The Ritten Sport players celebrate a goal in the 4-1 win over MAC Budapest in the deciding game to win Group B of the Continental Cup. Photo: Max Pattis
Italian champion advances again
Like one year ago Ritten Sport won its Continental Cup tournament on home ice and advances. Ritten beat MAC Budapest from Hungary 4-1 in the deciding game.
Ritten started with an easy win against Acroni Jesenice, 6-1, with a pair of goals from both Henrik Eriksson and captain Daniel Tudin. Even though the Slovenes outshot Ritten 40-27, it was the host club that scored the goals. Ericsson capitalized on the first power play to give his team the lead at 1:31 and after 13 minutes of play the game was virtually decided with Ritten’s three-goal lead.
Against last-seeded Crvena Zvezda Belgrade, the Italians had a great start as well. Simon Kostner and Tudin made it a 2-0 lead after three minutes of play. But the Serbs, the lowest-seeded team in the group, surprised the opponent with a turnaround. Marko Brkusanin capitalized on the first power play of Crvena Zvedza (Red Star in English) to cut the lead. In the second period the Serbs had a great start. Andrej Zwick tied the game at 2:33 and when Dusan Jankovic gave his team the 3-2 lead 10 minutes later, the underdogs dared to dream.
Ritten regrouped during the intermission and changed the pace in the third period. Kevin Fink and Kai Lehtinen scored two quick goals in the second minute to make it a 4-3 lead for Ritten. Two goals from Thomas Spinell helped seal the 6-4 win.
MAC Budapest was the only other team with a chance to win the tournament on the last day. The 8-0 blanking of Crvena Zvezda Belgrade in the opening day with goals from seven different scorers and two markers from Chris Langkow was a promising start but in the second game against Acroni Jesenice the Hungarians seemed a step behind for most of the game despite outshooting their opponent 32-21. Acroni got the lead three times thanks to goals from Gasper Glavic, Blaz Tomazevic and Urban Sodja to be in front 3-2. Twice MAC had equalized with markers from import players Jared Brown and Keegan Dansereau. At 13:15 of the third period Sodja scored his second goal to seal the win. Final score was 4-3 after a late MAC goal from Brance Orban.
On the last day Crvena Zvezda had a 2-1 surprise win against Acroni Jesenice thanks to Bogdan Gaidash’s overtime winner while Ritten Sport and MAC Budapest played for first place in the evening. MAC would need a regulation-time win to catch up with Ritten and claim first place while the home team needed a win or at least a tie after regulation time.
Ritten goaltender Thomas Tragust turned out to be the busiest man on the ice as MAC was on fire and Tragust saved 49 of the 50 shots on goal. In the first period he had a clean slate with 16 saves while his teammates worked out a 2-0 lead thanks to two goals from Alex Frei.
At 2:43 of the second period MAC was eventually rewarded for its efforts when Krisztian Nagy cut the deficit with his power-play goal but with too many penalties in the period the Hungarians made their life more difficult. Ritten capitalized better on its chances and made it a 3-1 lead after Kevin Fink’s goal midway through the period.
The Italians managed to keep their lead while waiting on odd-man rushes during the third period. With five minutes left Jesse Dudas was called for hooking but Eriksson missed out on his penalty shot. One-and-a-half minutes later Lehtinen sealed the win with the 4-1 goal for Ritten.
Ritten Sport has won the Italian championship for three consecutive year and will now aim at qualifying for the Continental Cup Final for the third time in a row. In the third round Ritten will travel to Belfast, Untied Kingdom, to play in Group E from 15 to 17 November 2018. The opponents in the capital of Northern Ireland will be host Belfast Giants, GKS Katowice from Poland and Croatian champion Medvescak Zagreb.