Dreams are better when they are made reality.
Friday 6th September 2013
It’s a date long awaited by Medvescak Zagreb and their fans, since it was announced they were to be accepted into the KHL this season.
52 years ago the club was founded in the old Yugoslav League and thanks to the ambition, drive and passion of everyone involved with the team, they’ve arrived at this point in their history.
A truly historic and momentous occasion for Croatia and it’s hockey program.
The KHL blessed them with an opening fixture at home to the legendary CSKA Moscow.
Dom Sportova sold out within an hour of tickets being put on sale as fans rushed to be a part of history and to cheer their team to an opening night win.
Surely that would be taking the fairy story too far though? A win against CSKA Moscow is something only the most committed and loyal Medvescak fans would predict.
The “Red Army” as CSKA are known are one of the most famous teams in European hockey history.
Winners of the Soviet League 32 times and IIHF European Champions Cup winners on 20 occasions.
Previous rosters have been a who’s who of world class talent and this years roster is strong with names like Alexander Radulov, Viktor Kozlov, Aleksey Morozov, Yakov Rylov and Nikita Zaytsev.
In five KHL seasons CSKA have only failed to make the playoffs once.
A huge task then for Medvescak to face and they had newly acquired goaltender Mark Dekanich to thank for keeping the score at zero early in the game. His career never really scaled the heights in North America but performances like this will endear him to the Dom Sportova faithful.
The first moment of history was not long in coming. A shot from Alan Letang was redirected by Jonathan Cheechoo in the blue paint past Stana in the CSKA net. Cue pandemonium at the Dom Sportova not even five minutes into the game.
It was a game of special teams, and the next four goals would all be scored with a man in the box.
Popovic would double the Bears lead to take them into the interval up 2-0.
The home fans must have again be dreaming but even more so less than two minutes into the second period when Foster made it 3-0 Medvescak.
CSKA would finally get on the scoreboard with a powerplay tally of their own and you felt the momentum could shift.
With the fans roaring them on even louder it seemed, the home side remained defiant and played a smart game. Vesce would make it 4-1 before the end of the second period, another man advantage goal.
The North American type game that new coach Mark French has tried to implicate to his team was paying dividends and the game would be over as a contest eight minutes into the third period as Vesce and Cheechoo would both score their second goals of the game.
A nice touch from coach French would be to relieve Dekanich of goaltending duties and bring in Vasiljevic Andrej for his first taste of the KHL on this historic day. A classy and smart move by the Canadian.
Seventh heaven would come from the stick of Linglet and finish the scoring for the night.
A tremendous performance from Medvescak even if CSKA were a little off colour.
Medvescak played their own game and shoved it down the throat of their big name opponents.
Hard work and sticking to the plan paid dividends as well as being disciplined. CSKA spent way too much time in the box and the Bears power play units were good enough to make them pay.
Dekanich as I alluded to earlier was fantastic. Cheechoo, Popovic, Boyd et al were all brilliant as well but it seems unfair to pick out individual players on such an occasion when the team were collectively great.
So my Man of the Match award would go to the fantastic Medvescak fans.
I’m not sure if the expression “sang their hearts out” translates to Croatian well but it’s the best description I have.
To a man, woman and child they would have gone home with no voices, hands hurting from clapping and exhausted but they more than played their part.
Most of all they deserved this fairy tale start to Modjeska’s life in the KHL.
I hope to join them at some point this season.
Zig Zag Medvescak.