Geneva 2, Belfast 1 (OT-SO) – The Belfast Giants could have used a little help from Geneva goalie Fredrick Andersen Thursday in their quest to beat Minsk to the President’s Trophy. But aside from allowing Cody Franson to score in the game’s first three minutes, the General goalie stopped 33 shots and that led to an overtime-shootout loss for the Giants who are now in second place overall, three points behind the Hussars. Minsk should be able to hold on to claim the regular season title. They have 10 games remaining and Belfast only has seven, including five at home and one against the Hussars. If they do hold on, Minsk will become the first team in EURO League history to win the President’s Trophy twice. The Hussars claimed the trophy last year with 144 points before going on to win the EURO Cup. The maximum they could earn this season – that would be if they can will all 10 games – would be 129 points.
Munich 6, Moscow 3 – In Bavaria on Thursday, Munich poured it on and swamped visiting Moscow, outshooting the Dynamo 50-19 and winning 6-3. It was the fourth straight win for the Dire Wolf and their fifth win in the last six games, which has them pretty much locked in for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Southern Conference. And that means Season 7 was a pretty bad year to be a hockey player in Switzerland. Unless Zurich gets really hot and Munich gets ice cold over the final 8 games, all three Swiss teams will be done before the playoffs get under way. Moscow is in the playoffs for sure, currently sitting in sixth place in the Northern Conference. One of their most effective weapons has been the second line of David Backes, Max Pacioretty and Chris Stewart, who are all among the top plus-minus players on the team.
London 6, Edinburgh 3 – Two teams at the bottom of the Northern Conference standings ramped up the offense Thursday, with nine different players scoring goals. Edinburgh got hot in the second period to erase a 2-0 deficit and take the lead by a goal, but London countered with a dominant third period. London was hobbled by management problems in the beginning of the season and even when they got new management, they had to deal with injuries to several key players who missed significant time. Rick Nash, Jeff Skinner and Artemy Panarin were all out for two weeks or more.
Bratislava 6, Stockholm 3 – The Battle of Eagles was won by the Slovakian version Thursday and the performance gave Bratislava fans hope that a recent downturn in play might be over. After surprising most in the league with a season that had them right up there with Belfast and close to Minsk at the top of the standings, Bratislava lost five straight games and the might be fumbling away the top spot in the Southern Conference, which they seemed to have a firm hold on just two weeks ago. The Eagles broke their losing streak with a key 6-5 win over rival Paris and then they looked strong Thursday in Stockholm. The top of the Southern Conference will be a real dog fight over the final 10 or so games. Bratislava, Paris, Madrid and Athens all have a chance to win the Demitra Division. Only 6 points separate the top and bottom of that four-team group. In the Schloder Division, meanwhile, Berlin and Lisbon are battling for the top spot and they are only separated by two points. And that’s a very big two points because the winner will go into the playoffs as the second seed and the other team will probably end up in sixth in the conference. As for Stockholm, it’s unlikely they can finish anywhere other than seventh in the North and that most likely means a series with Belfast, possibly Minsk.
Berlin 1, Prague 0 – With time running out in the first period, Berlin defenseman Roman Polak kept a clearing attempt in the Prague zone and wristed the puck toward the net. Teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who played for Prague for five seasons before becoming a Smurf, deflected the puck past Andrey Vasilevskiy for a goal that didn’t seem super important at the time. But it ended up as the lone goal of the game. Vasilevskiy saved Berlin’s other 26 shots and Jimmy Howard earned a shutout with 29 saves. Nugent-Hopkins is Berlin’s leading scorer in a season that has seen them make transactions that has made them a much younger team. Howard cannot be a happy Smurf these days. Just two seasons ago, he won the Best Goalie trophy. But in the apparent youth movement this year, Howard has been relegated to backup duties behind Calvin Pickard. Howard’s statistics have been wonderful – .919 save percentage, 7-3-2 record and 2.26 goals against average – and very similar to his stats the year he won his trophy. The big question he and his agent have is will Howard see playoff time for Berlin or will the extra season be used to build experience points for Pickard? Either way, one would think there would be no possible way Howard would stay in Berlin after his contract expires this season. But in Websim, that’s a real possibility. General Manager Guybrush Threepwood has a chance of retaining Howard’s services in the second stage of free agent signings. He has plenty of cap space and a lot of team prestige to re-sign the 33-year-old and if he does, he could then parlay the talented Howard into a trade for younger players.
St. Petersburg 6, Bern 5 (OT) – Patric Hornquist scored an unassisted powerplay early in overtime to give visiting St. Petersburg a point they desperately need. The Krasnyye Zvezdy are four points behind eighth-place Dublin with a game in hand. Between the two teams are the Oslo Outlaws, a point ahead of St. Petersburg, but with three fewer games to play. Hornquist scored a powerplay goal earlier in the game, placing him in a tie for 13th in the league in powerplay goals. He also had two assists in the game and was named the first star.