September 12, 2000. The West Extraliga (West is the name of sponsoring
company) has eight teams which will compete in 56 games. All 8 teams
will get to playoffs, what is very strange decision in my opinion. After
this season no team will relegate to Division 1 league but two best
teams of Division 1 will promote to expand the Extraliga to ten teams.
A few news of this season:
points, the loss in overtime and the tally are awarded by 1 point. Ten
minute overtime is played with 4 players plus goalie after each tie
article. Too many good players have left for greener pastures. Due to
this reason some teams had to be completely re-built – Slovan, Zvolen,
Trencin, Martin and Kosice. Poprad, Skalica and L.Mikulas did not need
so much to build. Main candidates for playoff final are the richest
teams Slovan and Zvolen. Both teams have played the final in past season
as well. However Poprad should attack the playoff final too. Main
outsiders are Martin and Kosice.
junior teams, has brought first bitter fruit. National team U20 lost all
four games on Five nations tournament in Russian Omsk in first week of
September. Youngsters lost their games with Canada, Sweden, Finland,
Russia and Czech with horrible scores 3 : 19. It is very strange to
ignore 25 players in the major juniors and other ones in college and
junior A leagues.
Slovan Bratislava (last champion)
This team lost unusual number of its players but signed also solid young
and gifted players who could replace former stars within 2 years. Top
news from this team – center of L.A. Kings Jozef Stumpel signed
one-months contract with Slovan (Jozef did not signed contract with
Kings yet). Goalie is a silver medallist from last championship, defense
is weaker but still solid. Ciger, Hreus, Kolnik, Rataj are still stellar
players plus young guns create impressive offensive power.
Main losses: Visnovsky (D), Biegl (G), Podhradsky (D), Kapus (F),
Lipiansky (F), Pankov (F), Iljin (F)
Main arrivals: Rybar (G), Hurtaj
(F), Sorokins (D)
Key players: Rybar, Babka (D), Hecl (D), Ciger (F), Rataj (F), Hreus (F)
Has lost the best scorer of Extraliga Vlasto Plavucha but its ambition
is very high – to win Slovak Championship. Solid goalie, strong defense
as well as the offence. Zvolen has definitely the strongest roster among
Main Losses: Plavucha (F), L.Cierny (D), I.Majesky (D), Andrasovsky (F),
Main arrivals: J.Cierny (F), Plch (F), P.Vlk (F), Klepac
(D), Augusta (D), Cech (D)
Key players: Rovnianek (G), Klepac, Pukalovic (D), Plch, Sechny (F),
Surprised by bronze medal in past season but from that time the team
lost two best defensemen, five best scorers and totally 13 players.
Trencin was weakened too much. Solid goalie, defense and offence but no
star and no sniper.
Main losses: Gaborik (F), Rich Pavlikovsky (D), Hurtaj (F), Melicherik
(F), Smerciak (D), Gyori (F)
Main arrivals: Barinka (F), Hanzal (F)
Key players: Murin (G), Durco (D), Opatovsky (F), Fabus (F), Zlocha (F)
This team did the least changes of all Extraliga’s teams – two players
out and two in. Strong team with good ambition. A balance on each
Main Losses: Plch (F), Skovira (F)
Main Arrivals: Surovy (F), Baluch (F)
Key players: Simonovic (G), Kledrowetz (D), R.Gavalier (D), Krotak (F),
Kulha (F), Junas (F)
No changes in offence but strong earthquake in defense however still
solid team. Pretty good goalie, weaker defense and solid offence.
Main losses: Milo (D), Kostal (D), Sille (D), Barto (D)
Krajicek (D), B.Majesky (D)
Key players: Lipovsky (G), Vlach (F), Jurik (F), Hujsa (F)
Lost two best scorers and 103 points with them as well as the best
D-man. It will be almost impossible to replace their goals. Dominating
goalie, solid defense but weak offence.
Main losses: P.Vlk (F), Tomik (F), Klepac (D), Gallo (D)
Smerciak (D), Vrabel (D)
Key players: Krizan (G), Smerciak (D), Listiak (D), Halaj (F), Paukovcek
Average age of this them is 21,4 year (!). Only two old players are on
roster – Ihnacak (38) and Klempa (27). The rest of team are 17 – 22 year
old kids though many of them are very gifted. Do not slight this team.
These youngsters shocked their fans when defeated top European teams –
Ilves Tampere, EHC Kloten and AIK Stockholm on pre-season tournament.
Solid goalie, extremely young defense and rather inexperienced offence.
Main losses: Vitek (F), R.Pucher (F), Pazak (F), Rybovic (F), Gapa (D)
Main arrivals: Vantroba (D), Nadasdi (D)
Key players: Klempa (G), Topoli (D), Ihnacak (F)
Promoted from Division 1. Also young and inexperienced team without any
stars. Average goalie, defense and offence but many diligent players.
Main losses: Somik (F), Lezo (F), Kompas (G), P.Krechac (D)
Main arrivals: Palov (F), Cervenan (G), Pavlis (F)
Key players: Hrina (D), Beranek (F), Palov (F)
Players who decided to leave for greener pastures:
NHL (or minors) – Visnovsky, Gaborik, Podhradsky
Canadian & U.S. juniors – Kopecky, Svatos, Hamerlik, Malec, Skladany
Canadian & U.S. minors – Urban, Hartmann
Czech Elite – Biegl, Kapus, Lipiansky, L.Cierny, Voskar, Pavlikovsky,
Melicherik, Pleva, Barto, Tomik, Somik, Lezo, Andrasovsky
Finnish Elite – I.Majesky, Kropac
British Elite – Mosnar, Bukna, Rybovic
German Elite & Division 2 – Pankov, Gyori, Rusznyak, Mastic, Slamiar,
Kovarik, Vitek, etc.
Italian Elite – Skovira, Pazak
Russian Elite – Iljin, Gribko
Many other players took direction to Czech Division1 and Polish, French,
Austrian, Norwegian, Dutch Elites etc.
Arrivals from abroad:
German Elite: J.Cierny, Augusta
Czech Elite & Division 1: Rybar, Cech, Kratky, Kowalczyk, Krajicek,
Hanzal, Pavlis, Vozdecky, Hodon, Zajic, Slaby
Canadian & U.S. juniors: Mrena, Pistek, Hudec
U.S. minors: Baluch, Rodin
Extraliga’s players with NHL experiences:
Ihnacak, J.Cierny, Ciger
Players selected in last four NHL drafts who skate on Slovak rinks:
1997 – none
1998 – Pistek (F) – Slovan
1999 – none
2000 – Fabus (F) – Trencin, Priechodsky (D) – Slovan, Macho (F) –
Martin, Kostur (G) – Zvolen
Other drafted players (36 of 41 draftees) play or will play mostly in
North America and several in Czech Elite.
I will focus on junior players on Extraliga in my next article but for
now I draw your attention to following names: Surovy, Starosta, Slovak,
Fabian, Valentin, Ruzicka.