They've been breathing as one since the start of the preseason in late August. They bravely treaded forward, practiced hard under conditions that everyone has come to know well without complaint, motivated themselves, and supported each other. Nobody had to tell them ‘fight’, not even when they were down by two or three goals. They had the will to take them through the season. We’re talking about Medvescak’s U20 team, made up of players from Zagreb, Mladost, and Medvescak, who exploded this season and made a big boom. Second place in the EBYSL regular season, the first playoffs since joining EBEL juniors, and a great performance in the quarterfinals against Olimpija…
''It couldn’t have been better. This was a fantastic season. We can’t believe it’s over'', began Medvescak’s best shooter by number of goals and points, Ivan Jankovic about his impressions:
''We’re sad we fell out in the quarterfinals and that we didn’t bring the third game to Zagreb because we played really well in the second game in Ljubljana. We’re happy and sad at the same time. We’re sad we didn’t make the semifinals, but at the same time we’re happy to have made it this far. Maybe we needed this loss in the quarterfinals to be even better next season. In any case, this was a big experience for all of us on the team.''
After the deciding shot came in the 71st minute of the second quarterfinal game in the Tivoli arena that sent Olimpija to the semifinals, the Bears were overcome with emotions.
''I couldn’t hold back the tears'', admitted Marko Sakic, who had the most assists, while Jan Smolec added:
''First there was shock when that goal came and we needed a few seconds to realize what had happened. It was a hard emotional moment for all of us on the team, both for the younger and older players. Not just because we lost and weren’t going further, but also because it marked the end of our time together. We all got a long really well and nobody wanted it to be over.''
Regardless of the outcome of the quarterfinals, nothing can undermine the achievements of Medvescak’s U20 team. The players themselves are aware of that.
''I feel like we won EBYSL. I’ll never forget the two wins in Salzburg against Red Bull and against KAC in a shootout this season'', commented Jankovic, while Sakic added:
''We know that our goal was the playoffs and that we achieved it, but we wanted more and the quarterfinals meant a lot to all of us. But despite everything, we gave it our all. We showed character, that we’re a team that never gives up, and we can look ourselves in the mirror. We’re proud of how we did this season. Even their EBEL lineup didn’t destroy us.''