In the best-of-five series, Jesenice had to play all the five games against an excellent HC Gherdëina. The "Furie Gardena" almost managed to make the same comeback as the Rittner Buam: in disadvantage of two games after games 1 and 2 (0:4, 2:3 dts), Gherdëina gave a strong answer winning 5:1 in the away game and 4:2 at the Pranives stadium. In the decisive game, for a long time the Gardena players played on equal terms, but in the last minute of the game Erik Svetina made their semifinal dream fade away with the goal of 2:1.
Svetina has been the most dangerous forward in the playoff against Gherdëina with three goals, but Andreas Lutz and his mates will have to pay attention to Eric Pance. The 30-year old Slovenian, as throughout the season, is the biggest source of danger in Jesenice's attack. He has scored 75 scorer points (eight in the playoffs), the best score in the league. The Slovenian team's second-best scorer, Finland's Eelo Etu, has 50 points. Between the posts of Jesenice plays Oscar Froberg, statistically "only" the sixth best goalie in the AlpsHL. With a 93.5% save percentage in the playoffs he exceeded his own average (92.7%), so getting to the goal will not be a walk in the park. In comparison, Jake Smith has distinguished himself with a 95.7% percentage and two shutouts in the playoffs, but his average (93%) is only slightly higher than Froberg's.
Insam: "Jesenice has never been such a convenient opponent."
That Jesenice is not the favorite opponent of the Rittner Buam was seen in the previous games against the Slovenians. Sports director Adolf Insam knows it too: "They have never been such a convenient opponent for us. We have often been defeated against Jesenice, even this season. They are an extremely dangerous opponent for us", says the manager. After the great comeback against Cortina, however, Insam is aware that "we gained a lot of self-confidence to be able to overturn a 0:2 disadvantage. I have to give great compliments to the Buam and to the coach. Even the youngsters who grew up in our nursery, such as Manuel Öhler, showed that they can contribute in decisive games."
In the Rittner Buam ranks, MacGregor Sharp, who is still ill, is expected to be absent again on Saturday. Although the five games against Cortina have worn down their strength, Jesenice is also starting from the same situation. "Both teams are a bit tired, so it will depend on small tactical differences. I am convinced that we can beat them," Insam concludes.
AlpsHL, playoffs, semifinal series:
Saturday, March 26 - game 1:
HDD SIJ Acroni Jesenice - Rittner Buam (6 p.m., Športni Park Podmežakla)
Tuesday, March 29, game 2:
Rittner Buam - HDD SIJ Acroni Jesenice (8 p.m., Ritten Aren)
Thursday, March 31, game 3:
HDD SIJ Acroni Jesenice - Rittner Buam (7 p.m., Športni Park Podmežakla)
Eventually Saturday, April 2 - game 4:
Rittner Buam - HDD SIJ Acroni Jesenice (Ritten Arena)
Possibly Tuesday, April 5th - game 5:
HDD SIJ Acroni Jesenice - Rittner Buam (Športni Park Podmežakla)
Photo: Max Pattis