An incredible 40 minutes of play at the final day of the Spengler Cup’s preliminary round saw Jokerit and Lugano trade goals often, with Jokerit dominating the third period to win 6-4.
Jokerit had a very strong start against Lugano, taking 14 shots while allowing eight in the first period. Despite not scoring a goal in the first, they looked like they very determined, especially with the line of Peter Regin, Brandon Kozun and Jesse Joensuu playing at full speed. Joensuu was a scratch in the first game against Adler Mannheim, a contest that saw Jokerit struggle after blowing a 2-0 lead to lose 5-3. With the full line reunited, it appeared as though Jokerit was serious about grabbing a win and forcing a three-team tie in the Torriani group.
It was fitting that the top line would end up scoring the first goal of the game. Of course, it would also make sense that the KHL’s 11th top scorer, former Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Kozun, would get the goal after using Regin as a pick in front, firing the shot blocker side on Mark Owuya for the 1-0 lead early in the game.
Even though Owuya allowed the first goal of the game, the former Leafs prospect had a very strong start to the game. A recent signing by the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies, Owuya was signed by Lugano to back up Elvis Merzlikins at the Spengler Cup after not playing a single competitive game this year. Owuya made his Spengler Cup debut last year, backing up another fellow Leafs prospect in Cal Heeter while playing in just one contest with KHL club Medvescak Zagreb.
In very similar fashion to their game on Sunday, Jokerit found a way to blow their lead with two quick goals coming from their opponents. First, Lugano’s Ryan Glenn, who was brought in as a reinforcement for this tournament, fired an absolute laser beam of a wrist shot over the glove of Henrik Karlsson, tying the game up at one apiece just a minute into the second. Then, a minute later, Lorenz Kienzle, a healthy scratch against Mannheim on Saturday, took a hard shot from the point to beat Karlsson for the 2-1 goal before the second period was really in full swing.
Jokerit would knot things back up at two just two minutes after that. This time, a misplay by Owuya in the Lugano crease allowed former NHLer Tim Kennedy to score from an almost impossible angle, somehow getting it under Owuya’s blocker to tie the game back at two after picking up a rebound off the end boards.
Owuya looked good for a goaltender that hadn’t played in almost a year but he didn’t put up much of an effort on Jokerit’s go-ahead goal with nine minutes to go in the second. After a terrible giveaway by a Lugano defender, Roope Talaja came in all alone before easily shoving the puck between Owuya’s five-hole, which probably couldn’t have been much bigger on the play.
Things got really bad for Jokerit very quickly. With four minutes left in the second, Lugano got a shorthanded goal on a 2-on-0 rush after Gregory Hofmann was stopped, only to have former Detroit Red Wings forward Damien Brunner tap in the tying goal. Then, about 40 seconds after, Linus Klasen would beat Karlsson with another breakaway marker, giving Lugano the 4-3 lead in a tremendous hockey game.
Lugano would make a goalie switch before the third period, instead electing to go with 21-year-old phenom Elvis Merzlikins for the remainder of the contest. A great passing play by Jokerit’s top line would expose him for a very early goal, however, with Regin and Kozun making great passes before Philip Larsen beat the Latvian goaltender with a high shot, the very first one of the period, to make it 4-4.
There was absolutely no shortage of high-octane action in Davos on Monday and, of course, the scoring wasn’t done yet. Making the goalie switch didn’t seem to pay off for Doug Shedden and Lugano, as Arturs Kulda would give Jokerit the 5-4 lead thanks to a hard slap shot from the blue line. It wasn’t a pretty goal against for Merzlikins, who should have a handle on the shot that didn’t get that high up in the air.
Any chance of a Lugano comeback completely faded after 53:20 of play. With Jokerit owning the puck for the majority of the period, Pekka Jormakka fed Ville Lajunen at the right wing before the ladder was able to snipe the puck top shelf, giving Jokerit the 6-4 lead that would hold on until the final buzzer.
With Jokerit recording a win, all three teams in the Torriani group would finish round robin action with idential 1-1 records. However, Lugano would finish the round with the most goals and best goal differential, giving them first in the group and a bye to the semi-finals on Tuesday. For Jokerit and Mannheim, the two team’s will have to play against one of the two teams in the Cattini group, who also could end up with a three-way tie if Davos manages to beat Canada later in the day.
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