Sunday, 9 September 2012

So I'm a VIP now?

Some times in life I really do think I am privileged. I headed on this trip expecting to live relatively unpleasantly, eating cheaply and getting the crap seats at the hockey. However, today was a day to savour. My work with HC Slovan Bratislava meant that I was always in contact with the main people there, and when I told them that I was going to be heading over for the game today against Dinamo Riga, I was hopeful of simply meeting the people who I write for, and the possibility of a free ticket.

A deserted Bratislava.
Imagine my face when I get given my ticket with entry to the SkyLounge on it. The comfy seats of the VIP area were a continent away from the uncomfortable plastic boards at Zilina yesterday evening. Not only was I sitting in awesome armchairs watching my second favourite team in the hockey world play, I was suitably watered and fed. I’ve been to some conferences for work this year where the food has been poncy crap. Schnitzels, sausages and rice. That is what I’m talking about for VIP food. Add in some Zlaty Bazant on tap? Well now you’re just spoiling me. The even better news is that I’m heading back on the 17th, so hopefully I can experience the same hospitality once again!

The game wasn’t one of the best KHL games I’ve seen, but it was incredibly enjoyable none the less. Dinamo Riga had brought along around eighty or ninety fans with them who were incredibly loud, and occasionally the 8,000 in the Slovnaft Arena stirred, sending a wall of noise onto the ice. It was an important game for Slovan, as it was the first time that they had Miroslav Satan and Jaroslav Janus in the lineup following the cock-up made in not registering them soon enough before the opening game against Donbass Donetsk, which they lost 4:2.

However, my positivity was rocked somewhat after just ten seconds, as Riga took the lead to the delight of the travelling faithful. A terrible neutral zone defensive play let Riga walk right in on a 2 on 1, which Miks Indrasis buried. Slovan were awful in the opening period, truly terrible. They looked like they had never met each other, and the people who I were with said that they looked a shade of the team that played against Donbass two days before.

Jon Rowson white glove watch: Boy was I in for a treat tonight. It’s part of Riga’s away uniform to have white gloves, although a little too much burgundy for my liking. The best ones were on the hands of Aleksandrs Nizvijs. Well played sir, a finely deserved 6 Marek Ivan’s out of 10.

The Slovnaft Arena blew me away.
The second period began in earnest, and finally Slovan looked like a team that could play at the NHL level. Things got better when they were given a 5 on 3 chance. Stajnoch passed down the line to behind the goal crease to Michel Miklik, who quickly found Mario Bliznak in the slot, and the former HC Sparta Praha forward buried to the delight of the home faithful. Still, Slovan looked shaky in defence despite Janus’ best efforts. I was reliably informed that Janus has a two year deal with Slovan now, but for all the different agreements I’ve heard with a number of different players, I’m taking that with a truckload of salt. Another shocking defensive lapse allowed Martins Karsums to break in alone whilst on the powerplay, and the Latvian national team made no mistake finding the top corner. Slovan were being outshot 2 to 1 at this stage in the game.

However, with the players at their disposal you can never count Slovan out of a game, and the pressure began to build. In a play very similar to the manner in which the first goal was scored, Miklik turned provider to scorer as he buried the chance after the dish from Michal Vondrka. Vondrka would then go on to have a golden chance on a 2 on 1 with Jon Sigalet in overtime, but he waited too long and Maris Jucers (yes, the awful goalie who played for Liepajas when the Blaze played them) managed to save it.

Sadly Dinamo Riga blew Slovan away...
The game would go to a penalty shootout, and Miklik and Vondrka both missed their efforts. Riga and their mediocre North Americans would go on to take two points from the game, although Slovan have finally got half the monkey off their back by picking up their opening point. For some of the players on their roster, Riga really did not look that good. Ivanans was anonymous, Mathieu Carle was solid yet unspectacular, the best thing Alexandre Giroux did all not was nearly get into a scrap with Martin Stajnoch, and Youtube hero Rob Schremp scored a lovely goal in the shootout but apart from that contributed little. Still, they did enough to win.

After three nights in Bratislava, it’s time to hit the rails, as tomorrow I head an hour down the line to Vienna, where I’ll be watching EBEL regular season action between the Vienna Capitals and the Hungarian side SAPA Fehervar.

That’s all for now.


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