Home debut for Liechtenstein
Last Saturday hockey minnows Liechtenstein made their home debut and almost had instant success.
For five minutes they an upset was in the air.
With just a handful of minutes before the final buzzer Liechtenstein fell behind on its home debut against Luxembourg to eventually fall behind 2-4 in front of 197 spectators in Widnau.
The game between both hockey minnows was a re-match of Liechtenstein's debut in 2003 where they lost 7-1 and was held to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Liechtenstein Ice Hockey Federation. The team is coached by Miroslav Berek, a 13-year Czechoslovakian top league veteran of Slovan Bratislava, Dukla Jihava and HC Vitkovice. With just 56 registered players available and very few preperation time for this game, Berek made the most out of the opportunity to play at home. Liechtenstein overcame a 2-0 deficit but could not push through in the end.
Battling bravely it took the more experienced Luxembourg squad 32 minutes before finally solving Liechtenstein netminder Marco Andreoli thanks to a goal of Ben Houdremont. Twenty seconds before the buzzer Luxembourg doubled the lead thanks to a goal by Marian Gallo, a Slovak-born defenseman with experience in Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands.
But as many expected the floodgates to open in the third period, Liechtenstein got back into the game within 2 minutes into the third period when Brunhart skated through the Luxembourg defence to cut the deficit to just a single goal.
Boosted by the goal, Liechtenstein pushed forward for more and found themselves equal after 53 minutes. Sebastian Steneck could bury the puck behind the Luxembourg goaltender to enlight the home team bench.
However Liechtenstein's comeback efforts took the best of them as they were quickly locked up in their own zone playing catch-up hockey. Five minutes before the end Robert Beran (another Slovak-born player) let loose a strong wrist shot from the blue line which flew behind Andreoli. Both teams called for time-outs in the final stages and Miroslav Berek decided to pull his goaltender. To no avail as Luxembourg scored an empty netter to cap the score at 2-4.
Despite the loss Berek was full of praise for his team that had battled for the full 60 minutes. "We battled bravely and promoted the game here", said a proud Berek. Unfortunately we lost 2-3, the empty net goal I don't count. It could just have been 3-2 to us, but we couldn't find a way past their goaltender in the first period."
Less amused was Luxembourg head coach Hakan Grönholm who, despite the win, was critical on his team: "We should be much better. In hockey you must skate, either with or without puck. Today we lacked that. We depended too much on Robert Beran and Marian Gallo today."
The president of the Liechtenstein Ice Hockey Federation, Michael Zanghellini had mixed feelings about the game. "Of course I'm satisfied with the game, the atmosphere on the team was great and we're all proud to have been able to make it a real game. On the other hand it's a bit disappointing just 197 showed up where more were expected."
Perhaps after having shown not to be just cannon fodder, another home event could see more people being drawn to the rink as Liechtenstein will continue to post its first win at home.
Special thanks to Christian Häusler
Story added on 13th March 2007 at 21:21 GMT
Story submitted by: Joeri Loonen.