Barani – HŠMH Banská Bystrica. That’s the full name of another Slovak team in the Elite Cup. And what does HŠMH means? It’s the Hockey school of Michal Handzuš. Yes, that Michal Handzuš who played over 1,000 games in the NHL and won Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.
The team from the middle of Slovakia plays in the Group A of Elite Cup U18. What does this experience means for them so far?
“It is definitely interesting for us to have games with foreign teams. Our players have big challenges ahead of them as we use to play in U18 with guys born in years 2006 and 2007, meanwhile Austrian and Hungarian teams have players born in 2005, too. I see this as a positive thing for us,” explained Head Coach Rastislav Paľov.
The Slovak side played two games in the beginning of the September against Austrian teams. “Salzburg were probably the best foreign team I have seen in the Elite Cup. We only play against them and Vienna, however I saw Hungarian teams as well. Salzburg were an active and compact side, you could see they are together for the long time. They are greatly prepared for 1-on-1 battles, forwards and defensemen are very skilled. We went into the game a little scared, and you can see it on the scoreboard,” admitted Paľov after 5-3 loss.
“Then the match against Vienna came. Our boys were more confident. We were more active, we dictated the game and we won 7-2,” he continued. Banská Bystrica played another match – against Slovak rival HK Nitra. Michal Handzuš Academy won 3-1.
Barani’s head coach puts emphasis on busy schedule of his team. “We wanted to have those games in August as a block of preseason matches before our league starts, however it wasn’t quite possible. The matches will be placed between Slovak Extraliga games, and it is going to be really difficult. We always play during the weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) therefore we have to plan Elite Cup games midweek.”
The success of the team from Banská Bystrica is inevitable in the Slovak U18 campaign. They already have 36 points from 15 games, and are leaders of table together with probably the most famous Slovak club – Slovan Bratislava. What's the secret behind that? “We tell our players to play quick, active, attacking and attractive hockey,” affirmed Paľov. “In this category you can see very often some kinds of spontaneous plays with a lot of goals. When guys make a great team group, which is our aim, then you can achieve some great things.”
Rastislav Paľov doesn’t coach only on club level. He is also the head coach of Slovak national team U17. Is he able to scout international opponents during the games against Austrians and Hungarians? “There are few Slovak players in their teams we have to watch closely,” he concluded.