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Bring on Berlin! Frankfurt Lions advance to DEL Finals
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April 4, 2004; 17:15
Bring on Berlin! Frankfurt Lions advance to DEL Finals
Frankfurt caps series comeback with 5-3 road win
Frank Johne

Frankfurt Lions forward Mike Harder
 
Mike Harder's goal turned out to be the game winner

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Munich, Germany - The Cinderella story continues: The 5th-seeded Frankfurt Lions will make their first-ever appearance in the DEL Finals after rallying from a 2-1 series deficit to knock off the 3rd-seeded Hamburg Freezers 3-2 in their best-of-five semifinal series. Coming off a four-point night in Game 4, veteran Jason Young led the way again with four assists as the Lions skated to a 5-2 road win Sunday afternoon.
 

Ex-Freezer Jesse Belanger tallied a goal and an assist
Leading DEL Scorers
(as of Feb 19, 2005)

Riding on the momentum of Friday's emotional 7-5 win in Game 4, the Frankfurt Lions came out flying. They quieted the capacity crowd of 12,759 at Color Line Arena jumping out to a 3-0 lead on goals from Francois Bouchard, Pat Lebeau and Jesse Belanger. A second-period rally got Hamburg within a goal. But Mike Harder stopped the momentum when he gave Frankfurt a 4-2 lead in the final minute of the middle frame. Purdie got the Freezers within a goal with 19 seconds left, but it was too little too late. David Gosselin sealed the Lions' win with an empty-net tally.

From worst to first?

"We showed a lot of passion and courage today", said Lions head coach Chernomaz. "I'm very content and proud of my team."

Chernomaz's team will now battle the top-seeded Berlin Eisbären for the DEL Championship in a best-of-five series. Game 1 is scheduled for a 7.30 pm local (1:30 pm ET) start at Berlin's Wellblechpalast next Thursday. The Lions could complete a worst-to-first turnaround. They were supposed to be relegated to Division-2 after a dismal season last year but were allowed to stay in the league after the financial collapse of the Schwenninger Wild Wings.

Lions goalie Ian Gordon, who played one of his best game's of the season, turned aside 32 of the 35 shots he faced. Freezers netminder Boris Rousson made 21 saves on 25 shots. Mike Harder, David Gosselin, Jesse Belanger and defenseman Francois Bouchard all recorded a goal and an assist for the Lions. Brad Purdie (2G) and Mark Greig (2A) led the Freezers in scoring.

Lions jump out to 3-0 lead

The Lions took a 1-0 lead 3:56 into the contest when defenseman Francois Bouchard slapped a screened shot from the left point past Hamburg's Boris Rousson. Bouchard then had to leave the game after being hit by a shot from Bobby House but was able to return later on.

"To get the go-ahead goal put us in a good position to win the game", said Bouchard. "We had the momentum going our way early on. I think hard work was the key tonight. We have a great bunch of guys here, everybody is on the same page. Anything is possible against Berlin, we just gotta play hard."

The Freezers, who had the most efficient power-play of all remaining teams coming into the game, then wasted two long power-plays. The came up short on a 3:56 opportunity, including a four-second 5-on-3, and then failed to score on 2:40 of power-play time, including 40-seconds of 5-on-3. The Freezers went 1-for-9 on the power-play overall.

The Frankfurt Lions got a two-man advantage of their own when Paul Manning (high-sticking) and Brad Purdie (slashing) went to the sin bin late in the first. Jesse Belanger's no-look pass from the left corner found Pat Lebeau at the opposing post and Lebeau re-directed the puck into the net to double the lead to 2-0 with 2:24 left. Another power-play tally extended Frankfurt's lead to 3-0 at 8:26 of the second period. Belanger, who had a rather quiet playoff run so far, tucked home the rebound after a one-timer by Bouchard from the center point. Overall, Frankfurt went 2-for-4 on the power-play.

Harder's goal stops Hamburg's rally

A second-period rally brought the Freezers within a goal. Mark Greig sent a hard pass from the left point to Brad Purdie who slid the puck under Ian Gordon from the left goalmouth to put the Freezers on the scoreboard at 14:11 of the middle frame. Three minutes later, defenseman Heiko Smazal beat Ian Gordon on a wrap-around to cut the deficit to 3-2.

When the Freezers seemed to have everything going their way, the Lions struck again. With just 45 seconds to go, a pass by defenseman Sebastian Klenner from the right wing found Mike Harder alone in front of the Freezers net and Harder beat Rousson with a backhand to forehand deke to put the Lions up 4-2 at the second intermission.

"I thought we let one slip away in Frankfurt Friday in Game 4", said Purdie. "The key for us all season was scoring the first goal. We haven't done well all season coming from behind and that was the case tonight."

Too little, too late

Nursing a two-goal lead, the Lions wasted a big chance to put the game out of reach early in the final stanza when they failed to capitalize on a five-minute boarding major plus game misconduct on Hamburg's Steve Washburn. Rousson kept the Freezers in the game when he robbed Belanger on a breakaway midway through the final period. Lions goalie Gordon responded with a couple of nice saves on the other end of the ice. With just over five minutes to go, he stopped Andy Schneider on the doorstep with the shaft of his stick.

The Freezers kept pressing, but exhaustion caught up with them. With an extra skater on the ice, Purdie cut the deficit to 4-3 with his second goal of the night. Too little, too late though, with only 19 seconds remaining. David Gosselin sealed Frankfurt's win with an empty-netter one second from the final horn.
Frank Johne

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