Olympia Ice Sports Center, Munich - The new year may have started two weeks ago but EHC München can officially ring it in.
Martin Buchwieser assisted on the go-ahead goal by Eric Schneider and put the game away minutes later with an empty-netter as EHC defeated the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers 4-2 in the latest edition of a Bavarian Derby for both clubs.
The win snaps a four game losing streak for Munich and gives them their first win in 2012. Their last win was also a derby match, a 5-0 win against the Augsburg Panthers in the Olympic Arena on December 30th.
Unlike the past games, EHC were agressive from the beginning and were rewarded with the first score. As the Tigers were in the middle of a line change, Klaus Kathan found an unmarked Jason Ulmer who put the puck in the net 7:44 in the first period.
"I like how we started," said Munich head coach Pat Cortina. "We went to the net harder and we brought the puck to the net. In the first period we battled extremely well."
When the second period started, the momentum shifted to the visitors from Nuremberg. Midway through, Schneider would head to the penalty box for interference and five seconds later, the Tigers scored a power play goal.
Yan Stastny won the ensuing face-off, the puck found Robert Leask at the blue line who blasted it and puck got by Jochen Reimer. Tie game 1-1.
The action picked up on both sides after that, as the teams were flying back and forth on the ice. But neither club would relent.
The open flow continued in the third period. Eight and a half minutes in, Mike Kompon skated behind the goal and scored on a wrap-around shot to give Munich the lead.
EHC enjoyed the lead for all of 40 seconds, the Tigers were back on the attack and Gregory Leeb was in front of the net when Reimer could not pick up the puck, he scored and a tie seemed inevitable.
For a team that had been struggling, Munich were in a pivotal moment of the game where they let victory slip away.
"We always thought we could win (tonight), but when you are in a losing streak, bad things go through your mind and the pressure is on you a bit," admitted EHC's top scorer Schneider.
But that's when the stars for stepped it up. Quick passing paid off for Munich, Buchwieser was behind the net who found Schneider for the winning goal. Minutes later, EHC were able to clear the puck to Buchwieser, who streaked down the far side and with a backhand into the side of the net, the game was in the bag.
"When teams are struggling like we are struggling, we need key players to make big plays at big moments," Cortina said about Schneider, Buchwieser and his goaltender Jochen Reimer, who stopped 26 shots.
"Tonight we competed hard, we were smart, and in critical moments we got big plays from key players."
"We were playing behind the whole night," admitted Nuremberg's head coach Peter Draisaitl. "We didn't play hockey tonight. Munich was better than us throughout the 60 minutes and they earned it. That's why we are going home empty-handed."
Schneider described the positive vibes in the team's locker room after. "It was fantastic. We haven't really played a good hockey game in a long time, it was nice to come back in and say we played a solid game. Now we can look forward to next weeknd after playing well."
The win helps Munich move back into a playoff spot with 15 games left. EHC jumped both Augsburg and DEG Metro Stars of Dusseldorf in the standings and sit in 9th. They will be back in action against on Friday in Berlin against the Ice Bears, who sit on top the DEL standings but lost against the Mannheim Eagles 5-2 on Sunday.
Cortina believes the team can turn things around after not scoring in their last three losses on the road.
"When we are on our game, it doesn't matter where we are playing. Hopefully this (win) is a step in the right direction."
EHC return to the Olympiaeissportzentrum next Sunday against the aforementioned Metro Stars that will be an early playoff game for both clubs. Face-off at 16:30 CET.
Listen to the SOS Podcast with EHC head coach Pat Cortina.