4-3 to Erfurt.

Before the home fans could properly celebrate the goal, it was 5-3 as Enrico Manske fed Paul Klein for his second of the night at 46:22 but Rostock kept coming and soon had Erfurt firmly on the back foot. David Vycichlo’s point shot was redirected past Otte at 47:41 for 5-4 and when Petr Sikora was called for hooking, the Rostock powerplay went to work. Kevin Gall blasted a shot from the blueline on net and the rebound fell to the waiting Jan Schmidt who had all the time in the world to settle the puck and place it into the bottom of the net at 49:24 to tie the score at 5-5 with half of the last period to play.

Having led 3-0, 4-2 and 5-3 Erfurt realised they needed to respond but were met with an onslaught from the Piranhas offence who could smell a winning goal in the offing. Even the extra space of 4 on 4 hockey provided by matching roughing minors for Klein and Bergemann couldn’t change anything but the deadlock would soon be broken.

Rostock launched another attack; with the top line baring down on Otte’s goal the pucked squirted free to Anton Marsall who managed to stuff the puck under Otte’s left pad at 55:16 and the home side had come all the way back. The joy however quickly turned to frustration when Erfurt’s top line of Sergerie, Sikora and Ryan Olidis combined; the Piranhas failed to clear the zone, Erfurt made some slick passes and Sikora was on the doorstep for the goal at 56:32.

Roared on by the home fans and a late penalty on Olidis for tripping, the Piranhas searched for a way to end the game in regulation and came close but couldn’t deny the visitors at least a point.

With the penalty to Olidis carrying over into the extra frame, the Piranhas set themselves up for the crunch. There was no way past Otte it seemed but just 2 seconds after Olidis left the box it was all over. With the puck having been passed back to Bartanus at the point, his shot bounced off of the netminder right onto the stick of David Vycichlo who bundled the puck over the line and sent the home fans happy at 60:32 and a celebrating Denis Rauscher diving at the plexiglass and pretending to row himself across the ice with his goalie stick.

 

The calm before the insane, final period of action at the Eishalle Rostock in the Schillingallee (c) Banners On The Wall

The calm before the insane, final period of action at the Eishalle Rostock in the Schillingallee
(c) Banners On The Wall

The Piranhas: As a fan this game really put you through the ringer; few players, players out of position, quickly in a hole and somehow still managing to win? This was certainly a game for the neutral.

Denis Rauscher in the Rostock net wasn’t given a great deal of support at times but made some important saves when he had to and looks like a good player to have alongside Tobias John.

Petr Sulcik got man of the match for the Piranhas and it was easy to see why as he is by far and away the best player Rostock has at the moment. Recently rewarded with a 3 year contract, it would have been nicer to see Sulcik in a more run of the mill game when the side isn’t so injury depleted.

It was also interesting to see how Josh Rabbani had slotted into the Piranhas lineup. North Americans generally play a much more physical style than is seen at this tier of German hockey but his game that of a two way centre is very much suited to this league. The Californian took his goal well.

The sight of Karol Bartanus, a Piranhas legend stood on the blueline was equal to that of seeing Nicky Chinn on defence for Basingstoke a couple of years ago; it looks bizarre but you can see why they do it. Bartanus, a 1997 Boston Bruins draft choice has excellent vision, passing and skating which made him an obvious choice to play on defence especially given Rostock’s other attacking options.

It wasn’t the greatest game the Rostocker Eishockey Club have ever played but after 3 disappointing losses on the bounce, this was a character win that was really needed.

 

The Black Dragons: It’s been a while since I’ve watched Erfurt so the Black Dragons are a very different team than the one I watched I last watched in 2006. They do however possess one of the best logos in hockey; it’s worth checking out their merchandise for that alone.

The obvious place to start is Adam Sergerie; 3 well taken goals in a variety of ways and the 27 year old former Lakehead University Thunderwolves captain is clearly a force to be reckoned with at this level. Combined with the team’s other Canadian import in Ryan Olidis, they have 120 points in 22 games for Erfurt. Combined with 41 year old veteran Petr Sikora, there is obvious attacking punch at the top end for Erfurt.

It’s also worth mentioning Martin Otte in net. The 24 year old having only seen minimal time as part of a netminding trio with Max Gimbel and Stephan Löffelholz gave a performance similar to that of Rauscher for Rostock; solid but at times given minimal help from his defence.

That said coach Tim Donnolly will not be happy with having let this game slip away. Yes the Nord/Ost Pokal is about as important as some EIHL sides seem to take the Challenge Cup these days but three decent leads they let slip against a side short on players and form. It will have been a long bus ride home.

 

Overall: The game was what it was; chaotic fun. There were goals, a bit of physicality and a bit of drama to go with it. 7 goals in the final period will do that to a game.

The overall game itself wasn’t of the highest quality I’ve ever seen at the Eishalle Schillingallee (Rostock 3-0 Ratingen Ice Aliens in early 2005 wins every time) but having sat at home over the last few weeks and read the results over livetickers and the like, it was good to see the side dig deep, really deep and pull this win out of the bag. The 600 odd in attendance (that’s low but a cup game on a Tuesday night during term time will do that) were treated to a performance that started awfully but meant that much more when the comeback was complete.

Putting the analyst hat firmly to one side, it was nice to be back in block c with the members of Ostseepower and just yelling away again. I had a few beers, I had a bockwurst and just generally enjoyed myself. I will always tell people to visit Rostock because 1. it’s my team and 2. it’s a fun place to watch hockey. Tickets are 10€, food and drink are cheap and any merchandise you want is easily available. Sadly the programmes have been discontinued altogether due to poor sales. RIP Puck Echo.

Rostock’s next game was away in Leipzig whilst the Black Dragons had a date in the capital against Preussen Berlin. We’ll return to Rostock in a little bit. Next time on Banners On The Road; Berlin, hallelujah Berlin.

No...I don't know either

No…I don’t know either

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