After a bitter loss in Besancon two weeks ago, the Puckers bounced back this Saturday to end the regular season of the Trophée Loisir Zone Est with a commanding 10-5 win at home against Strasbourg 1 and become the regular season champions ahead of Mulhouse, Epinal and Colmar.
The afternoon game between Epinal and Colmar already determined who the potential opponent in the first round of the playoffs would be as they both had a chance to seal a spot in the playoffs. With Epinal beating Colmar 10-1, Epinal take 3rd and Colmar 4th.
Puckers' Captain Yves Barthels
wanted determination of his team, determination to win this final game, take first spot in the championship and face Colmar in the first round of the playoffs.
It was then also the Captain that set the tone on his first shift by scoring the first goal 50 seconds into the game. On a nice tic tac toe play between Momo Lutov and Nick Aubin
, the Captain took the feed from Aubin at the blue line and drove towards the net to score on the team's first shot.
The home team came out with a lot of energy and scored another 3 unanswered goals in just 49 seconds. First Nick Aubin
on a pass by Niclas Lundberg
and Mike Mekhaeel
at 4:45, then Miikka Heinonen
who converted on the breakaway just 11 seconds later and finally Momo Lutov on a pass from Heinonen at 5:34. The guests from Strasbourg got pummelled with a flurry of shots and 4 quick goals. But they were not beaten yet.
The Puckers seemed to be taking too much comfort in an easy lead and neglected their defensive play a bit. Strasbourg took advantage of sloppy play by the Puckers to find a way back into what seemed a lost game. But with 50 minutes left in the game, a 0-4 deficit is not insurmountable.
Pucker's Matthias Rainer
, who had his season and Puckers' debut in net got beaten by Strasbourg's Adrien Finck at the 9:22 mark on a defensive mistake and failure to clear the zone. Strasbourg started to gain momentum and had a number of chances on a good Rainer in the Puckers’ net. But at the 14:17 mark, Eric Patris benefited from another breakdown in the Puckers defense to find himself all alone in the slot to beat Rainer short side to cut the Puckers’ lead in half, 2-4.
Fortunately, the home team took back momentum of the game when Lutov scored his second of the night a couple of minutes later and the Puckers went to the locker rooms with a 5-2 lead.
The message after the first period was clear: play solid defense and do not let Strasbourg back into the game. And like in the first, the Puckers came out with a commanding first shift in the second and Nick Aubin
scored just 49 seconds into the period on a nice pass by Lutov. But Strasbourg was not yet ready to give up and Vincent Eschmann gave his team hope when he found the back of the net halfway through the game.
But it was again the line of captain Barthels and Aubin together with Mekhaeel that put an end to those hopes and put the game away for good in a single shift. Aubin made a nice pass to Barthels and then screened the Strasbourg goalie so that his captain could tap in an easy goal at 31:53 and on the ensuing face-off won by Mekhaeel, Aubin easily passed the two defensemen to find the back of the net for the 8-3 just 8 seconds later. A sloppy play in the Puckers defensive zone allowed Finck to score his second of the night for the guests and with an 8-4 score, the game went to the second intermission.
The third period started with a flurry of penalties for the home team. Alban Menguelti
, Lutov (twice) and Patrick Ahlstrand
spent some time in the box and Strasbourg had two 5-on-3 opportunities. Only at the back end of the last penalty and with Ahlstrand just back on the ice, Strasbourg scored their last goal of the night on the powerplay when Louis Mauvais beat Rainer on a tap in goal at 49:29. But it came too late. The Puckers controlled the rest of the game and did not let Strasbourg back into the game. In the final three minutes, Heinonen (from Ahlstrand) and Mekhaeel (from Aubin) sealed the win with another couple of goals and the Puckers passed Mulhouse in the standings to end the regular season on top. Man of the match was Nick Aubin
who finished with a hattrick and 3 assists.
Dates for the playoff games will be set in the coming days. The final standings are available in the Standings section of the website. To be noted is that the Puckers are the only team without a malus in their 8 games.