Only the judge can help GIJS to the play-offs. ‘It’s really over for me now’

GIJS HEPRO Groningen lost at home to Amsterdam Tigers (2-5) and can normally write the play-offs on his stomach. Unless the judge comes to the aid of the Groningen ice hockey players.

Players shaking their heads with a resigned look in their eyes, a door that was slammed shut. But also: hopeful arguments that it is still possible, that GIJS is not finished yet. So many mixed feelings in the catacombs of the Kardinge sports center, shortly after the lost match against Amsterdam Tigers.

A win against Amsterdam was actually necessary

Before the home game against Amsterdam, now the leader of the Eredivisie again, GIJS still had a small chance to finish among the best eight teams in the Eredivisie and thus secure a place in the play-offs.

For that, a win against Amsterdam was actually necessary and, moreover, Dordrecht Lions, the team that is now eighth, had to lose in that scenario. Then a win in GIJS’s last match, next Saturday at home against Sweetlake Panters Zoetermeer, would yield the coveted ticket for the dessert of the ice hockey competition in the premier league.

Earlier in the evening, Dordrecht Lions lost 8-4 to Eindhoven Kemphanen, which was good news for GIJS, but the Groningers themselves were unable to win against Amsterdam.

Goalie Douma in excellent form

Coach John Versteeg’s team was dominant in Kardinge and mainly forced GIJS to gamble on outbreaks. Amsterdam attacked the goal of GIJS goalie Danylo Douma very often and GIJS could be grateful to its young goalkeeper, who will be active at the Under-18 World Cup as goalkeeper of the Netherlands in April, that he is in such great form. Douma ensured that GIJS could keep hope for a good result until the last minute.

It was only deep into the second period that Douma had to remove the puck from his goal for the first time after a goal by the Latvian Alberts Kirsons. GIJS went looking for the equalizer, but did not get many chances in the second part of the second act.

‘Now go full 20 minutes’

And yet the equalizer (1-1) came shortly before the second break. Vainius Jankauskas was the creator in a confusing situation in which Dylan Foks was also involved. That 1-1 of course meant that anything was still possible in Kardinge, which was occupied to the last seat.

“I said: it’s now a full 20 minutes,” GIJS coach Csaba Kercso repeated his instructions for the GIJS players during the final half-time break. “So above all, put pressure, speed up and: no mistakes! That was only successful to a limited extent,” the Hungarian admitted afterwards.

‘Own goal and good luck for Amsterdam’

After Toms Breikss missed a good chance to make it 2-1, two goals were scored in quick succession at the other end. The first, Samu Poutanen’s 1-2, was a ‘lucky’ one because the puck slid in front of the Finn’s stick via the boards. “And that 1-3 was even an own goal by Joop Uchtman,” Kercso was disappointed afterwards. “He defended and got the puck wrong on his stick. Twice bad luck.” Officially, Jake White got the game-winning goal (GWG) to his credit.

In fact, very soon after that disappointing 1-3, there even seemed to be hope for the Gijssies again after a quick breakout with a goal from Breikss (2-3). But in the closing minutes, when Kercso brought Douma aside to bring in an extra field player, it turned out to be wrong. First Lance Duin made it 2-4, in the final seconds Kirsons pushed his second into an empty GIJS goal: 2-5.

If the court returns the three points, it is still possible

The gap with Dordrecht Lions is now still 6 points, with only the game against Zoetermeer to go. But the most positively minded GIJS stakeholders still see opportunities. They must then come from behind the green table. Because if the court in Utrecht gives back the three points that the ice hockey association NIJB recently took from GIJS in the coming week, GIJS can still qualify through a win at Zoetermeer.

According to the NIJB, GIJS fielded an ineligible player in the first (home) match against Yeti’s Breda, the younger brother of forward Flynn Hayward Jones. According to GIJS, Nash Hayward Jones only skated in the warm-up, partly because the parents of the two New Zealand boys were watching via the livestream, who were watching their sons ‘down under’. According to GIJS, Nash would not have been on the ice for a second during the game and the club could prove that with images.

‘I would think there is a chance’

“The judge said: give me those video images and I will take a look,” Kercso said. “And if what you say is correct, you will get those three points back. Well, it’s true. So I would think there is a chance we can get those points back.”

In that case, the last home game, next Saturday in Kardinge, really counts for something: a win against the current number 4 is sufficient for qualification, provided that Dordrecht loses again on that evening in regular time to OG Capitals Leeuwarden, also one of the top teams of the premier league.

If GIJS comes alongside the Dordrecht team in points, GIJS wins based on mutual results. In Kardinge, Kercso’s team won 8-4 against Dordrecht, with an away score of 6-5.

‘I assume it’s ready now’

But there are also Gijssies who resigned themselves to elimination for the play-offs after the defeat against Amsterdam. Like top scorer Zahir Hup. “I assume it’s done. I don’t want to be dependent on a judge’s ruling over which I have no influence whatsoever. For me it’s just over after this defeat.”

GIJS HEPRO Groningen-Amsterdam Tigers 2-5 (0-0, 1-1, 1-4)

Scoring: 29. Kirsons 0-1, 40. Jankauskas 1-1, 44. Poutanen 1-2, 56. White 1-3, 57. Breikss 2-3, 59. Duin 2-4, 60. Kirsons 2-5 .