The saga begins... There comes a time in every floorball team's life, when they must venture to foreign land to get a taste of some international floorball. After winning the GBFF National Championships as well as the League Cup, it was time for Cambridge to test their wings in the Czech Open, one of the biggest international club tournaments around. The first plan was to travel to Prague to participate in the European Cup Qualifications, but due to financial arrangements and availability of key team members, it was decided that the best option would be to only take part in the open tournament with some extra helping hands this year.
With a bunch of regulars skipping the tournament due to various reasons, Cambridge managed to get together an interesting lineup. Established Cambridge players formed the core to the team with Rob Larkin in goal, Neil Dodsworthy in defense, and Anders Svanberg, Tim Reynolds and Risto Remes up front. To strengthen the defense, ex-Milton Keynes Fredrik Petterson was asked along and with help from him and Anders, a small group of ringers from their native Sweden were assembled to complete the tight team. The fantastic four from Sweden consisted of David Brink (rw), Emanuel Edlund(c/d), Petter Lindgren (d) and Robert Lundberg (lw), who all had once in their career played in the same team with either Anders or Fredrik.
Where's Anders..? The english-based core of the team headed out to Prague on Tuesday afternoon from the sunny Stansted. Although the plans seemed to click and Fredrik was met at the check-in by the Cambridge dwellers, it seemed that one player would have some trouble getting in. After a fire alarm at London Liverpool St. station delayed the train Anders was supposed to take to Stansted, it seemed highly unlikely that the tall swede would make it to the airport in time. As the clock ticked on, the team had to leave a man behind and continue to Prague shorthanded. But after a comfortable night at the airport bench, the skilled swede would join up with the rest of the team, taking a morning flight.
Arriving in Prague, the team experienced a short lived moment of glamour, as the englishmen were met at the airport by one of the organizers and taken to the hotel on the same bus with swiss team SV Wiler-Ersigen, who had come to compete in the Elite category. Although superior in both equipment and team outlook with their team uniforms (not to mention their level of play), the swiss players were interested to hear about floorball in the UK and were sure to wish the best of luck to the brits as the teams were driven through the dark streets of Prague.
Czech encounter of the first kind... In the morning, it was time to "meet the team" as the english met their swedish counterparts for the first tactical meeting. While waiting for Anders to arrive from his morning flight, the swedish ringers got to know some english floorball chaps and talk tactics for the day's first game at 2.00pm. The first international game for Cambridge was to take place at Tatran sportshall, in the northern part of Prague.
Starting out full of excitement, the Cambridge team seemed a bit rusty after a lengthy summer of little or no floorball at all. After some lackluster finishing from both sides, it was Cambridge who opened the scoring after Petter took a nice long run from his own half and blasted a wrister to the top right corner. This was enough to wake the czech opponents and soon Pardubice had gone up 2-1 scoring one lucky goal and another with a well laid attack. In the second half (games were to be 2x15 minutes) it was David Brink who decided to show some swedish scoring touch. Finishing on a nice wristshot to the top left corner and chipping in another from right infront of the goal, he put Cambridge ahead again by one goal.
If David's goals came quickly after each other, the same could be said about the Pardubice response. Two goals in less than a minute were enough to put down the rusty Cambridge team for much to their disappointment. The international debut was lost and it was time to venture out to the hot sunny Prague to hunt some food before the second game.
Cambridge - FBC Kooperativa Pardubice (CZE) 3-4
Goals: Petter 1, David 2
We meet again... There's nothing like Old enemies meeting again. Except when it's old-enemies-turned-into-friends that later become enemies again as the two meet in rather different circumstances...
As the Cambridge team pulled in to the second game at Chodov a bit late, it was revealed that the Finnish team at the other end of the rink was a bit more familiar to the Finnish born member of the Cambridge squad than their name had suggested. As it turned out, the Hurricanes team was assembled from a club (PakVi) that used battle Risto's old club in Finland and the Finnish winger had even practised with the guys for some time before his last season in Finland. But there was no time for memories as both teams were looking for their first win of the tournament.
The Hurricanes' mostly 2nd division players from Finland were stunned when Cambridge started rolling their attacks towards the Finnish end and after a while the pressure paid off as Risto stole possession behind the goal line and got to the slot roofing the ball past the keeper on the backhand. Rob in the other goal held his own against the Finns with some steady shot-stopping while getting good support from Neil with his timely tackles. After Risto put Cambridge 2-0 up with a long range slapper, it was Robert who capped off a beautiful passing play from the swedish line from in close and to make it 3-0 for Cambridge. During the second half of the game, a legend was born. As Anders won the ball inside his own half, it seemed that the lanky swede had decided to go through every opponent as he started his dance towards the Hakunila goal. Stickhandling his way through three defenders while tiptoeing weirdly on his long legs, he managed to get infront of the goal.
To the disappoitment of the Cambridge bench, his move to fool the keeper only half succeeded and the ball rolled wide of the net. From that moment on, everyone wanted to see the "elk-dance" again. At the end, a few poor decisions gave Hakunila some chances and the game evened up. With only about 5 minutes left, they got their first goal and looked to get back to the game. With the Swedish ringers calmly trying to waste some valuable seconds off the clock, there was just over a minute to go when a defensive error sent one of the Finns charging freely down the left. He managed to squeeze a shot past Rob the goalie and the front post, bringing the Finns within one goal. Even though Hakunila kept the pressure at the end, a free shot with 3 seconds left amounted to nothing and Cambridge took their first win.
After a some friendly Finnish words between the two team captains, both teams headed back into the night of Prague. The Cambridge team decided to celebrate the victory by eating out at Jaromir Jagr's Sportsbar. Mmm...steak.
Hakunila Hurricanes (FIN) - Cambridge 2-3
Goals: Risto 2, Robert 1
Ribs to table 3, please... In the only Cambridge game scheduled for Thursday, the opponents came from Switzerland. As it turned out, the Swiss team that consisted of mostly young players waiting to spank some helpless British team, were in for quite a ride. Some good forechecking by Tim resulted in a quick goal for Anders but then Cambridge went ahead and kept hitting the posts and the bar for some time to keep the score only at 1-0. A couple of goals from Risto eased things out as well as a clever chip from Robert that left Petter free to slam in his second goal of the tournamen. David got to the scoreboard again from close to the goal, roofing the ball over the keeper.
At the end, Cambridge again let the other guys back into the game and with just some 7 minutes remaining, Rob's clean sheet was taken away. The Swiss got another pair of lucky goals after some lousy Cambridge team defending, but that was as close as they managed to crawl back. With under a minute to go, Risto was tackled hard over the boards resulting in a 5 minute major penalty, which killed off any remaining spirit in the swiss to fight back. The tackle left the Finnish winger sidelined with some bruised ribs and iffy to make it for the final group game on Friday morning.
With some italian food after the game, a well earned rest and some pool (both swimming kind and the one with cue balls), the Cambridge team made most of the free afternoon to charge batteries for the final group game. A win was needed in order to go through to the cup games as teams had ended up with some pretty criss-crossed results.
Cambridge - KTV Frauenfeld (SUI) 5-3
Goals: Anders 1, Riz 2, Petter 1, David 1
Czech please..! Apologies for this rather short and uneventful report on a game that was everything but uneventful. The problem is, when you're in Prague and your crucial group game starts at 8am, it may be difficult to remember all the small details. Especially when there are plenty of them. Venue for the game was the main arena of the tournament but unfortunately due to the timing, there would only be a few spectators for this goal fest.
In a deciding game against Czech team Vsetin, Cambridge had to win to ensure 2nd place in the group and a place in the cup stage. Czech opponents had similar plans so it would be a thrilling race 'till the end. Vsetin opened the scoring quickly and caught the sleepy Cambridge team twice before the englishmen would respond. Anders Svanberg proved yet again that he can place a shot to the top corner when he wants and Emanuel rallied the troops with a pair of goals as Cambridge fought back. Goals were exchanged between the teams faster than the elk stickhandles past the defensemen. The swedes provided most of the firepower for Cambridge with Emanuel leading the chase and David and Petter chipping in with their goals.
It wasn't enough though, and soon Cambridge found themselves down 5-7 after the Czech had ripped through the sleepy defense a number of times. But then it was time again for the "elk-dance" and it was a goal that would jump-start the Cambridge comeback. Winning the ball while shorthanded, Anders started his typical stickhandling bonanza towards the opposing goal. With two defenders practically jumping on his back, the tall swede carried on his antics all the way to the slot and even managed to fool the goalie into diving the wrong way. With a big smile on his face, Anders pulled the ball back once more and struck it between his legs on the backhand to cap a wonderful move that resulted in probably the most beatiful goal of the tournament. In a short while it was Cambridge's turn to try the powerplay and this time the shorthanded team were left no chance. Emanuel controlled the ball after a rebound and calmly rounded the goal capping his hat-trick with a classic wraparound goal. A 7-7 tie would have probably been enough to put Cambridge through, but just to be sure the team finished the czechs off with a game winning goal from Risto, just less than minute left on the clock.
While waiting for information about the first round opponent in the cup stage, it was time to buzz around the main hall and catch up on scores from the other games as well as check up the Elite category 1/4 finals. The next opponent turned out to be Paskov Saurians, a Czech team that had won its starting group two wins and two ties. Judging by their low "goals against" total, it didn't look like the early morning goal scoring frenzy would repeat itself.
Cambridge - TJ MEZ Vsetin (CZE) 8-7
Goals: Anders 2, Emanuel 3, David 1, Petter 1, Risto 1
Here we go again, czechmate...! In the first cup game, Cambridge was to meet the solid team of Paskov Saurians. In their green jerseys the Czechs looked eager to wipe the floor with the english team but one english goalie and one Finnish winger both had something else planned for the game.
It didn't take long for Cambridge to take the control of the game and hold possession of the ball as they liked. Downside to this was that the Czechs also slowed down the tempo of the game and kept men behind ball, which wasn't good for creating scoring chances. Although chances were spare, Cambridge managed to open the scoring pretty quickly with Petter feeding Risto to the center of the Czech defense, where the Finn sent a low shot from a defenders legs to the back corner. As the pace of the game slowed down, the Czech got back into play but Rob in Cambridge goal continued his good performances and saved the few chances coming his way. In the second half of the game, Cambridge got to play 5 on 4 powerplay and it was Emanuel who orchestrated the 2-0 goal.
Holding the ball in the corner, he drew to Saurians towards him that left room at the back post. A precise pass found the flying Finn Risto at the backpost to slam home the second goal. Towards the end, the Paskov team had to open up their game in order to try and catch the Cambridge lead. This opened more chances for counter attacks and Tim Reynolds came close to scoring after executing a nice 1-2 passing play with Risto to get himself into a shooting position. Unlucky for Tim, the shot flew just over the net. With time running out, Paskov finally managed to claw one back and decided to push for the equalizer with 6 men, pulling their keeper. Playing without their goalie, they managed to get the ball inside Cambridge half with just one minute to go, but Fredrik was quick to intercept a loose ball and direct it to Risto poaching in the center zone. A long shot from the halfway line sailed unchallenged to the empty net to cap the glorious victory for the Cambridge team.
Cambridge - Paskov Saurians (CZE) 3-1
Goals: Risto 3
After an early game at 8 in the morning and another at noon, Cambridge were to face swiss team Red Devils in the third game of the day. The winner would go through to a game at 8 in the evening to battle for a place in the semi-finals. The swiss team had gone through their first playoff game with a shoot-out win after a 1-1 draw, so it all looked to be pretty exciting.
The game started of with a slight upper hand to Cambridge, as the seasoned Swedes were pretty much back to their usual after shaking of the summer rust. Although Risto managed to put Cambridge ahead in the game, the long tournament started to affect the movement of the cambridge team and the swiss were quick to even up. The first half saw Emanuel give Cambridge another goal while the Swiss managed to score on a penalty shot. Things looked to heat up for the second half as both teams tried to intimidate the opponents with some physical play.
Second half saw the teams exchanging some goals with the swiss leading the way, but Cambridge managed to come back to 4-5 with another two goals from Risto. At the end there were tired people flying all over as tackles came in on both sides and a few penalties were given as well. At the end it was the Swiss who managed to clinch it, scoring on a counter-attack from the back post. Even though Cambridge tried hard until the very end, it was time to bow out of the competition and head towards the tournament party. A hard fought victory for the Red Devils, but also a good experience for the Cambridge team as a whole.
Cambridge - Red Devils Zurich (SUI) 4-6
Goals: Risto 3, Emanuel 1
[Editors Note: Details of the after party have been censored for fears they may incriminate Rob! A big thank you to the tournament organisers for all the work. A great time was had by all and we're looking forward to more of the same in 2004! In the mean time, find out how the rest of the tournament went at http://www.czechopen.cz]