The Breakaway Bullies' three-year reign as Major League Roller Hockey's (MLRH) best ended with a stunning 5-4 overtime defeat at the hand of the Koovee Rollers in the semi-finals of this year's MLRH World Championships in Mannheim, Germany.
The recently crowned MLRH North American Champions Bullies traveled to take part in the largest international championship tournament to date hosted by MLRTH. This year's event included seven qualifying teams from six countries.
VUORELAN VEIKOT TAKE WORLD TITLE IN ALL FINNISH FINAL
Breakaway Bullies fall to Koovee Rollers in OT semi-final thriller
Freiderkspark Arena, home of the 2014
MLRH World Championships
The Bullies discovered their stay in Germany wouldn't be a pleasant stroll in a rose garden as they dropped a 4-0 decision to Koovee in their opening game of the tournament. The Bullies peppered netminder Niklas Nordland with 32 shots but the Finnish
goalie proved to be the difference in the game with Koovee capitalizing on it's opportunities by scoring four times on just 13 shots.
The opening day statement made by the Rollers was huge for the contingent of European teams competing in the tournament, as Koovee defeated a Bullies squad studded with international, and proven, professional talent.
Among the more celebrated players on the Bullies roster were two-time FIRS gold-medalist and USARS Inline Hockey Player of the Year Ian Rezac; two-time IIHF gold-medalist Steven Campbell; Team USA gold-medalist Itan Chivira; 44-year-old JamieCooke (a former draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers and
12-year pro), and hard-working defenseman Jon Massey, namesake of the MLRH Jon Massey Award.
Rezak, Cooke, Campbell and Chavira were members of the gold-medal winning US team at the 2013 World Games in Cali, Columbia.
The Californians, seeded fourth in the playoffs, bounced back during the second day of competition with an 8-0 blowout against the Antwerp Flames from Belgium, then doubled up the Mannheim Stars from Germany 6-3 in the quarterfinals to advance to earn a rematch against the top-seeded Rollers in the semi-finals.
The Bullies and the Rollers are developing an international rivalry after the teams met in last year's world championship semi-finals in Florida, with the Bullies edging Koovee, 2 games to 1, in the best-of-three series.
The Rollers had been waiting all year for a second shot at the Bullies and, after recording a somewhat shocking win over the Southern Californians on the opening day, finally proved their point with their semifinal win.
Like the previous matchups, it proved to be an epic struggle - appropriately capped by an overtime goal.
Vuerelan Veikot (Finland), seeded third, defeated the second seeded Orebro Eagles from Sweden 5-4 in the other semi-final to set up an all Finnish championship.
Koovee claimed the first game from Vuerelan by a score of 6-3 before Vuerelan regrouped to win the next two by scores of 5-1 and 6-3 to secure rights to the MLRH World Championships title and a check for 8,000 euros ($10,000).
Lasse Lappalanien scored a natural hat trick in the decisive game to oust Vuerelan to the title and, in the process, earned honors as the MLRH World Championships Most Valuable Player.
'We were frustrated in the first game," Lappalanien said, "but we took some positive energy into the second one."
Despite their third place finish in the MLRH World Championship Power rankings, the Bullies did leave ther mark in Europe as two of their players were named to the 2014 World Team: Campbell (Forward) and Rezac (Defense).