Illustration photo – Match of the 40th round of the hockey extra league: White Tigers Liberec – Mountfield Hradec Králové, January 22, 2023 in Liberec. Jan Ordoš from Liberec scored the second goal. On the left, Hradec Králové goalkeeper Jan Růžička, on the right Mislav Rosandič from Hradec Králové.
Prague – On Sunday, in the final 52nd round of the regular season, Liberec and Hradec Králové will face each other for the fourth place guaranteeing direct progress to the quarterfinals of the hockey extra league playoffs. The White Tigers will welcome Vítkovice, who are fighting for second place with Sparta. People from Prague will present themselves in Brno. Hradec Králové awaits the East Bohemian derby against leaders Pardubice. The pairings for the preliminary round will also be decided. All matches will start at 16:30.
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At the end of the long-term phase, the Liberec hockey players got into excellent shape and won eight times in a row. Losing a two-goal lead in Karlovy Vary and winning only in extra time, however, may still make them regret it. Currently, the White Tigers are among the best quartet thanks to a better score at the expense of Hradec Králové, but if both clubs have the same points even after Sunday's matches, the Mountfield players will be certain quarter-finalists. They have a one-goal better score in matches with equal points against Liberec.
“Even though it was not the same many times in the season, we tried to be better and better every day and deservedly won the chance to sneak into the first four,” said experienced striker Michal Birner. “We are a little sorry that we lost the one point in Vary, which we needed given the situation in the table. But Mančaft has been running for a long time. We are preparing for Sunday and I firmly believe that a hardworking team like ours will be happy,” added assistant coach Jiří Kudrna.
Thanks to a turnaround against Brno, Ostrava won for the sixth time out of the past seven duels on Friday, scoring full points each time. In the overall total, they have already crossed the hundred-point mark as the second after Pardubice, thus further pushing the club record. They want to improve it on Sunday in order to keep second place ahead of Sparta, on which they have a two-point lead. “We will do everything to win the match and defend second place,” said defender Mário Grman.
“One hundred percent we expect a very difficult match with a play-off charge. Liberec is playing for fourth place, we are playing for second place, so we have a quality opponent and an excellent match before the play-offs. The home team has a streak of scoring eight games in a row and will certainly be dangerous. us, a smaller pitch and I think the match will be sold out, because it's big and there's a lot to play for. We're going with a clear head and we're going to fight for second place,” added coach Miloš Holań.
Hradec Králové, after ten games without the slightest wavering in a row, won only one point from the last two games after narrow defeats. The team wants to make amends in the derby with Pardubice. The home team won all three matches between the East Bohemian teams so far this year. An attractive duel will be played in front of a sold-out audience.
“At Sparta, certain emotions played a role that we couldn't handle. We have to learn from this and avoid something like that next time. We have to keep our emotions under control and focus 100% on our performance. The derby is ahead of us, the top four position is in our hands, it's just a shame that we will be missing four important players. But I believe that those who will start will do their best,” said Hradec Kralove coach Tomáš Martinec.
The Pardubice players fell out of the game with certainty of victory in the regular season and lost four of their last five matches, but the success in the derby is a huge motivation for them “It is an excellent preparation for us before the playoffs, as Hradec is playing for a lot, so the match will have great emotions and commitment. I expect a match of the highest quality,” said defender Ondřej Vála. “It will be important to score the first goal, so that it falls away from us. Then it will definitely be easier for us to play,” added Slovak striker Matej Paulovič. The home team from Brno will be playing for the opportunity to start the preliminary round at home. In eighth place, they have only a point to spare on Karlovy Vary and a worse balance of matches. “We want to start the playoffs in front of our fans. We will do everything against Sparta to grab three points,” said forward Kristián Pospíšil.
However, Sparta has the same plans. “In Brno, we will give our maximum performance in order to prepare for the playoffs. We will not go out to play, we will give a responsible performance and see what happens,” commented forward Vladimír Sobotka.
Kladno was sadly assured of a playoff on Friday. At the end of the regular season, they will face off against Karlovy Vary, who are striving for the top eight, but have lost three of their last four games.
Pilsen will welcome České Budějovice knowing that the preliminary round will start away. However, the Škoda hockey players need to repair their damaged self-confidence – they have lost their last eight games and have been waiting for a win in the regular season since January 13. The South Bohemian bronze medalists will conclude an unsuccessful season on Sunday, in which they narrowly missed the playoffs.
Třinec's bad season with results has been going on since mid-January. The defending champions have won just four out of 15 games during that time. They will now challenge Mlada Boleslav, who they could face again in the preliminary round. Litvínov will try to maintain his winning streak, which has already reached five matches and is the longest of the season for him, in the duel with Olomouc.