Czech Extraliga playoffs crank up the heat on the ice
An exciting period of Czech sport is approaching as the ice hockey Extraliga playoffs return
Ice Hockey fans all over the country are preparing for some mouthwatering clashes between the Czech Republic’s top sides to determine the Extraliga champion. Czech hockey is amongst the best in the world and is sure to draw in attendance and viewership from other corners of the globe, let alone the Czech Republic.
The top two teams in the league, Liberec and Trinec, will find their opponents from the winners of Chomutov v Mlada Bolesav and Vitkovice v Plzen. Chomutov fell to a heavy defeat in their first match against Mlada Boleslav as they lost 7-1 at the SD Arena. Elsewhere it is advantage Vitkovice as they ran out 3-1 winners against Plzen at the Ostravar Arena.
Third place HC Sparta Prague take on sixth place Kometa Brno in a best of seven matches while fourth and fifth battle each other as Mountfield HK face up against Litvinov.
Heading into the first of the encounters, Sparta Prague have been underperforming recently. Two successive losses to Karlovy Vary and Plzen respectively gave the regular season a poor finish whereas victory in those fixtures could have seen them overtake Trinec into second. On the other hand Kometa Brno have only won two of their last five matches and head into the showdown at the 02 Arena on the back of a disappointing defeat to Olomouc.
Since the start of the season, Sparta Prague have been in goal scoring mood, they are the top scorers in the league on 164 goals. This has been helped by the fact that Jiří Kalous’s side have two of the top three individual scorers in the league. Forwards Lukas Pech and Petr Vrana have been in great form this season and their goals and assists could prove crucial against Kometa Brno. The previous encounters between the two sides this year wielded positivity to Sparta fans. On the ninth round of fixtures Kometa Brno beat Sparta 6-2 at the DRFG Arena but Sparta exacted revenge with a 3-2, 2-5 and most recently a 4-0 victory back in February.
The highest scoring domestic duel was in January 2016, when the Spartans won 9-3. Three times previously they also managed to beat Kometa by scoring eight goals. The highest win for Kometa was in fact the domestic game earlier this season when they won 6-2. However in the playoffs, it is a different affair. In knockout battles together during the modern era the two sides have clashed twice with Sparta fans hoping history will not repeat itself. First, in the quarterfinals of the 2011/2012 season, Kometa won 4-2 on matches, despite Sparta finishing the table in first place and Kometa in eighth. The other time was in the semifinals during the 2013/2014 season, which went at a decisive seventh game with Kometa again coming out on top. The first of the playoff matches between these two rivals will take place on Monday March 13 at the 02 Arena.
The other playoff match sees Mountfield HK take on Litvinov at the Fortuna Arena Hradlec Kralove with neither side in particularly good form. Mountfield have only won two of their last five matches while Litvinov have only won one of their last three games. Mountfield, similarly to Sparta, have been prolific in front of goal this season scoring 159 goals, second in the charts only to Sparta. Litvinov are on the other side of the spectrum however, as they have only scored 128 goals while conceding 126. In the previous meetings of the two teams this season Litvinov have the upper hand, winning three of the four encounters since September last year. Given the circumstances of the playoffs though, the form book tends to go out of window as passion and desire play a huge role in determining the overall winner.
52 matches into the long season and finally ice hockey fans can sit back and enjoy the playoffs. Sparta Prague’s first match against Kometa Brno will begin at 18:30 on 13.03.2017 at Sparta’s 02 Arena Prague.
HC Sparta Prague www.hcsparta.cz
HC Sparta Prague Facebook
Extraliga www.hokej.cz (CZ)
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