HC Sparta Prague cruise into last 16 of the Champions Hockey League

HC Sparta Prague 6-2 aggregate win over ZSC Lions

It wasn’t supposed to be this easy, but a remarkable performance in the Sparta net by Tomas Popperle ensured the Spartans advanced to the last 16 of the CHL playoffs after a 6-2 aggregate win over ZSC Lions.

Popperle stood firm in the face of the Lions attack and ended the match with a 30-shot shutout, while the offensive line were clinical in their efforts with Netik, Kumstat and Buchtele breaching the Zurich goaltender in a 3-0 win.

It was a textbook performance of soaking up the opponent’s pressure, who were chasing the match, and hitting them with a classic sucker punch, well, three sucker punches to be precise.

"We won the first game 3-2 at home so we knew we had the goal advantage and we wanted to play solid defence and score on our chances.” Sparta scorer Tomas Netik told the CHL website after the match. “Scoring the first goal is always important because it's good for the team's mind-set, knowing that we were up two goals."

Meanwhile, the coach of the Swiss side, Marc Crawford, was full of praise for Popperle “There really wasn't any part of our power play that excelled tonight. And their goalie was really good so that also was a big difference maker” he told reporters after the game.

The Czech Extraliga side travelled to Zurich with a slender 3-2 lead and confidence was low after just one win in their last five domestic matches. HC Sparta had conceded 20 goals in that period and the recent 5-3 reverse against Kometa has given them the worst defensive record in the league.

But none of that mattered last night as Popperle answered the critics with a match winning performance.

Next up for Sparta in the Champions League is Finnish side Karpat who advanced to the last 16 of the CHL with a 5-0 win over Dusseldorf. The Finns kept their German opponents at bay over 120 minutes of hockey and look like top class opposition.

Sparta have plenty of time to fine tune their preparations however, as the last 16 round of games are not scheduled until the 3rd November when Sparta entertain Karpat at the O2 Arena, while the return match is in Finland a week later.

It was an unprecedented night of success for Czech sides in the CHL as Liberec and Litvinov also secured their passage to the final 16 with victories over Linkopings and the Vienna Capitals respectively. Although there was disappointment for HC Vitkovice who were eliminated by Tappara in a 4-1 defeat over the two matches.

Back to domestic matters, and there is no respite for HC Sparta who will be looking to end their three match Extraliga losing streak when they welcome the league leaders Plzen to the Czech capital on Friday 9th October – ticket information for the match can be found at www.hcsparta.cz.

Highlights: ZSC Lions Zurich vs Sparta Prague (Video - www.championshockeyleague.net)

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