EHC Red Bull München had yet another tough weekend, with a trip to Ingolstadt on Friday before returning to home ice at Oberwiesenfeld on Sunday to host German record champions Eisbären Berlin.
Coming off the back of a three-point weekend, including a win and a loss on penalties, München were desperate to collect additional championship points in order to keep within striking distance of the top ten.
For the first time in the 2012/13 season, EHC coach Pat Cortina did not have his number one goalkeeper available as Jochen Reimer was out with flu. His backup, Lukas Steinhauer, made some great saves on his debut for EHC last weekend (Steinhauer came on after the first period when Reimer was forced off the ice). This performance gave the coach and the team a real boost. "We have full confidence in Lukas", said EHC manager Christian Winkler during the week.
In Ingolstadt on Friday night, EHC took a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute when 19-year-old Andreas Pauli backhanded the puck into the Panther's net for his first career DEL goal. Effective fore-checking and smart hockey from EHC forced Ingolstadt back into their own half for most of the game as the home side struggled to set up any scoring opportunities.
A minute before the end of the second period, EHC's Brent Aubin increased the lead to two, flicking home after a Lubor Dibelka assist. Ingolstadt took only seconds to respond though. With two EHC players out in the sin bin for minor penalties and only seconds left before the end of the period, Ingolstadt scored through Derek Hahn to get within one. München battled hard and played entertaining hockey but Ingolstadt, carried by their home supporters (3,717 in attendance), eventually broke through München's defence to score the equaliser two minutes before the final siren, Hahn again finishing the move. With no goals scored in overtime, goal hungry Hahn gave Ingolstadt the extra point with his third of the night, winning his team the game 3-2 after penalties.
Following three consecutive games that had ended with a penalty shoot-out, München returned to home ice on Sunday to host Eisbären Berlin. Having lost the first two encounters against the strong team from the capital this season, 4,108 enthusiastic supporters turned out at Oberwiesenfeld to support their team, hopefully of a different outcome.
"München are a side capable of applying great pressure. They're well prepared and desperate for the win - but so are we", said Berlin's coach Don Jackson ahead of the game. A confident EHC captain Felix Petermann spoke of that pressure before the game, adding "We were a little unlucky to have only taken four points from the last three games so we really want to continue our form and put some pressure on Berlin."
The home team started with some real firework hockey, displaying some technical and entertaining play. A little over two minutes in and München landed the first punch, scoring the opening goal on a power play through Ryan Kavanagh (assisted by Martin Buchwieser and Uli Maurer). Berlin recovered quickly though, taking some 86 seconds to respond through Barry Tallackson. Neither team dropped their intensity and both sides created multiple scoring opportunities but both Steinhauer and Rob Zepp made some outstanding saves to keep the scores level.
EHC increased their pressure again in the third period and, following a number of good scoring chances, finally took the lead again in the 45th minute. Martin Hinterstocker and Lubor Dibelka went wide and around goal in a nice combination, setting up Klaus Kathan to finish from close range for his fifth goal of the season. Berlin's biggest chance to equalise came a minute later when Berlin's Busch fired a shot at goal, only to be denied by the crossbar. In the 53rd minute Tallackson went one better, scoring his 11th goal of the season to level the scores once more.
At 2-2 and after such a thrilling encounter, neither team deserved to lose this excellent advert for DEL hockey. However, there has to be a winner in ice hockey and EHC found themselves involved in yet another penalty shoot-out. The drama continued when, unbelievably, the first ten players all missed their chance to score. Berlin's Foy then finally converted to maximise pressure on Martin Hinterstocker who stepped up for EHC, knowing he had to score to keep his side in the game. Hinterstocker did just that and turned the hockey arena into cheers of delight. Sadly, those cheers were short-lived as Ryan Kavanagh then missed München's next penalty, giving Berlin the chance to seal the game. And it was Eisbären captain Andre Rankel who took matters into his own hands, stepping up and leaving Steinhauer without a chance to give Berlin the extra point.
"I really feel for my team tonight. We played 65 minutes of fantastic hockey and took on the fight. We should have been rewarded in at least one of the games this weekend", said Pat Cortina in the press conference afterwards.
EHC's next home game will be on Friday January 25th at 19:30 CET against Hannover Scorpions, who currently sit four points ahead of München in 8th position.