Going into the Saturday, the standings of the top four teams were:
Val Pusteria 38 points
Coming after Thursday’s convincing 6-2 victory over first place Brunico, the town was abuzz with excitement for Saturday’s home game versus Bolzano. Three points for a win would bring one team in and leave the other one out of the race for the cup. Tickets sold out and the rink was packed to the brim with fans decked out in their home-team gear. The puck dropped and the game ensued with the chants of an enthusiastic crowd narrating the pace of the game.
During the first period, Bolzano kept the Valpe scoring squad at bay. They used controlled plays to break up offensive and carry the puck out of the neutral zone. Bolzano scored first, leaving fans even more anxious for a goal. Finally, midway through the second period, Valpe’s captain issued a slapshot from the point that evened the score. For the remainder of the game, both teams played defensively. Valpe couldn’t capitalize on a 4 minute power play, but they stayed strong during Bolzano’s power play opportunities.
At the end of regulation, the game was tied at 1. Valpe fans celebrated, reasoning that a tie would be enough to secure their spot in the Coppa Italia. An overtime win is 2 points and an overtime loss is 1. Even if Valpe lost, the two teams would be tied at a cumulative 33 points. And, since Valpe had beaten Bolzano in their previous match-up, they would come ahead in the tiebreaker.
What many failed to recognize, however, was the condition that Renon also lost their Saturday game. In that case, there would be three teams at 33 points each. And in that tripling of tie-breaker points, Valpe would fall to the bottom of the bunch for having suffered two consecutive losses to Renon during the course of the season. Unfortunately, this statistically unlikely combination of Valpe’s loss in overtime and Renon’s loss in regulation, was the one that sealed Valpe’s fate. Bolzano scored in overtime, and the resulting three way tie for second left Valpe technically in fourth.
Despite the disappointment of missing out on what would have been the first Coppa Italia for the organization, the crowds were visibly pleased by the team’s performance. And rightfully so! Coming out of an eight place finish in the in the team’s previous season, they are excited to be competitive with the top teams in the league. Their next home game begins the third of five cycles through the regular season. Valpe will face Fassa Thursday before having Saturday off.
To see more about the team and to have a laugh at what gets lost in translation, visit the team website: http://www.hcvalpellice.com/index2.php