EHC München hosted 2010 DEL champions Hannover Scorpions today in an early Sunday afternoon encounter at Oberwiesenfeld in front of 3,367 hockey fans. Hannover had already beaten München twice this season and were 6 points ahead going into today's game. The home side's desperation to close in on the playoff spots added some much needed spice and importance to the game, one which started at the family friendly time of 14.30 CET.
Both NHL imports Wheeler and Stastny started for EHC, alongside captain Buchwieser, defenders Sturm and Ejdepalm and Reimer in goal. Despite Wheeler creating a scoring opportunity 17 seconds in, it was Hannover who took the lead. A rather weak shot at goal from Morczinietz was deflected in by a München defender to stun the hosts.
Interestingly enough Hannover's NHL signing from the San Jose Sharks, German goalie Thomas Greiss, found himself on the bench as a result of the club's rotation policy. EHC captain Buchwieser found himself in the sin bin for a total of 12 minutes (2+10) following a check from behind, which caused a minor scuffle amongst the players.
Having been caught on the back foot early on, it took München some time to regain their confidence, slowly applying pressure on Hannover's strong defensive line-up. With just a minute of play left in the opening period that pressure paid off. Stastny finished a sensational move at the back post following a perfect assist from (who else but) Wheeler, giving München a well-deserved equaliser.
At the start of the second period, München continued to apply aggressive power-play hockey. The referees continued to hand out minor penalties against both sides, making goals difficult to come by. 27 minutes into the game, Buchwieser and Wheeler assisted Paul Stastny who added yet another goal to his personal tally to give München a 2-1 lead. It was yet another masterclass display by München's top line and there are definitely some fans hoping the current NHL lockout will never come to an end. Hannover had a rare scoring opportunity half way through the game when a nice slapshot by Eric Regan beat Reimer, only to be denied by the post. Just before the end of the second period, München's Blake Wheeler was handed a personal 10-minute misconduct penalty. It was his third major penalty, which means that he will sadly miss Friday night's encounter in Straubing.
EHC started the final period with a five-on-three advantage due to a double minor against Hannover at the end of the second period. Despite this, Pätzold performed heroically in goal for Hannover, keeping his side within reach. With 48 minutes played, München opted for yet another power play. After Ekbom found Cespiva, his crafty slapshot from the blue line was straight at Pätzold. Hannover's keeper could only parry though, allowing Dibelka the chance at the rebound, one he did not miss as München took a 3-1 lead.
Following a time-out by the Scorpions, Hannover's Sulkovsky scored with a shot that again was heavily deflected, leaving Reimer no chance. All of a sudden, Hannover found themselves back within reach, trailing München by only one goal with seven minutes left in the game. It was edge of your seat stuff and when München's Sloan collected a two-minute minor for a high stick with only 2:25 remaining in the game, the hosts started to worry. This anxiety only increased when Pätzold left the ice for an additional attacker, giving the Scorpions a six-on-four advantage on the ice. Supported by the fans and thanks to a couple of great, late saves by Reimer, München managed to hold on to their 3-2 lead and celebrated their fifth consecutive win on home ice.
Hannover's coach Igor Pavlov spoke of "a well deserved win for München simply because of their smarter, faster and more aggressive style of hockey." München's head coach Pat Cortina said that "neither team had it easy" because of "the referees being a little too happy with their whistles. The most important thing was the three points tonight, especially with the big games we've got coming up. We said come Christmas, we wanted to be in the hunt for a top 10 spot. We won't rest now and will need to make sure to stay in the race", added Cortina.
With the contracts of Stastny and Wheeler both expiring on December 23rd, club manager Christian Winkler said that the club "will do everything we possibly can in order to keep both players in Munich for the duration of the NHL lockout."
Following tonight's win, EHC have moved up into the top ten in the DEL rankings with 38 points. Following an away trip to rivals Straubing Tigers next Friday night, EHC will host Düsseldorfer EG next Sunday afternoon, December 23rd at the slightly later time of 5.45pm CET due to the live TV coverage.