EHC Munich faced yet another tough challenge when they hosted Cologne Sharks at the Olympic Ice Stadium in Munich but with the support of the majority of the 3,907 fans, Red Bull were determined to prove they are a side on the up.
EHC's star import Paul Stastny won the face-off and instantly the first play created a scoring opportunity for EHC with Stastny and Wheeler cutting through Cologne's defence like a hot knife through butter. Unfortunately, Sharks goalkeeper Danny aus den Birken is in top form (just like his counterpart Jochen Reimer) and he was able to save the shot.
EHC's Swedish defensive player Johan Ejdepalm was finally back on the ice, returning from injury, and not only EHC coach Pat Cortina seemed happy to finally have him back again. With Ejdepalm back in defence, Cologne continued with their aggressive and offensive style of hockey, a style that has taken them all the way up to the top of the DEL rankings. The Sharks had more shots on goal during the first 20 minutes of play and it was up to Reimer to once again keep Munich in the game.
Munich started the 2nd period short of numbers due to a two-minute minor to Paul Stastny at the end of the first period, but denied Cologne any scoring chances. Instead, EHC opened up and confronted Cologne with their own style of aggressive net-attacking hockey. Following two minor penalties in quick succession against the Sharks, it was Munich's #8 Viktor Ekbom who scored the opening goal on a power play with a nice slapshot from just inside the offensive zone. Both teams pushed forward and the fans certainly enjoyed such a high quality game of hockey. With 35 minutes played, it was Munich's Canadian import #Mike Kompon who scored Munich's second goal of the night. With a little help from up above, Kompon's shot found his way through the gloves of aus den Birken.
Cologne came out firing at the beginning of the final period, desperate to get themselves back into the game. EHC coach Pat Cortina responded by sending out his top line of Buchwieser, Wheeler and Stastny.
With 44 minutes played, EHC captain Martin Buchwieser had the 3-0 'on his stick' and he should have sealed the deal but aus den Birken denied him.
Time was running out for the Sharks but with just under 10 minutes left in the game, Cologne's #55 Felix Schütz made perfect use of a rebound following a strong shot at Reimer in goal. Schütz fired the puck with a quick wrist shot in the upper left corner, giving his Sharks huge momentum. EHC suddenly found themselves being pushed back and under immense pressure.
Just when they needed it and, as he has done in the past, EHC's captain scored when they needed him to. Buchwieser and teammate Paul Stastny showcased a stellar double-double pass and Buchwieser finished superbly to make it 3-1. Sharks coach Uwe Krupp immediately took a time-out and pulled his goalie for an additional player on the ice but it was Munich's Blake Wheeler that sent the EHC fans into hockey heaven when he added a fourth and final goal to seal the win for EHC.
"It was a game that, given the chances we had, we should not have lost tonight", said Sharks coach Uwe Krupp in the press conference afterwards. EHC Coach Pat Cortina agreed with Krupp's words but was "happy with the team's performance. To step up the way my team did especially in the third period, shows how fit my team is and how great their will to win games is", said Cortina. "It's also good to see that goals were scored by different players. Everyone had a big impact on tonight's great result."
With their third consecutive win on home ice, Munich have flown up to 11th in the DEL standings with 29 points.
EHC will take the road to Krefeld on Sunday before returning home for yet another Friday night game vs. Nürnberg Ice Tigers on December 7th at 7.30pm CET.