The ARENA NÜRNBERGER Versicherung remains a tough hunting ground for the elite team Rhine-Neckar Lions. In the top encounter on the 9th game day, HC Erlangen fought its way to a 29:29 draw in a game that was highly intensive and exciting throughout and reaped the rewards for a courageous and tenacious display by taking a point against the two-times German champions from Mannheim.
The top game promised to be packed with excitement from the throw-off, as the home club from Franconia went a goal up right away when Quentin Minel plucked up courage to score from the backcourt. The Lions equalized and, after Johannes Sellin missed a seven-meter penalty, went ahead in the 7th minute. HC Erlangen was solid in defense and so was able to exert pressure in attack and snatch a 6:5 lead in the 12th minute. The 5,134 spectators in the ARENA NÜRNBERGER Versicherung got right behind their team and urged it forward. The home side built its attacks cleverly and scored with bold moves – just about every shot found its way into the goal of the world-class keeper Mikael Appelgren. As a result, the first-division club from Franconia went two goals in front for the first time in the 16th minute, forcing the visitors’ Head Coach to call a timeout. With their opponents short-handed, the favorites from Mannheim then tied the scores at 10:10, yet there was still no stopping HC Erlangen in this spell, either. Ivic made it 11:10 and, after a strong save by Carsten Lichtlein, Nikolai Link extended the gap to 12:10. The encounter remained a neck-and-neck affair in which the HCE managed to keep its nose ahead up to the break. With five seconds remaining in the first half, Sime Ivic – who had scored seven goals up to then – added another to give his side a 16:15 lead after 30 minutes.
HC Erlangen picked up after the break where it had left off. With its aggressive but fair defending, the HCE snapped up the ball and Johannes Sellin was sent away on a fast break, which he finished (17:15 in the 31st minute). However, the home side then made two consecutive mistakes while building its moves, with the result that the pair of German international wingers Gensheimer/Groetzki pounced twice to equalize (19:19). The game remained tense, as the two-times German champs managed to pull two ahead (23:25) by the 45th minute. Even though Erlangen kept on regaining possession in defense, it was not able to capitalize and all too often was frustrated by an Andreas Palicka who grew in strength between the posts. With ten minutes to go, it looked like the favorites from Mannheim had the game under control – but three seven-meter penalties changed the picture: Whereas Sellin reliably scored his, Gensheimer was thwarted twice in a row by Carsten Lichtlein with a strong display in goal. However, the Lions’ defense again stole possession and Gensheimer went down the other end to stretch the gap to 25:28. Yet anyone thinking the game was over and done was proven wrong. The home side, who in the view of Head Coach Aðalsteinn Eyjólfsson “played well for 45 minutes, but fought excellently for the whole 60,” was in no mood to accept defeat. Nikolai Link and Antonio Metzner reduced the deficit to a single goal and, with one minute left, Andy Schmid and his teammates failed with a Kempa trick, allowing Carsten Lichtlein to send Johannes Sellin away to tie the scores at 29:29 to the relief and jubilation of the crowd. Rhine-Neckar Lions still had 40 seconds to score and the entire arena was on its feet. Yet HC Erlangen fought to the death and did not shirk any duels, with the result that the visitors lost possession and the HCE even had the chance to snatch victory. But it was not to be: The encounter ended in a 29:29 tie to the cheers of the crowd.
“We displayed an incredible amount of courage today. Everyone on court played out of their skin and gave their all in everything they did. I have to pay my team a huge compliment for the way it performed today,” said a happy and satisfied Aðalsteinn Eyjólfsson afterwards.