Bitter ZSC defeat under coach Rikard Grönborg

The disappointment is written all over the ZSC Lions’ faces.Bild: keystone

Ice Master Zaugg

A big move defeats the strong ZSC Lions for the second time in a row 4:1. Continuation on Friday in the Hallenstadion. Will the ZSC Lions come as close to the title as they did in this fifth finals game?

28.04.2022, 06:3628.04.2022, 13:20

Klaus Zaugg

The final act of this drama is performed in the fourth third. Down in the arena cabin aisle. Tell me how the two coaches perform after the game and I’ll tell you how their team is doing.

Zug’s Dan Tangnes never lost his calm and sovereignty in this final. Not after the first, not after the second and not after the third defeat. He always calmly and factually explained why something is one way and another. He never looked for an excuse and didn’t use a single “kitchen psychology phrase”. A calm confidence ran through his demeanor like a red thread. Even after three defeats, he still saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Now Zug has prevented the ZSC championship celebration for the second time. The 4:1 in the Hallenstadion followed two days later by a 4:1 on their own ice. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter. Dan Tangnes does not lose his calm and sovereignty now. He explains in a calm and matter-of-fact way why something is one way and another. Even now he does not use a single “kitchen psychology phrase”. A calm confidence runs like a red thread through his demeanor.

Obviously, the self-confidence of Zug has not been shaken by three defeats. The conviction that you are good enough to turn things around is stronger than the doubts.

After the 4:1 in Zug, the chroniclers are primarily interested in ZSC coach Rikard Grönborg. Concern for the loser has nothing to do with malice. But with a looming drama: How does the great Swedish gang general react to this bitter defeat? Never in our playoff history (since 1986) has a team lost a 3-0 lead in the final. Now it is only 3:2.

But Rikard Grönborg has nothing to say. He doesn’t want to say anything. He leaves the stage through the back exit and retreats to the team bus. It’s the first time in these playoffs that the charismatic Swede isn’t making any statements. The great Ernest Hemingway once said that it takes a man two years to learn to speak and fifty to learn to be silent. Now we can say: A Swedish hockey coach only needs two final defeats to learn to remain silent.

Since we didn’t see or hear the coach after the game, we don’t really know how the ZSC Lions are doing. However, Rikard Grönborg’s withdrawal is understandable. The ZSC Lions have already suffered some bitter defeats with him. But this 1:4 is the bitterest so far. The clear result hides the fact that Zurich came very close to victory and the title up until the final third.

Yes, the ZSC Lions already had a hand in the championship trophy. There is a «weekday ZSC». This is the ZSC that “works” the ice hockey. The people of Zurich are then tough, passionate, courageous fighters. No artists.

But there is also the “Sunday ZSC”. This is the ZSC, which plays ice hockey, celebrates. The people of Zurich are then artists. Creative, unpredictable and elegant. No workers.

Rikard Grönborg is silent after the second defeat against Zug.

Rikard Grönborg is silent after the second defeat against Zug.Bild: keystone

And there are days when we see the “Sunday ZSC” and the “Weekday ZSC” in the same game. This is then the “Holiday ZSC”. Those days are very, very rare. They only happen every few years. These are the days when ZSC becomes champion away from home. As in Lugano in 2001 in the overtime of the 7th game. Or like 2012 in Bern and 2018 in Lugano also in the 7th game. Now it’s only the final game number 5. But it has the drama and intensity of a 7th game.

In this 5th final we finally see the «Weekday ZCS» and the «Sunday ZSC» in the same game again. It can be a big day for the history books. A masterly triumph on the opponent’s ice is imminent. The “workday ZSC” survives a five-minute exclusion from Marco Pedretti when the score is 0-0. Adding to the drama is that it was an unfortunate clash between the rugged ZSC striker and Zug’s Reto Suri. No foul. An accident.

But the collision is so violent that Reto Suri injures his knee so badly that he can no longer continue the game and has to be taken to the hospital. In view of the serious consequences of this accident, the good referees have no choice but to be excluded from the rest of the game. In real time, it’s impossible to tell if it was a foul or not. And in the course of this five-minute power play, there is a two-minute exclusion on top of that. The “workday ZSC” survives this delicate moment. Struggling, staggering and with a last effort.

Reto Suri is injured in a collision with Marco Pedretti.

Reto Suri is injured in a collision with Marco Pedretti.Bild: keystone

And then, almost at halftime (31st minute), the Sunday moment: Denis Malgin, currently the most spectacular individual player in the league, dances and catches Leonardo Genoni to make it 1-0. At this moment, the masterly door to heaven opens for the people of Zurich. Because now they have every imaginable advantage on their side. It still takes almost half a game. In ice hockey half an eternity.

And yet the 4th victory in this final, the championship title is almost – but only almost – within reach. Anyone who has resisted this big EV move for five minutes with one man less (and even two minutes with two men less) should be able to save the lead over time. Or?

Indeed, against any opponent other than this EV platoon, the gates to masterly heaven would not have closed. Yes, the question is quite justified as to whether the ZSC Lions will come as close to the title again as they did in the phase after the opening goal.

But there is also a strange curse on the 1-0. In this final, in all previous four games, the team that scored 1-0 has lost the game. And indeed: Zug returned before the second break and equalized through Dario Simion (38th). They will force the decision in the last nine minutes. The ZSC Lions won the last third of the first three games 6-0. Zug won the last third of the fourth and fifth game 5-0. Dan Tangnes says recovery will be key from game six onwards. Perhaps the all-round support in the «OYM» athletics center will decide the final for the defending champion.

The question is why it took Zug so long to finally overcome Jakub Kovar and his ZSC Lions. The explanation is quite simple. We have to go back a bit further: we have learned that the narrow, rocky path leads to happiness. And not the wide, comfortable Autobahn.

The ice is too wide for the people of Zug. They have too much room to spread their playful glory. It’s a tumultuous tossing and turning. But just too often away from the goal to the outside. Instead of inward, straight at Jakub Kovar. Teams with a lot of talent and well-rehearsed automatisms often tend to fan out their game in the opposing zone instead of narrowing it down.

This is one of the reasons why the Zugers have the statistically weakest power play in these playoffs. Although they actually have the talent for the best number game. But the ZSC Lions – they only get two power plays in the final third – will not use their chances in the majority game. On this occasion they had the 2-1 on the stick that might bring them the title (Justin Sigrist shot the post in the 45th minute). And they collect the 1:2 in the second power play.

Dan Tangnes says his side have what it takes to win games like this. “Our power play didn’t work. Our box play for that.” Where he’s right, he’s right. Outnumbered, Zug made it 2-1 through Dario Simion. It’s the winning goal.

So Dario Simion decided this drama. Suddenly he is the dominant figure in Zug. Not a scary power attacker. More of a friendly, gentle titan (189cm/88kg) who almost never sits in the penalty box (22 penalties in the last 110 games) and seems to unleash his full power when firing shots. A hit at 4:1 in the Hallenstadion. Now two days later three at 4:1 on their own ice. 1:1, 2:1 and 3:1.

A small change may have helped: Grégory Hofmann no longer stormed alongside Dario Simion and Jan Kovar in the last two games. But Fabrice Herzog. Dan Tangnes sees the effect of a change more in the psychological area: “Changes mean that the players are more concerned with the upcoming game.” This helps if the first three games have been lost.

Dario Simion shoots Zug in the fifth final game to victory.

Dario Simion shoots Zug in the fifth final game to victory.Bild: keystone

His trainer is responsible for Dario Simion’s stage name “Pronto”. Dan Tangnes says: “Every time I called him, he said ‘pronto’. I didn’t know what that meant.” And so it is that Dario Simion from Ticino has been called into Zug’s “Pronto” cabin for almost four years now. Which fits. “Pronto” literally means: “Ready”. He was really ready at this 4:1.

What Sven Andrighetto and Denis Malgin did for the ZSC Lions in the first three games, Jan Kovar and Dario Simion are now for Zug in the last two. Jan Kovar has not yet scored a goal against his brother in the ZSC box in the final. Wednesday’s 4-1 is a goal into an empty goal. But he has already played five times for his teammates in the final. The smart playmaker booked the most assists in the final (5).

And now on Friday game 6 in the Hallenstadion. In any case, it is the last ice hockey game in the history of the Hallenstadion. The first was played against Arosa on November 18, 1950.

The last appearance in the Hallenstadion will either end with another drama for the ZSC Lions or with a championship celebration. drama. Just as the spirits of the Hallenstadion wish. They have often been mischievous. But maybe they are in a forgiving mood when they say goodbye.

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