The KHL adventure came to a shuddering halt for Medvescak Zagreb with a 4-0 defeat in the first round of the playoffs to Lev Prague. They have plenty to be proud of but I’m sure in equal measure, the players and coaching staff are frustrated by how the season ended.
In each of the four losses, Medvescak were in the game up until a certain point and had chances to take the victory or at least force overtime.
Game One was tied up at the midway point by Medvescak. A breakdown early in the third period allowed Lev to go head by two goals which Medvescak couldn’t claw back despite late pressure. 3-4
Game Two was the first time we saw Medvescak take a lead, 2-1 after two periods.
A goal just 26 seconds into the final frame for Lev was the start of four straight goals allowed with no response. 2-5
Game Three saw the first KHL playoff game at Dom Sportova but once more the Bears dug a two goal hole which they clawed back to tie the game after two periods.
Another poor third period for Medvescak would see three goals conceded and leave them one game from an early exit. 2-5
Game Four and once more Medvescak found themselves down two goals.
A goal six minutes into the third period gave them hope but Lev responded a minute later to restore the cushion. With four minutes remaining Medvescak once more made it a one goal game but despite a late power play and pulling Dekanich from net, they couldn’t force the game to overtime. 2-3
At the crucial moments Lev Prague were just better than Medvescak and no more so than on special teams.
Medvescak had a total of eighteen power play opportunities across the four games but were only able to capitalise once.
Lev Prague scored five times on their nineteen man advantages whilst also scoring a short handed marker.
Dekanich and Brust who had been outstanding at times during the regular season, never really brought that form to the playoffs, when at times you need your goalie to steal a game.
Cheechoo, Murley, Vesce, Thomas led the team in goals and points during the regular season but could only muster four goals and five assists between them against Lev.
It was left to Linglet (four assists) and Ellison (three goals) to lead the way offensively.
The disappointment in finishing the season this way comes from frustration in knowing that Medvescak Zagreb failed to make this the close series it should have been.
However this should not distract from what has been an incredible first KHL season for the team from Croatia.
The hard work starts now though as the rebuilding for next season begins. So many unanswered questions as to the whether the same coaching staff will be in place and how many players will return.
It’s been a learning experience for all, which should put Medvescak in good stead for the days and months leading up to September and beyond.