Youthful Eisbaeren Berlin defenseman THOMAS SUPIS (6), the 20-year-old who appeared for Germany in the second tier at the annual 2012 IIHF World Junior Championships, harasses EC Red Bull Salzburg winger THOMAS RAFFL (5), the 26-year-old who recently spent two seasons with Swedish elite league side HF Lulea and has already represented Austria at the annual IIHF World Championships on four occasions, during the summertime European Trophy match at the tiny Red Bull Arena in Austria.
Just considering all the domestic titles the two teams have each collected in recent seasons alone, the noteworthy international collision of contemporary German powerhouse EISBAEREN BERLIN and growing Austrian giant EC RED BULL SALZBURG is blossoming into a real compelling encounter on the other side of the Pond nowadays.
Throw in the minor fact that the two countries share a common language. Also add in the little item that the highly-accomplished (and National Hockey League-experienced) head coach of one team used to be top man behind the bench at the other club before signing on with his current employers. What results is a genuine European rivalry for any ‘neutral’ ice hockey observer to behold and enjoy.
Canadian trainer PIERRE PAGE had the last laugh last season in the German capital city, then. The former Eisbaeren Berlin trainer previously in charge of the Minnesota North Stars, Quebec Nordiques, Calgary Flames and Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the NHL successfully guided his EC Red Bull Salzburg troops to a 5-0 whitewash of their hosts at the O2 World Arena in this very same European Trophy tournament a year ago. But, this season at the Red Bull Arena in Austria, veteran American trainer DON JACKSON — the former rugged NHL defenseman who earned two Stanley Cup rings with skillful Wayne Gretzky and the mighty Edmonton Oilers — have turned the tables in the exact opposite direction.
Diminutive Canadian defenseman MARK KATIC (71), the 23-year-old, former third round selection (# 67 overall) of the New York Islanders from the 2007 National Hockey League Draft who spent most of the last three seasons skating for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the American Hockey League, attempts to fend off the forechecking ANDREAS KRISTLER (40) of EC Red Bull Salzburg during the European Trophy contest at the compact Red Bull Arena in Austria.
One might have expected more of EC Red Bull Salzburg’s experienced NHL goaltender ALEX AULD, it must be said. The 31-year-old Canadian import, who has appeared in 237 NHL games over the course of his well-traveled career and spent all of last season with the Ottawa Senators, was something less than spectacular. A very soft goal conceded from center ice off the stick of American defenseman JIMMY SHARROW, a 27-year-old native of Framingham, Massachusetts, who played five seasons of professional hockey in North America but never made it the NHL ranks, broke the back of EC Red Bull Salzburg and prompted Auld’s removal after the second period.
Eisbaeren Berlin, the reigning two-time defending champions who have won the Deutsche Eishockey Liga title four of the last five years, got a big lift from incoming Canadian legionnaire JAMIE ARNIEL with just four minutes remaining in the opening period. The 22-year-old winger who skated exactly one contest for the 2010/11 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins announced his addition to the Eisbaeren line-up with a goal on the rebound. Another strike early into the second period by Olympic winger ANDRE RANKEL, the 26-year-old who has appeared with Germany at seven major international tournaments, had really put the screws to EC Red Bull Salzburg, who have won the Austrian title three times (’08, ’10, ’12) since Page assumed command to start the 2007/08 campaign, as well.
The home side in the Red Bull Arena did not lack for glorious opportunities to get themselves on the scoreboard. But the typically reliable ROB ZEPP, a former Carolina Hurricane farmhand who spent two years with Saipa Laappeenranta in Finland before signing Eisbaeren Berlin to begin the 2007/08 season, was not about to let that happen. The 30-year-old Canadian twice halted EC Red Bull Salzburg shooters on the clean breakaway and showed why the national team of Germany had given Zepp two starts between the pipes at the 2010 IIHF World Championships.
Zepp, it should be remembered, gave a very respectable performance in saving 30 of 32 shots as the host nation fell to powerful Russia — who got goals from NHL stars PAVEL DATSYUK of the Detroit Red Wings and EVGENY MALKIN of the Pittsburgh Penquins on that day — by the minimum margin at the semifinal stage that year.
Eisbaeren Berlin center T.J. MULOCK (15), the native of western Canada who skated for Germany at both the 2009 IIHF World Championships and 2010 Winter Olympic Games, and Red Bull Salzburg center STEVE REGIER (41), the former New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues forward who is entering his fourth season with the favorite ice hockey club of the world-renowned energy drink manufacturer, face-off during the interesting (if one-sided) European Trophy match at the miniscule Red Bull Arena.
EC Red Bull Salzburg sent American rookie professional SHAWN HUNWICK, who did make one appearance in the NHL for the Columbus Blue Jackets last spring after concluding his collegiate career at the University of Michigan, out onto the ice to tends the nets for the final twenty minutes. The 25-year-old, of course, follows the “Red Bull Road Less Traveled” to the Austrian Alps blazed last season by fellow Wolverine alum and former NHL veteran goaltender MARTY TURCO. Hunwick managed to keep his sheet clean and Page’s charges even pulled a goal back in the third period through young defenseman ALEXANDER PALLESTRANG.
But an empty net strike from the journeyman Sharrow in the last minute set the final numbers at 4-1 in favor of the visiting Eisbaeren Berlin, who notched the European Trophy title a couple of seasons ago in 2010.
As for the competition, itself, the European Trophy continues to do nothing but grow in statue. This developing international tournament — which was won by EC Red Bull Salzburg last year — has expanded to 32 teams this season and, now that Switzerland has returned to the fold, features top elite league clubs from Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Slovakia and Sweden, as well. The only major European ice hockey power still missing, then, would be Russia including and all the teams from the Kontinental Hockey League …
EC Red Bull Salzburg defenseman DOMINIQUE HEINRICH (91), the versatile 22-year-old who represented Austria in the second tier of the annual IIHF World Championships last season, looks to split the pressuring Eisbaeren Berlin pair of center DANIEL WEISS (57) and forward LAURIN BRAUN (12) during the late summer European Trophy date in front of 2,689 spectators at the Red Bull Arena (which has the official capacity for an audience of 3,200) in the Austria.