The opening match of the new season in the IceHL League showed that SŽ Olimpija will be more consistent than last season. Linz has a very strong team, the leaders of the game are excellent foreign hockey players. The Dragons were happy with the point, although the second slipped away in extra time.
Olimpija started the season well last year. After round 22, it was in ninth place, while Pustertal, Asiago and Vorarlberg were already far behind. A black streak followed, when the people of Ljubljana collected only 11 points in 26 games and finished in penultimate place.
The last time they celebrated in Tivoli was on December 2 last year, when they defeated Pustertal 5:2. This was followed by 12 defeats on home ice, and even on Friday night they failed to break this streak, as Linz was better in overtime (2:3).
The referee’s throws were serially won by the guestsThe progress in the game was noticeable, the discipline was right, only twice did the Black Wings have a “power play”. In the opening half hour, the dragons did not find the right rhythm, they lost most of the referee’s throws. It was especially noticeable that they were losing “clearly”, which means that Linz immediately had possession of the puck in the attacking third.
Veteran Lebler is a true grandmasterThe visitors were very dangerous after counter-attacking. Graham Knott scored the leading goal as he eluded the Olympia defence. Lukaš Horak had previously stopped Brian Lebler, but the veteran scored in overtime. In a three-on-three game, he started the action in the defensive third, went on the attack, ideally waited in front of the goal and masterfully threatened Horak.
Top foreigners cost a lot and Linz definitely has them. In addition to Knott and Lebler, goalkeeper Rasmus Tirronen, who led Fehervar to the grand final two years ago, also shone.
Goalkeeper Horak the only foreigner with the Dragons who impressedHorak collected 27 saves, and the rest of the foreigners at Olimpija still have a lot of reserves, Maris Bičevskis just returned from injury and played in the fourth attack. He made some big mistakes, but Jaka Šturm proved himself with two passes and Žiga Mehle, who equalized at 2:2 in the 51st minute.
Karhula is still waiting for his first victory at Celovška 25 “We started cautiously, we were tense in the first game. We were relaxed in the preparatory matches, but now it was clear that it had really started. It was a points game. For some, the desire was too great and they held the stick hard. It’s hard to tell them to relax at times like this. If you think too much, sometimes it’s not the best,” said Olimpija coach Antti Karhula, who succeeded Mitjo Šivica in January.
“The minutes went by and we played better and better, in the end we could have won two points. It was the little things that made the decision, Linz has a very good team. We certainly haven’t played at the highest level yet. We can do more. Goalkeeper Horak defended perfectly. He kept us in the game,” added the Finnish strategist.
We reminded him that he is still waiting for his first victory in Tivoli. “I did not know that Olimpija had not won on home ice for such a long time. I’m sure that will happen soon.”
Mehle: We can be satisfied with the pointThe unexpected hero was 21-year-old Žiga Mehle. “Linz is among the favorites of the IceHL League. We can be satisfied with the point. We do not look at the rival, we will play our game even on Sunday in Vienna. Goalkeeper Tirronen was the best player of the match, he kept the team together, especially in the last third.”
Pavlin: In the first third, we were in spasms Captain Žiga Pavlin made a brilliant pass to Žiga Panceta in the 43rd minute, but Tirronen proved himself. Pavlin will no longer play for the national team, but he really wants to prove himself in Tivoli.
“In the first third, we were in spasms. It was the first game of the season. We increased the rhythm and took the game into our own hands. We can be satisfied with a point, we could have won two, but of course zero was also possible. Most of the teams are favorites against us, but I want to disrupt their plans,” thought the 38-year-old from Kranj, who in 2003 secured Triglav the title of youth champion in Tivoli.
“There is still a lot of room for improvement. The referee’s throws haven’t flown to us yet. I have to praise the goalkeeper Horak. That’s exactly what we need. Young players who were not at the forefront in the preparatory matches showed up.”
On Sunday at 5:30 p.m., there is a visit to Vienna, where Olimpija won both games last year (2:3 and 1:3). “In the first home game of the new season, Vienna will fly at the start of the game and it will be necessary to be ready. We might be a little underrated,Pavlin announced the first away game of the season.
Coach Lukas is happy that they took away two pointsLinz players were satisfied with two points, but of course there was no special euphoria in front of the dressing room.
“There is always a bit of luck involved in extra time, as it is played three on three. I don’t think it was just luck. I knew even before the start that it would not be an easy match. Olimpija is a very fast team, it is excellent in the transition from defense to attack. I can be satisfied with our performance, two points is success on the road. The season will be very long, a lot will still happen and I don’t want to set myself too high goals too soon,” Linz coach Philipp Lukas explained. He played for the Black Wings between 2000 and 2018, and his number 21 was retired.
Every point against teams that realistically belong in the top half of the table is a bonus. A new opportunity will be on Sunday in Vienna. Matches against lower quality teams will be key. Graz, Asiago and Vorarlberg lost in the first round.