Medvescak made the most out of their premiere season in the Kontinental Hockey League in every way possible. In the regular season, the Bears broke records, beat some of the KHL's top teams like CSKA Moscow, SKA St. Petersburg, two-time champions from Kazan Ak Bars, and Kazakhstan's Barys Astana, landing themselves in the league's playoffs. All this as the KHL's team with the smallest budget of around 10M EUR, while some teams have a budget of over 40M EUR to work with!
Just what did the Bears achieve in the 2013-14 KHL season? Let's look back...
28 wins, 26 losses, and 92 points
The Bears ended the regular season in 4th place in the Bobrov Division out of 7 teams, in 6th place in the Western Conference out of 14 teams, and with a high 11th place out of the total 18 teams in the entire KHL. In 54 games they accrued 92 points, 28 wins - 1 in overtime and 3 in shootouts, 26 losses - still earning 12 points with 4 overtime and 8 shootout losses. They scored 138 goals and had 126 goals against. They earned the most goals, 51, in the second period.
Medvescak are the 7th best powerplaying team out of 28 in the league, with 40 powerplay goals at 19.3%, and are the 4th best penalty killing team with 87.7%.
Out of the 27 other KHL teams, only 5 of them left Zagreb with 3 points: Lev Prague, Medvescak's opponents in the quarterfinals which start on Friday March 7th, Dinamo Riga, Donbbas Donetsk, and only two Russian teams Dynamo Moscow and Salavat Yulaev from Ufa. All five of those teams made it into the playoffs.
100th goal in the KHL
Medvescak's first goal in their debut KHL season was scored by Jonathan Cheechoo against CSKA Moscow (first game of the season in Zagreb), and the final one of the regular season was scored by Matt Murley against Slovan from Bratislava (54th game of the season). The Bears scored their 100th in a winning game in Dom Sportova on 11 December 2013 against two-time KHL champions Ak Bars from Kazan. Medvescak's 100th KHL goal was shot by Hugh Jessiman in their highest-scoring game this season (11 goals, 6:5).
KHL's best debutants
It could have been guessed that this would be a fun and exciting season for the Bears from the season opener's 7:1 win in Dom Sportova against the mighty CSKA Moscow, and then the confirmation came in October. Zagreb's boys broke the record for a KHL debut team, previously held by Dinamo Riga since 2008-09.That season the Latvian team wet the record by winning six games in a row, which the Bears crushed this season by winning eight consecutive games! It began against SKA from St. Petersburg, and then went through Yugra from Khanty-Mansiysk, Barys Astana, Avtomobilist from Yekaterinburg, Avangard from Omsk, Neftekhimik from Nizhnekamsk, Dinamo from Minsk, and Donbbas from Donetsk.
Along with eight consecutive wins and a new league record, the Bears also won their first KHL away game in Minsk. Their first win on Russian ice (2:3) took place in Ufa against Salavat Yulaev in mid-November last year.
Cheechoo is best shooter, Murley best assist
Medvescak's best shooter is Jonathan Cheechoo with 38 points - 19 goals, 19 assists. Cheechoo is amongst the KHL's Top 20 players! His goal count puts him at a high 11th place, while by points he is in 17th.
The team's player with the most assist is Matt Murley, with 20 assists that scored 16 goals in the season. The mot powerplay goals (8) were scored by Cheechoo, while Murley and Ryan Vesce each got 6. The most faceoffs (574) were won by Vesce, who is in 4th place in the KHL for most faceoff wins.
The defenseman with the most points (22), with 6 goals and 16 assists, is Kurtis Foster, and he is in 14th place in the league.
Cheechoo and Foster had the opportunity to play in the KHL All Star Game on the West's team. Cheechoo scored a goal and got an assist, and Foster got an assist. Cheechoo earned his spot on the All Star Team by fan votes, while Foster was added at the decision of the journalists.
Strong goalie duo
The Bears will have the support of the goalie duo Mark Dekanich and Barry Brust in the KHL playoffs.
Mark Dekanich played 27 games, pent 1630 minutes and 12 seconds on the ice, and secured 11 wins. Out of 900 shots on goal, he made 842 saves (93.6%), and let in 58 goals, making his goals against average 2.13. Dex had 3 shutouts throughout the season, against Sibir from Novosibirsk, Admiral from Vladivostok, and Lokomotiv from Yaroslavl. The KHL dubbed Dekanich the goalie of the week in October 2013, while eurohockey.com named him December 2013's European player of the month!
Barry Brust played 28 games, spent 1656 minutes and 56 seconds on the ice, and secured 14 wins. Out of 813 shots his way he made 756 saves (93%), and let in 57, making his goals against average 2.06. Throughout the season he had 4 shutouts, 3 in a row against Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg), Avangard (Omsk), and Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk), and then one later against Torpedo from Nizhny Novogorod. In October 2013 Brust was dubbed the league's best goalie of the month, and carried the title of goalie of the week twice (October 2013 and January 2014)!
Medvescak's Andrej Vasiljevic started the season on the goalie team. After his departure to England he was replaced by Alex Westlund from the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers.
Bjorkstrand is rookie of the week twice
The KHL named twenty-one-year-old Patrick Bjorkstrand the best younger player of the week in October and December 2013!
A slew of records at the Pan Arena Ice Fever
The theme of this year's hockey spectacle in Zagreb's Arena, the Pan Arena Ice Fever, was breaking records, and the main role went to the fans. Throughout five games in Arena Zagreb, the fans broke several records, including the longest crowd wave at 15 minutes and 3.2 seconds, along with the record for the loudest cheering inside a stadium. the fans reached a volume of 130.02 decibels!
Along with those records, the fans also made records with the most blue fan scarves at a Medvescak game, the most fan merchandise at a Medvescak game, and the loudest female cheer at a Medvescak game, as well as the record for the most new year wishes.
Flew over 60 000 kilometers
The Bears travelled over 60 000km by plane in the regular season. Their closest destination was Bratislava (Slovan) which is a 280km flight away, while the furthest were Vladivostok (Admiral) at 8300km, and Khabarovsk (Amur) at 8006km away.
This season 211 349 fans watched the Bears on home ice, and 167 116 fans watched their away games.
All of Medvescak's games were broadcast on TV (KHL TV, SportKlub, HTV), and it is estimated that an average of over 4.3M people watched each individual game.
The KHL alone brought over 75 000 fans to Zagreb from Russia and other KHL countries from the region, especially Slovenia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Germany, and Serbia. Internet ticket sales indicate that six tickets for Bears games in Arena Fever were purchased in New Zealand!
Medvescak became the most popular European hockey club on Facebook this season by number of fans. In December 2013 they reached 80 095 fans, and surpassed Kolner Heie who were in the lead until then with 80 095 fans. Medvescak reached 100 000 fans on their official Facebook page on 9 January 2014, and today has 126 321, while Kolner are behind them with 97 192 fans.
The growth of the Bears' online friends is marked on all of their social media. Since the start of the season Medvescak have gotten 63 000 new fans, 3000 new followers on twitter, and 1600 on Instagram.
Throughout the Pan Arena Ice Fever in January, fans posted 1100 photos on Instagram, and the clip of the breaking of the record for loudest cheering broke the record on the SoundScriber social network. It was listened to an incredible 7092 times!
TOP 10 FACTS of Medvescak's debut KHL regular season as selected by www.medvescak.com
1. Making it into the KHL playoffs
2. KHL debutant record
3. 6th place in the Western conference
4. KHL's 4th best penalty kill team
5. Only 5 teams earned 3 points in Zagreb
6. 100th goal in Medvescak's highest-scoring game
7. Cheechoo and Foster at the All Star Game
8. 211,349 fans at home games
9. Medvescak's average viewership - over 4.3M viewers of individual games
10. 75.000 fans from Russia, the region, and all over the world
do you have your Top 10 facts or moments from this season? We would be happy for you to share them with us on our Facebook or Twitter profiles or by emailing us at [email protected]
. We look forward to your selections!