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From worst to first: Lions are champs!
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April 16, 2004; 14:04
From worst to first: Lions are champs!
Frankfurt holds on to 4-3 win, wins first-ever German Elite League title
Frank Johne

Two-time Stanley Cup winner Paul Stanton hoists the DEL Cup
 
Lions Captain Paul Stanton hoists the DEL Cup

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Munich, Germany - The underdog Frankfurt Lions have won their first-ever DEL championship. The Cinderella team jumped out to a three-goal lead and held off a late rally by the Berlin Eisbären to clinch the best-of-five series, 3-1, with a 4-3 home win Friday. Mike Harder's goal at 4:59 of the final stanza went down as the game-winner.
 

DEL League MVP Pat Lebeau
DEL League MVP Pat Lebeau opened the scoring with a power-play tally
Leading DEL Scorers
(as of Feb 19, 2005)

Friday's victory completed an amazing turnaround for the Frankfurt Lions franchise. 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.

Colgate University alumnus Mike Harder capped an amazing streak. His game-winner marked his third straight series-clinching goal. He also scored the game-winning goals in the series-clinching wins over Cologne (1st Round) and Hamburg (Semifinals).

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"Unbelievable"

"This is unbelievable," said Lions goalie Ian Gordon, who played his junior hockey with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos. "I played here with Schwenningen in front of 1,000 people in last year's DEL relegation series. To win the title now in the same place with over 7,000 fans cheering on is amazing. I think David Gosselin, Mike Harder and Jason Young were the key to this series. They stepped up and gave us that second dimension for scoring behind Belanger, Lebeau and Norris."

"It was a terrific team effort," said Lions captain Paul Stanton, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins. "This was the final game of my career. It's great to have it end like this."

"The past five weeks were just unbelievable," said Lions head coach Rich Chernomaz, who played 51 NHL games for Colorado, New Jersey and Calgary during the 80's. "I'm very proud of my team. We struggled in the last seven regular season games, but bounced back in the playoffs. We played with great passion and fighting spirit."

Frankfurt's win marked the second miracle championship for Manitoba-native Chernomaz. Two years ago, he led the sixth-seeded Kölner Haie to the DEL title.

"We only lost a single game at home in the playoffs" said Eisbären head coach Pierre Page, a former head coach in the NHL with Calgary, Minnesota, Quebec and Anaheim. "But a good team also has to get a win on the road. We didn't have luck on our side. We played very well in Game 1, but played pretty bad in Game 2. We bounced back in Game 3, but Frankfurt got some lucky bounces. They were the better team in the first two periods tonight."

The Eisbären continued their goalie rotation. Rich Parent made his second start of the finals. His great 34-save effort kept Berlin in the game until the final horn. Winning goaltender Ian Gordon of the Frankfurt Lions stopped 22 shots.


Forward Mike Harder set a new DEL playoff record with three straight series-clinching goals
Key player: Mike Harder set a new DEL playoff record with three straight series-clinching goals

Frankfurt Lions forward Jason Young was the leading playoff scorer in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL)
Jason Young led all playoff scorers with 20 points in 15 games

1st Period

With a capacity crowd of 7,000 in attendance at Frankfurt's Eissporthalle, the Lions took a 1-0 lead on a 4-3 power-play at the 8:12-mark of the opening period. With Frankfurt's Jason Young and Berlin's Keith Aldridge and Yvon Corriveau in the sin bin, Ricard Persson and Steve Walker had the opportunity to clear the puck. Jesse Belanger took advantage of their hesitation, stole the puck and skated in 2-on-0 on Rich Parent with Pat Lebeau. Parent stopped Belanger's low shot, but Lebeau tucked home the rebound to put the Lions on the scoreboard.

Jason Young had a chance to double the lead with under five minutes to go in the first, but was denied by Parent on the breakaway. Seconds later, Lions goalie Ian Gordon turned aside a low shot from Kelly Fairchild with his left pad. An interference minor to Jason Young then put the Eisbären on the power-play. Gordon made another big save against Fairchild. On the other end of the ice, Lebeau had Parent beaten on a short-handed breakaway, but his shot rang off the goal post.

2nd Period

The game slowed down significantly in the opening minutes of the middle frame. Frankfurt's David Sulkovsky had the first big scoring chance. Micki DuPont turned the puck over deep in his own end, Martin Reichel centered it and Parent got his right pad down in time to deny Sulkovsky on the doorstep.

Just past the game's midway point, Frankfurt jumped out to a 3-0 lead on back-to-back goals from Dwayne Norris and David Gosselin within a 36-second span. The Eisbären defenders left Norris unattended in front of the goal mouth. A clearing attempt from Keith Aldridge was intercepted by a Lions defender at the right point. The puck got to Belanger in the right slot, who quickly fed it to Norris, who backhanded it through Parent's legs to make it 2-0 at 9:29 of the second. Just half a minute later, an outlet pass by Francois Bouchard sent Mike Harder and Young on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Harder was stopped by Parent. The goalie mishandled the puck, though, and the trailing David Gosselin poked home the rebound to put the Lions up 3-0 at 10:05.

Things could have gotten even worse for Berlin, but Parent kept them in the game, robbing Norris 1-on-0 with a great glove save. The Eisbären responded with under four minutes to go in the second. Sven Felski came up with the puck in the right corner, Alexander Barta made a diving effort to get it to Steve Walker who knocked it home from the goal mouth to cut Frankfurt's lead to 3-1 with 3:20 left. Berlin then wasted a big chance to further cut the deficit when they failed to cash in on a minor to Frankfurt's Peter Ratchuk.

The Eisbären caught a big break in the final minute of the second when the officials let Micki DuPont get away with a cross-check to Pat Lebeau's face. DuPont, who just returned from a one-game suspension after a vicious hit on Sulkovsky in Game 2, was only assessed an interference minor.

3nd Period

Berlin kept pressing at the start of the third. But Frankfurt patiently waited for its chances. Mike Harder beat youngster André Rankel 1-on-1 in the left corner of the Eisbären zone, pulled to the net and beat Parent through the five-hole to give the Lions a 4-1 lead 4:59 into the final stanza.

The three-goal let the Lions get a little sloppy and the Eisbären refused to go down without a fight. Alexander Barta cut the deficit to two goals at the 7:48-mark of the third. Gordon stopped Sven Felski on a 3-on-2 oddman rush. Felski regained the puck and passed it over the backboards to Barta who tucked it into the wide open net. Riding on momentum, the Eisbären added another goal a minute later. Gordon got his left pad down to stop Ricard Persson's re-direction of a Micki DuPont shot from the right point and Dave Roberts sent the loose puck into the net to cut the Lions' lead to 4-3 with 8:52 to go.

Berlin kept pressing. With under five minutes to go, Gordon made a giant save against Rob Shearer, who one-timed the puck from the goalmouth after a behind-the-net feed from Kelly Fairchild. Denis Pederson wasted Berlin's final chance. Breaking in 2-on-1 with Yvon Corriveau with only 20 seconds left, he failed to get the puck past Lions defenseman Paul Stanton.

Box score

------------------------------------
Berlin             0  1 2 --3
Frankfurt        1 2  1 --4
------------------------------------

Scoring Summary

1st Period
08:12 Frankfurt, Pat Lebeau 1 (power-play) (Jesse Belanger)

2nd Period
09:29 Frankfurt, Dwayne Norris 1 (Jesse Belanger)
10:05 Frankfurt, David Gosselin (Jason Young)
16:12 Berlin, Steve Walker 1 (Alexander Barta)

3rd Period
04:59 Frankfurt, Mike Harder (unassisted)
07:48 Berlin, Alexander Barta (unassisted)
11:08 Berlin, David Roberts 1 (Florian Keller, Micki DuPont)

Shots on Goal

------------------------------------
Berlin             8  5 12 --25
Frankfurt     16 15  6 --37
------------------------------------

Power-play Conversions: Berlin - 0 of 3. Frankfurt - 1 of 6.
Goalies:. Berlin, Rich Parent (37 shots, 33 saves). Frankfurt, Ian Gordon (25 shots, 22 saves).
Attendance: 7,000 (Eissporthalle, Frankfurt).
Referees: Willy Schimm (Waldkraiburg). Linesmen: Andreas Sprenger, Christian Walter

Penalty Summary

1st Period
02:13 Frankfurt, Charging - 2 mins, Mikael Magnusson
06:16 Frankfurt, Roughing - 2 mins, Jason Young
06:16 Berlin, Roughing - 2 mins, Yvon Corriveau
07:06 Berlin, Interference - 2 mins, Keith Aldridge
10:12 Berlin, Slashing - 2 mins, Keith Aldridge
15:40 Frankfurt, Interference - 2 mins, Jason Young

2nd Period
13:01 Berlin, Holding - 2 mins, Mark Beaufait
16:40 Frankfurt, Roughing - 2 mins, Peter Ratchuk
19:15 Berlin, Interference - 2 mins, Micki DuPont

3rd Period
05:37 Berlin, Roughing - 2 mins, Yvon Corriveau

Line combinations

Berlin Eisbären

Goalies: Oliver Jonas (starter), Rich Parent

Forward lines:
Kelly Fairchild - Mark Beaufait - Yvon Corriveau
Steve Walker - Rob Shearer - Denis Pederson
Sven Felski - Alexander Barta - David Roberts
Florian Keller - Florian Busch - Nils Antons

Defensemen:
Ricard Persson - Micki DuPont
Robert Leask - Keith Aldridge
Darryl Shannon - Bradley Bergen
Jens Baxmann - André Rankel

Head coach: Pierre Page

Frankfurt Lions

Goalies: Ian Gordon (starter), Marc Dillmann

Forward lines:
Dwayne Norris - Jesse Belanger - Patrick Lebeau
David Gosselin - Mike Harder - Jason Young
David Sulkovsky - Martin Reichel - Jonas Stöpfgeshoff
Markus Jocher - Mark Etz - Daniel Peters

Defensemen:
Francois Bouchard - Michael Bresagk
Paul Stanton - Peter Ratchuk
Mikael Magnusson - Sebastian Klenner

Head coach: Rich Chernomaz
Frank Johne

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