What a display by the Bergische Lions! After conceding three defeats in a row, the BHC chalked up an astounding 30:25 (19:13) home victory against Berlin Foxes to begin its jam-packed program at the end of the year and, fired on by 2,956 ecstatic spectators, managed to produce the next highlight against one of the league’s top teams, following the home win against Rhine-Neckar Lions.
The Lions wanted to play at “full tilt” in the last three games before the winter break – and did just that in impressive fashion from the very first second against their opponents from the capital city, giving the visitors no air to breathe, moving out of defense quickly and pinning the other side down well before their own crease. The deserved reward – a 4:1 lead after the first five minutes – was to lay the foundation for the home win. Even two successful time penalties against Moritz Preuss and Maximilian Weiß did not throw the home side off its stride: with his team underhanded, Gunnarsson made it 6:4 in the 12th minute and, when the Foxes equalized and then went 7:8 ahead in the 15th minute, the Lions were not perturbed and struck back.
First Christian Hoße tied the scores at 8:8, then Maximilian Weiß finished a peach of a pass from captain Viktor Szilagyi to put the BHC back in front. And the Lions kept on stretching their lead: Björgvin Pall Gustavsson repeatedly made minor dents in the Foxes’ confidence with great saves throughout the game, while his teammates displayed reliable finishing up front. When Berlin was left shorthanded after a time penalty against Paul Drux, two goals in a row from Hoße gave his side a three-goal lead (11:8 in the 19th minute). Dagur Sigurdsson called his first timeout because his team was not making its presence felt enough on court. Petr Stochl replaced the luckless Silvio Heinevetter, but the Czech player would also have little to cheer about against the Lions. The game continued to go swimmingly for the BHC. Even Berlin’s attempts with the advanced Bartlomiej Jaszka to restrict the radius of action of Viktor Szilagyi, who produced a brilliant captain’s performance throughout, fell flat – the Austrian international scored all the same, the BHC extended its lead to 15:11 in the 25th minute and then to 17:12 in the 28th and eventually went in at half-time leading by 19:13 after an outstanding display in a University Hall that resembled a madhouse.
When the second half began, the BHC’s keeper stepped up a gear and immediately made his mark by doing the splits to stop Jesper Nielsen, who was not able to reduce the gap with the score at 20:13 in the 32nd minute. Overall, the BHC’s defense remained doggedly tenacious and successfully kept the visitors at arm’s length. In the space of three minutes, Gustavsson again proved his qualities as a penalty saver: he stopped the shot by Iker Romero from the seven-meter spot in the 35th minute, although Mattias Zachrisson picked up the rebound to score, and then thwarted Petar Nenadic – the Lions led by 22:16 in the 38th minute. Maximilian Hermann conceded the fifth time penalty against the home side and Berlin made it 22:17 in the 39th minute, before the BHC’s Icelandic players came into their own. Arnor Gunnarsson added a goal with his team shorthanded (23:17) and Gustavsson saved twice from Nielsen to prevent Berlin scoring again while it had a man extra.
At the start of the final quarter of an hour, the home side successfully kept its opponents at bay and at one stage led by seven goals (25:18). Berlin changed its goalkeeper yet again, with Petr Stochl replacing Silvio Heinevetter once more. Although the Foxes staged a comeback with just under ten minutes remaining and cut the deficit to 26:23 in the 49th minute, the fortunes of the reigning cup winners did not last. The BHC’s Icelandic international between the posts helped seal his side’s victory with his next save, after which left wing Christian Hoße took the liberty of hammering in the ball from the backcourt to make it 27:23. Berlin made a last-ditch effort to avoid defeat with an extra field player – and Gustavsson capped his performance with another save and by throwing the ball into the empty goal at the other end (30:23 in the 55th minute). The Lions played out the remaining minutes, after which the crowd in the University Hall in Wuppertal, who produced an impressive spine-tingling atmosphere throughout the game, was able to fete its team on its victory.