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Playoff favourites enjoy narrow victories

The Zurich Lions (in white) had a difficult time against Kloten's goalie, Patrick Kucera

(Keystone)

The Zurich Lions and Lugano both made winning starts to the semi-finals of the Swiss ice hockey playoffs, but neither side found the going easy.

Zurich Lions beat local rivals Kloten 1-0 in the opening match of the best-of-seven series, but the defending champions had to wait until two minutes from the end of the match before scoring the decisive goal.

Zurich's Peter Jaks was the man who finally found a way past Kloten's reserve goalkeeper Patrick Kucera, who had put in an otherwise flawless performance as deputy for the injured Reto Pavoni.

Lugano faced an even tougher time in their opening home match against Bern, needing a goal halfway through overtime to secure a 2-1 victory.

Having struggled to impose themselves against an unexpectedly defiant Fribourg in the quarter-finals, the winners of the qualifying league were equally unconvincing against a Bern side which finished the regular season in sixth place.

Deprived by injury and illness of their star Swedish players Fredrik Olausson and Andreas Johansson, Bern managed to take the lead in the tenth minute through defender Dominic Meier. It took Lugano until the 47th minute to get back on level terms, with Sandy Jeannin's goal from an Olivier Keller assist enough to take the match into overtime.

The extra period finally saw the Ticinese team take control and their possession was rewarded ten minutes into the time added on, with Andy Näser reacting fastest after Bern goalie Tosio deflected a Jean-Jacques Aeschlimann shot into his path.

The best-of-seven format ensures that Bern and Kloten will both have plenty of opportunities to drag themselves back into contention for the finals. The two underdogs will at least have home advantage when the semi-final action resumes on Saturday.

swissinfo with agencies


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