The Rangers and their hosts SC Bern have warmed up. The referees are on the ice, including Don Koharski -- could he ever have imagined being in the same building as Jim Schoenfeld, sharing donuts, in Switzerland? The 5,000 or so seats in this arena are only half full so far, but 12,000 fans have already crammed themselves into the standing room area, where there are few obstacles keeping them from spilling over into the lower deck. They're beating drums and chanting and singing and clapping. Talked to a few Ranger fans outside, including a Blueshirt Bulletin reader from England and a couple of Berners rooting for the Rangers instead of their hometown team (just for today).
The Rangers and Bern were introduced one at a time at the start, alternately, starting with starting goalie Steve Valiquette, emerging in a haze of fog that has permeated this building. When the Bern players were introduced, the announcer says the number and the first name, the fans in the standing room area yelled out the last name. Gomez and Drury are wearing A's for the game tonight, along with Redden. The Rangers literally owned the puck through the first period of a light-hitting affair and took a 1-0 lead on a Dan Girardi power play goal early on. They didn't capitalize on their second opportunity despite a plethora of chances. The Rangers got a two-man advantage late in the period when a second penalty was called during a delayed penalty call, a rarity in the NHL. Redden quickly converted on a point shot off a Rozsival pass. There were still 11 seconds left on the second minor when the period ended.
The Rangers were really feeling their oats after the first, having chased Bern's starter from net, so they started going all out -- started to remind me of an open hockey session. They also started hitting some, though not the punishing check finishes that are common in the NHL. But the undisciplined play came back to haunt them, as Bern started to press the attack for the first time and drew a couple of power plays -- the second period shot total won't be as lopsided as the 12-3 first period margin. The Rangers killed them off and regained control of the match, getting another power play of their own in which they did everything but score. With the pace of the game moving along at a rapid clip (no TV time-outs or post-whistle scrums, except for Callahan challenging someone who ran the goalie), the period came to a close with another Bern power play, easily quashed by the Rangers.
After a shaky start to the third period, in which Valiquette had to make several outstanding saves before Bern finally scored, the Rangers came roaring back on another five on three, converting both ends of the power play. The first goal was a nice passing play from Zherdev to Gomez for a back door slam dunk (somehow Drury got credit), the second Dubinsky on a two on one rush. Up 4-1 on four power play goals, the Rangers poured it on with a couple at even strenght -- Petr Prucha off a Dmitri Kalinin point shot (he confirmed deflecting it in even though it appeared Colton Orr was the one who might have tipped it), and Lauri Korpikoski deflecting a Corey Potter point shot. Potter got a goal of his on a power play shortly thereafter, Bern back-up goalie Jonas Muller not even realizing the puck was behind him. Dubinsky scored his second of the game to complete the scoring. The loyal Bern fans remained in the building, cheering their team on even for a shot on goal (no derision intended in that remark, just admiration).
After the game, the passion of the fans was all Drury and Dubinsky could talk about. They were of course diplomatic about the level of competition, as was Coach Renney during his post-game press conference. He did admit that his team needed a bit of a pep talk after the second period, when Bern got themselves back into the game. Coach Van Boxmeer pointed to the penalty calls against his team as part of their problem -- he noted that his league does not call things as tight as the NHL, a reversal from the past when NHL players complained about IIHF refs calling things too close.
Well, that's it from Bern for today -- tomorrow, the Rangers expect a bit of a tougher match against Russia's Metallurg Magnitogorsk, a team whose name translates in English to Magnetic Mountain Iron Works. We'll have an article for Blueshirt Bulletin+ in the morning and an update from the Rangers' morning skate, which will no doubt include new line combinations as Naslund, Dawes, and Mara no doubt see to action, and maybe Staal and Rissmiller too.