Jason Williams scored the game-winning goal for Ritten Sport in the last minute of the game against Beibarys Atyrau goaltender Adam Svoboda while Albert Vishyakov and Denis Makarov look by. Both teams will advance to the final. Photo: Max Pattis
Italian, Kazakh champs advance
Italian champion Ritten Sport won its home tournament and will advance to the final tournament together with second-ranked Beibarys Atyrau.
They will be joined by the top-two teams of the other group, the Nottingham Panthers and the Odense Bulldogs.
Ritten’s “Buam” as the team is nicknamed, which means boys in the local German dialect, were the only team out of the two semi-final tournaments to advance with a sweep.
The team opened with a 4-3 victory against last year’s finalist GKS Tychy. Jason Williams, a former NHL forward who represented Canada at the 2006 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, opened the scoring midway through the game and when the Poles came back in the third period and scored the lead, it was him who tied it up at three with over five minutes left in regulation time. With 46 seconds left his fellow countryman Jared Gomes scored the game-winning goal to the happiness of the 1,500 fans who filled the small Arena Ritten.
Ritten had another tight game on Saturday and despite being outshot 33-23 by Kazakh champion Beibarys Atyrau, the Italians won the game 3-2, again with a last-minute game winner. Beibarys got the lead twice through Maxim Sharifyanov and Albert Vishyakov but Ivan Tauferer and Daniel Tudin tied it up and with 25 seconds left in regulation time Williams scored the game-winning goal.
Everything remained open on the last day with Ritten, Beibarys Atyrau as well as Belarusian representative Shakhtyor Soligorsk in the race for tournament win and a spot in the final. Ritten was again outshot by Shakhtyor, 34-28, but was the more efficient team. Bradley Cole capitalized on a power play at 16:48 of the opening frame but when Shakhtyor had the chance to open the second period on a man advantage, Viktor Andrushenko tied the game after 28 seconds.
Daniel Tudin scored the game winner for Ritten during his team’s next power play at 13:42 and Gomes made it 3-1 at 4:10 of the third period to seal his team the win.
Thanks to the wins Italy will again be represented in the final tournament. The club already played and hosted in the competition two years ago but ended up in third place in the semi-final round on home ice. This time it worked out for the boys also thanks to its new players. Williams was the scoring leader of the tournament with three goals and six points, Gomes was third behind Vishyakov.
Beibarys Atyrau is the second team from the tournament to advance to the final. It will be the first final participation for the team two years after league rival Yertis Pavlodar made it that far. Beibarys had a 4-1 comeback win against Shakhtyor Soligorsk on the opening day. Vishyakov, Ilya Malyushkin and Tomas Vak each had one goal and two points.
On the last day against GKS Tychy the Kazakhs opened a two-goal gap with markers from Maxim Korobov and Nikita Tsirulev but the Poles came back and tied the game at two. National team forward Mikhail Panshin scored the 3-2 game-winner with 98 seconds left in regulation time and Vishyakov made it 4-2 with a shot into the empty net.
Shakhtyor Soligorsk finished the tournament in third place winning its only game 2-0 against winless Tychy.
The final tournament will be played 13-15 January 2017 at a venue to be determined.