It's been over 5 months since EHC Munich last took to the ice at the Olympic Ice Skating Facility in Munich. This year a lot has changed over the long break. Like every summer, some players have left the club while new players have joined the blue and white. Yet the biggest change was made away from the ice. With a major investor deciding to step down at the end of last season, the club was left in financial turmoil with the future looking quite bleak. Negotiations with the city of Munich to secure additional sponsorship funding failed, rumours also abounded about losing the franchise, and relocation to new shores. Just when all seemed lost, it was Austrian energy drink giants Red Bull which provided first aid and took over yet another club naming right in sports.
Over 1700 Munich ice hockey supporters turned out on Sunday to support their EHC turned Red Bulls versus Austria's reigning EBEL Champions LIWEST Black Wings Linz.
Local hero Martin Buchwieser (23) took his team to the ice as captain for the first time in his career, and it was the home side that created the first few attempts on goal.
Both teams showed a decent level of fitness and skill, catering for an entertaining and evenly balanced yet scoreless first period with chances at both ends.
The Black Wings came out flying at the start of the second period and broke the deadlock in the 27th minute. Pat Leathy opened the scoring for the Austrian champions with a short-handed goal.
The goal added some much needed spice to the game, with players finally finishing their checks and attacking the opposition's body in order to win the puck. Captain Buchwieser took things a little too seriously when attacking Linz goalie Lorenz Hirn, and former Düsseldorfer EG defender Andy Hedlund showed no hesitation in returning the compliment on behalf of his teammate between the pipes. Both players were sent to the penalty box to cool off just before the 2nd buzzer.
During the 2nd intermission, EHC coach Pat Cortina must have found some choice words to get under his players skins as the home side came out fired up.
Following a major scoring opportunity in the 42nd minute when firing an open shot straight into the keepers' glove, EHC forward Jason Ulmer was set up nicely by new signing Brent Aubin and hammered a slap shot to level the scores, sending Munich's supporters into raptures.
But while fans were still celebrating a first Red Bull goal in Munich's ice hockey history, Linz striker Michael Lebler fired a nice wrist shot past Jochen Reimer to restore Linz's lead only a minute later.
Munich increased the level of intensity and it was once again Buchwieser and Hedlund who dropped the gloves to show their affection for one another. With both players sent to the sin bin, the sound system ironically started to blare out John Paul Young's ''Love is in the air."
Linz forward Mike Ouellette showed his 'love' for EHC forward Bryan Adams in yet another ''rumble in the jungle" display. With plenty of endorphins running through the systems, the Austrian visitors managed best of all to switch concentration back to simply playing hockey.
With one home player already in the sin bin, Wings forward Danny Irmen slotted the decisive goal past Reimer for a 3:1 powerplay goal five minutes before the final siren.
Munich still had time for a couple of half chances, but were denied expertly by brilliant Black Wings goalie Hirn.
It was a good first 'friendly' outing by the Red Bulls in what should be an exciting, passionate and competitive DEL hockey in season 2012/13.
EHC Red Bull Munich's next pre-season home game will be on Sunday (Aug 26) at 6pm against Bavarian rivals Straubing Tigers.