The Devils took their preseason road show to Europe today, heading over to Bern, Switzerland to take on local Swiss National League team SC Bern in the exhibition final. Starting Saturday, the games count for real. But until then, the Devils got the 3-2 overtime victory and head into the regular season with some confidence.
The game was played at PostFinance Arena in Bern, the Swiss capital, as part of the 2018 NHL Global Series Challenge. It was a great atmosphere as the fans were singing and chanting, waving flags and really into the game. It had a very European soccer flavor to it and it was a neat change of pace from the more staid North American crowds.
But with a European arena comes an international ice surface. A NHL rink is 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. An international rink is 200 feet long by 100 feet wide. That extra room is good for players like Taylor Hall to show off their speed, but can be an adjustment for NHL players used to a smaller ice surface.
One other quirk is that each team was allowed to dress 22 players. The Devils went with 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies. This is the amount of players allowed to dress in the European game and that rule was used today likely due to the bigger ice surface.
One of the players dressed for New Jersey was Jean-Sebastien Dea. Dea was making his Devils debut after being claimed off of waivers on Friday from Pittsburgh.
Pregame festivities included a jersey exchange, as Devils President Hugh Weber accepted a SC Bern jersey on behalf of the team while Swiss-native Nico Hischier, who did play for SC Bern before coming to North America, presented Devils jersey to Bern management. Former Swiss NHLer Mark Streit dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff which was taken by the Devils’ other Swiss native, defenseman Mirco Mueller. During the player intros, the Swiss fans gave Hall a big reaction and, of course, Nico got a huge reaction as the fans recognized one of their own.
Despite being on the international ice sheet, the game was contested under NHL rules with and NHL referee and linesman. The other ref was Swiss and the other linesman was Swedish.
SC Bern are already five games into the Swiss National League’s regular season. They are 5-1 in that competition and were ready for the Devils tonight. It was a tight game where quality scoring chances were at a premium. SC Bern is a powerhouse of Swiss hockey and it showed in their game today.
This was the first NHL contested game to be played in Bern in exactly ten years, as on October 1, 2008, the Rangers took on Russian team Metallurg in this city.
The Devils struck first when Andy Greene scored his second goal in as many games, taking a nice pass from Miles Wood. Greene was all alone in front with time and roofed it over SC Bern goaltender Leonardo Genoni. It was 1-0 Devils and would be that way going into the second period.
SC Bern would tie things very early in the second when Simon Moser scored on a rebound after Keith Kinkaid made a nice initial save. This occurred off of a turnover in the Devils’ zone. Earlier in the first period, Kinkaid was forced to make a huge save off of a Devils turnover in their own end as well. That one ended in a scramble and then the net coming off of its moorings. Marcus Johansson helped on that one, keeping the puck out of the New Jersey net after having to make like a goalie.
The Devils would regain the lead later in the second when Pavel Zacha would feed Ben Lovejoy in the slot and he fired home a one-timer that beat Genoni. That made it 2-1 Devils and raise your hand if you had Andy Greene and Ben Lovejoy as the Devils’ goal scorers for this game.
The teams kind of settled into a bit of momentum trading from here on out. Genoni made a nice stop early in the third period in a goalmouth scramble. But SC Bern would challenge and then finally tie things up later in the third frame. This one came courtesy of Connecticut native Mark Arcobello. He snapped one by Kinkaid following a 2-on-1 at the other end that was stopped by Genoni. That goal came with under three minutes left in the game.
When the final horn sounded, we were headed for three-on-three OT. Remember, this game was being played with NHL rules plus the extra open ice should have made for a lot of open skating and chances.
And all of that did come. The Devils finally put the game away with 1:03 to go in the OT period. Hall took a pass from Sami Vatanen in the Devils’ zone, skated up the ice and danced around the Bern defender. He then snapped one by Genoni and that put the 2018 preseason to bed with a 3-2 Devils victory.
Postgame featured handshakes between the teams, as well as both teams saluting the SC Bern fans. This completed the great atmosphere in the arena and put a cap on a great day of hockey.
Next up, the Devils will have an off day in Switzerland tomorrow, followed by traveling to Sweden on Wednesday for their season opener in Gothenburg against the Edmonton Oilers. In Sweden, points will be on the line and the Devils will be down to their final opening day roster. That game takes place on Saturday, October 6 at 1:30 PM New Jersey time. We will, of course, have coverage of that right here on the blog. We will also have coverage of episode two of the NHL Network series “Behind the Glass” tonight as well.