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2014-02-05 10:42:00 | HV71
Christensen in the game vs AIK (Photo: Sami Grahn / Pic-Agency.com)
Erik Christensen took some time to get settle in to the SHL having a slow start to his career in Sweden, to his standard, with just 13 points in 22 games. But with the inclusion of young Swiss talent Kevin Fiala in January the sparks have flied and there chemistry has boosted the Canadians production to over a point per game. “It was just instant chemistry, sometimes chemistry you just can’t explain,” said Christensen.
The impact that Kevin Fiala has had on HV71 has been unimaginable, especially the way that the 17 year old has been able to lift the game of his line-mates Erik Christensen and Ted Brithén. His positive impact was no more noticeable than in their 3-1 loss to AIK in Stockholm on Tuesday night, when Fiala was scratched from the line-up. To make matters worse, Ted Brithén was injured just 2 minutes into the game to completely destroy HV71’s most current productive line and coincidently any real offensive creativity.
– To not have Kevin and lose Ted early and not come back was just disappointing because we have had a lot of success lately in the last ten or fifteen games, said a dispirited Erik Christensen.
To say that the line of Christensen, Fiala and Brithén has been a success is an understatement, the combination scoring just under half of the team’s goals since Fiala joined the roster on the 8th of January. The treble have mounted a pile of points for HV71 since forming a line, scoring 12 goals and 18 assists between them and have become a real force the Jönköping club.
– Kevin has added a whole new dimension to our line with his skill level. Ted and I are both fairly skilled guys ourselves and we are a bit bigger and skate well, but Kevin, his skill is at another level, explained Christensen.
– He makes so many plays and creates so much room for us with the way he can pass the puck and see the ice. Right away we found ourselves getting a lot of chances and scoring a lot of points.
Christensen explained that Fiala’s ability to draw attention and players to him and create scoring chances has been a direct result of the increase in his own personal scoring of 6 goals and 7 assists in nine games since the young Swiss winger arrived.
– A lot of the time when Kevin has the puck he brings people to him and then passes it off when we are wide open. A lot of goals have been scored that way. He can have two guys on him and keep holding onto the puck and then just throw a pass and find us open.
– It was just instant chemistry, sometimes chemistry you just can’t explain.
The 30 year old, Edmonton born, center, has played 387 games for various clubs in the NHL and has a world of experience to pass on of Kevin Fiala, himself and line-mate Ted Brithén doing their best to guide the young talent in the right direction.
– We try to talk to Kevin a lot, it is a different game from playing junior to playing pro hockey. This is a big jump from junior and there is lots to learn and we try and help him out. He can make little mistakes that you need to weed out of your game when you get to higher levels.
– When I was 17 years old I was playing junior hockey in Canada, I wasn’t playing professional hockey like him. Just goes to show that he has got a pretty bright future.
Despite their most recent loss in Stockholm, HV71 have saved what was looking like their worst season in the recent times, turning a losing season into a winning one since coach, Torgny Bendelin joined the club during the Christmas break, taking over from the departed Ulf Dahlén.
Christensen puts the vast change of form down to Bendelin’s attention to detail defensively and the time he takes during practice to perfect the team’s systems.
– There is a little bit more detail with the stuff we do, especially with our systems, defensive zone coverage, neutral zone fore-checking and offensive zone fore-checking. There is just more detail to it and we practice it more often so we are ready when the games come.
Erik Christensen is contracted with HV71 only until the end of this season but is keeping closed lip about any contract talks, although he does admit that he is loving life in his new home, Sweden.
– It has been brought up (contract talks) but I just want to focus on next year, I don’t want it to be a distraction.
– I really enjoy it here. It was a tough year when I started out in Prague, playing in the KHL, things didn’t work out. This has been a much better situation for me. Sweden reminds me a lot of Canada and I live in a small little town that reminds me of home. I feel really comfortable and everyone has been really great to me. Playing in our home building, a sold out building, I really couldn’t ask for anything more right now.
2014-02-03 16:00:00 | Weekly reviews
It now appears that the top four teams in the SHL are in a league of their own, fighting it out amongst themselves, while the rest of the league scuffle below them with a desperate desire to find consistent form which will qualify them automatically into the playoffs. Linköping on the other hand are trying to discover what went so wrong that they now sit just one place out of Kvalserien.
Skellefteå, Frölunda, Växjö and Luleå continue to show why they are the top four teams in the league, as they look to hold their strong position coming up to the Olympic break next week. The only points that were dropped by these four clubs in each of their own three games this week were against each other.
Skellefteå returned to their top form with wins against AIK and Brynäs 1-4 (Highlights) after thumping Luleå 5-1 (Highlights) earlier in the week. Frölunda were also undefeated, finishing the week with an important 1-2 (Highlights) win against Växjö on Sunday, given them a 5 point buffer to their third place rival. Växjö’s goal production continues to be their strength, scoring 13 goals in their two wins against Brynäs and Örebro while Luleå focus on things at the other end of the ice, only allowing 1 goal in their two wins against Brynäs and Linköping.
Even though MODO Hockey also had a strong week, moving into fifth in the standings with their three wins, it now appears that the league is now split into two, with just 9 rounds of games left to play before the playoffs. The top four will be jostling for position amongst themselves as Frölunda, Växjö and Luleå do their best to catch Skellefteå at the top. Meanwhile, the rest of the league will be fighting it out for automatic qualification into the playoffs as some look over their shoulder, beware of the Kvalserien cut-off.
You could not be blamed to think that by having the league’s highest point scorer and its’ top three goal scorers you would be competing with the SHL’s best, at the moment this is certainly not the case. At the beginning of the season many expected that Linköping would be fighting at the top of the standings especially now with three of the most productive forwards in the league, instead they are now the team in a full throttle reverse.
– I’ve had trouble finding good sources of motivation for the team this year and also finding ways to reverse negative trends, said Linköping coach Roger Melin to C More after their latest loss to Luleå.
– We have panicked in situations in some games, simply because we cannot keep calm in crucial moments, continued Melin.
The White Lions had another tough week this week letting in 15 goals, while scoring only 4 themselves, in their 3 losses to Färjestad, Frölunda and Luleå. The poor week now sees Linköping with one eye forward and one eye backward sitting in tenth position, just 9 points above the Kvalserien line with just a little over a month left in the regular season.
There is no more important week than the week ahead in this year’s schedule, every team knowing that it is vital to perform well in their three matches before a 17 day break during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Their will only be 6 games left after the return from the Games and a poor week this week could make things a lot tougher in the final run for playoff position.
2014-01-28 16:35:00 | Weekly reviews
After last week all eyes were on the battle at the top of the standings as Skellefteå’s uncharacteristically stumbled momentarily, this week all eyes have turned to the bottom where it appears that HV71 have finally removed themselves from any talks of seeing them in Kvalserien this season. Meanwhile the return of Patrik Hersley and a clinical power play have helped Leksand and Växjö improve their place in the constant battle for playoff positioning.
The return of Patrik Hersley gave Leksand IF a boost this week, now having three wins from their last three outings. Hersley returned in the Dalarna club's 1-2 win against Brynäs on Thursday, providing the defensive stability and firepower that they have missed whilst the goal scorer had been injured. Hersley then moved to just 2 goals away from his club’s goal scoring record for a defenceman, currently held by Jan Huokko, when he fired home a slapshot to give his team a 2-0 lead in Leksand’s 3-2 win against Frölunda..
The three win run of Leksand now puts them right in the middle of the fight for a direct playoff birth, sitting just above the automatic qualification line in sixth position.
Växjö were once again at their best this week after their two losses the previous week, beating MODO Hockey 3-1 and Färjestad 4-2 to regain third place in the standings. The vast improvement of the Smålanders power play has been the key to their return to form, scoring 5 extra man goals out of 6 opportunities in their two wins this week, the 83 percent success rate a big step above the 15 percent of power plays they were converting before this week’s two matches.
Also to note in Växjö is the return of Czechoslovakian center Jan Hlavac to the team. Hlavac has been signed once again by the club after playing 13 games last season where he scored 5 goals and 2 assists. The Czech comes in as a replacement for the injured Robert Rosén who is set to be out for another five weeks with a fractured leg.
The battle to stay out of Kvalserien looks to be over for HV71 after another strong week with two wins. The Jönköping club have now moved to four full-point wins ahead of Örebro, who occupy the last position into Kvalserien with AIK. Under new Head-Coach Torgny Bendelin, who joined the club on the 15th of December, HV71 have turned their season around, wining 7 from 11 games while taking points in their last five.
– There is constant development where you get to work with small pieces of the puzzle at a time, and sometimes it goes up. The most important thing in the long run is that it goes in the right direction, said Bendelin to HV71.se when talking about some of the improvements of the team before their match against Skellefteå.
This positive reverse in the play of HV71 saw them take down league leaders Skellefteå 4-2, whilst later in the week they secured another 2 points against Färjestad with an overtime win 3-4. Their two wins this week and their consistent form has begun to give them hope of an automatic place in the playoffs, just 8 points away from Leksand in sixth, something that was unimaginable just a short time ago.
2014-01-21 18:57:00 | Weekly reviews
The fight for the season champion has been given a spark of life this week after current run-away leaders Skellefteå fell against their opponents for their fourth straight loss, while contenders and Norrland rivals Luleå continued their hot start of 2014, winning twice and moving 6 points closer to the league Champions. Meanwhile, HV71’s fight for survival has been given a boost by the arrival of young Swiss talent Kevin Riala into their top team, and impressing significantly in his first four starts for the Jönköping club.
Luleå’s resurgence as an SHL contender continued this week, being the only team to take the maximum 6 points in their two games, and a now riding a three win run. A home victory against Skellefteå 2-1 and an away win against Linköping 3-2 now move them into third in the standings with 69 points, just 2 points from Frölunda in second.
The rejuvenation of the Norrbotteners, who have won six of their last seven matches, has been built around their outstanding goaltender pairing of Mark Owuya and David Rautio and their new defensive demeanour, allowing 0.71 goals against per game in their last 7 games this season.
Skellefteå have continued their dip in form this week, after their two losses Thursday and Saturday to finish off the previous week. Those that expected that the SHL Champions would bounce back and come out firing this week, were completely caught off guard by the Norrlanders continuing their uncharacteristic form, losing both games against Luleå and then MODO Hockey 1-2 to extend their streak to 4 matches without a win. Skellefteå AIK has only managed to score 4 goals in their four latest losses, which is well below their season average of 3.54 goals a game before their losing streak began.
– It’s just not bouncing our way right now, we need to do some things so it does go our way, we are going to work on things to score goals, explained Skellefteå Assistant Coach, Bert Robertsson, in a press conference after his team’s latest loss against MODO Hockey.
The slump in performance by the current SHL leaders has diminished the mind-set, that Skellefteå were a ‘sure thing’ for the regular season win, their gap to Frölunda, in second, cut to just 12 points along with the disposition that they can’t be beat.
17 year old, Kevin Fiala, has taken full advantage of his opportunity of moving up into HV71’s SHL team from J20, after being a star for Switzerland in the World Junior Championships in Malmö during December and January. The young Swiss winger found his groove in just his third and fourth match in Sweden’s top league, scoring 1 goal and 1 assist in HV71’s 2-4 win against Leksand and 1 goal and 3 assists in their 4-5 penalty shoot-out loss to Brynäs.
– I just try to play hockey and do my best, I have good players around me and they help me to score points, said Fiala to C More after his 4 point haul.
The chemistry between Fiala and Canadian Erik Christensen was put on show for the rest of the league to sweat over, in HV’s loss to Brynäs, the pair combining for 7 points between them, sending out warning signals to their opposition of things to come. The new found partnership will hopefully lead the Jönköping club away from Kvalserien danger.
2014-01-17 09:18:00 | AIK
It was AIK’s first win since the 12th of December, on Thursday evening against Växjö, the Stockholmers hitting a season record of 8 matches without a win. AIK looked much more energetic than they have in recent times, playing physical and putting their opposition under pressure in their win against the Smålandiens. A performance that will help them to stay positive in their current situation of last place in the league.
– Obviously it was a frustrating stretch there, the guys were down on each other but we are just trying to stay positive, said Mark Hurtubise after AIK’s 3-1 victory on Thursday night.
The biggest issue for AIK has been their inconsistency over three periods of hockey, something that Hurtubise believes they overcame against Växjö.
– Everyone played for sixty minutes, a lot of our troubles and why we were losing was we were not putting sixty minutes together, tonight we did and it payed off.
In their previous match against Brynäs, AIK showed similar signs of life like they did on Thursday against Växjö, but could not string it together for sixty minutes. The Stockholmers are their best when they play a physical style of hockey, but the challenge is keeping up the energy they need for the entire game.
– We need to be more physical out there. I think the last couple of games we have been doing a better job at it, but sometimes it has been in spurts. Tonight (against Växjö) we did it for sixty minutes, everyone was very physical and knew what they were doing out there for the whole game and it really helped us.
– We need to play some physical hockey, we want to be tough to play against. We don’t want to have teams coming in or going there and they are just doing what they want. We want to be physical with them and be a tough team to play against, Hurtubise continued.
– We want to get in on the forecheck and create some chances and score more goals. We want to spend as much time in their zone as possible.
AIK have been struck with quite an injury list, most recently the news that Fredrik Carlsson will not play the rest of the season due to concussion problems, adding to their depth issues for the final third of the year. AIK have been relying on their young junior talent to help them through their injury filled period, but certainly appreciated the return of Jonathan Andersson, Christian Sandberg and Michael Lindqvist, who were back in their line-up on Thursday.
– Obviously injuries hurt but I think every team has to go through it, obviously we are going through it with a couple of guys down, explains Hurtubise. The young guys that are coming in are doing a really good job.
"Still a lot of points to be had"
There are still 15 rounds of hockey to be played before the end of the season and AIK sit well below the Kvalserien cut-off line. HV71 currently occupy the final safe position in the league with 53 points, meanwhile, AIK sit 11 points back with 42.
The club is doing all that it can do in its current position, avoiding any negative train of thought and staying optimistic about the outlook of the rest of their season, a mind-set that the coaching staff are trying to embed into their players, while leading by example.
– We know that there is still a lot of hockey to be played. If we start being negative and stuff like that it won’t help us. We have been trying to stay positive and the coaches have been really good and they have been staying positive with us, explains Hurtubise.
– We know that there are still a lot of points to be had out there. I think they have been really good with us by keeping the mood up and trying not to get too down, cause that won’t help us if we start getting negative.
2014-01-10 14:39:00 | Luleå HF
Luleå have been in scintillating form since the Christmas break, winning their last two games of 2013 and their first of the New Year when they beat AIK in Stockholm on Wednesday 1-4. The win now puts them fourth in the standings and in the middle of a fight for position as the SHL season heads into the final third of the season.
Throughout November and early December Luleå’s defence had been under question, consistently lapsing, and allowing cheap scoring opportunities and goals. Their undisciplined defence resulted in 10 losses and only 5 wins for the Norrlanders from the 1st of November until Christmas, a trend that they realized they needed to change.
– We had a stretch of games where we were not getting all the points we needed or should have got, so we focused more on our defence, explained Luleå forward Cam Abbott.
– Sometimes the puck is not going to go in the net for you offensively, but defensively you can tighten up a little bit and play more responsible, continued the Canadian.
After Luleå’s 0-2 loss to Färjestad on Boxing Day, they have certainly turned things around on the defensive front.
– For sure it has been better since the break at Christmas time, confirmed Abbott.
Another factor that has influenced the flip in form is new goaltending recruit Mark Owuya. Owuya, who was without a club this season until Luleå picked him up on the 5th of December, has been a brick wall between the pipes in his first 3 starts for the club, guiding Luleå to three straight wins.
Owuya, 24, has been another piece to the strong defensive set of Luleå since Christmas, boasting a save percentage of 97.6, saving 80 of 82 shots he has faced in 9 periods of play. The Stockholm born goaltender can also claim a very impressive 0.66 goals against average after his 3 first matches back in Sweden, after spending the last two seasons in North America.
– He (Mark Owuya) has definitely done a tremendous job since he joined our club here. He has got three big wins in-a-row now, continued Cam Abbott, hats off to him, keep going.
Luleå’s win against AIK gives them 60 points in the standings and puts them in fourth, right in the heat of the mid-table jam where only 12 points separates second from ninth as the season heads into the run to the playoffs. The boys from the north are looking to take it game by game and focus on getting as many points and wins as they can. A simple but effective strategy.
– It is pretty tight from second to tenth. I think it is important in every game to just focus on ‘that’ game and take points as often as possible and get wins. The rest will look after itself in terms of playoff position and what not.
Växjö are the next challenge for Luleå, the Smålanders are on a very hot run themselves winning 7 of their last 8 games, including a 0-1 win against Luleå in Coop Arena. Abbott is hoping that his team will come out ready and with plenty of intensity in Friday’s tantalizing battle.
– We just need to bring the game that we brought tonight (against AIK on Wednesday), especially the intensity. They are hot right now sitting in third spot, so we need to come out ready to go on the road, and give ourselves a chance to win. We enjoy playing that team; it’s going to be a good battle.
2014-01-07 14:34:00 | Weekly reviews
Before the SHL season began there was plenty of talk around the influx of North American players invading Sweden and the amount of money that was being spent to bring them over from their respected AHL clubs, and ultimately if they were worth their price.
The season is now two-thirds of the way through and it appears that the “get-out”-clause has been the most important part of many transatlantic players’ contracts. The likes of, Garrett Stafford (FBK), Devin DiDiomete (FBK), Dave Liffiton (FBK)Aaron Gagnon (HV71), Sean Sullivan (MODO) and most recently Ben Walter (OHK) have all been released from their contracts by their respected clubs.
To put it simply all players were let go because of under-performance reasons andnot living up to the expectations that they carried heading into the season.
The risk of signing high-priced North Americans has paid off for many teams though, not only in individual production but also on an entire team coherency level.
It is clear to see that Chad Kolarik (19G+11A) and Greg Scott (11+16) have beenworth their price, both players adjusting quickly to the differences of SHL play from the North American style, and sitting third in their respective team’s internal point scoring standings.
Kolarik even finds himself currently sitting in second place in the league’s goal scoring standings, only two goals behind teammate Simon Hjalmarsson on 21 goals.
Tim Wallace has also impressed since his move from North America to Sweden, the former Carolina Hurricane scoring 12 goals and 12 assists so far in his debut season in the SHL as he helps Örebro in their quest to stay in Sweden’s top league.
Växjö have played themselves up into third position in the league standings after a very slow start to the 2013/2014 season. A lot of criticism was fired at the club’s management after spending much of their budget on North American players during the offseason, signing Rhett Rakhshani, Cory Murphy, Ryan Lasch, Liam Reddox and Colby Armstrong.
Patience paid off for the Lakers and although their transatlantic stars may not be at the top in the league’s individual standings, they all have done their share on and off the ice to create the winning culture that currently fills the Växjö change room.
2014-01-03 09:29:00 | Weekly reviews
SHL came back from the Christmas break in astonishing form to close out 2013, the final week of the year saw Växjö’s imports move them up into third in the standings as Skellefteå start slow after Christmas.
Champions Skellefteå gave the rest of the league the best Christmas present possible, coming out after the break with a slight hangover, losing two of their three matches to end the year.
Skellefteå faced their biggest loss of the season on Boxing Day against an under-strength Frölunda team, losing 1-6 at Skellefteå Kraft Arena. A back-to-back loss, for only the second time this season, followed two days later, Växjö being victorious over SAIK 3-2 in a penalty shoot-out. It was only a win of 4-1 against HV71 that gave the current champions something to celebrate heading into 2014.
One of the surprise packets of this season has been Växjö Lakers, who now move up to third position in the standings. Växjö had a strong end to the year wining all three matches this week, their imports continue to make the difference for the Småland team.
It was the Finn Tomi Kallio who gave Växjö a 2-1 overtime win against Örebro, scoring both goals in his team’s victory. It was then time for the North American’s to stand up against league leaders Skellefteå, Rhett Rakhshani scoring the 2-2 game tying goal, leaving it up to transatlantic defenseman Cory Murphy and Noah Welch to get the job done in the penalty shoot-out to give their team a 3-2 win. Colby Armstrong, who recently came back from a long-term injury, was the hat-trick hero in Växjö’s 2-5 win against Brynäs, the Canadian scoring three goals in eleven minutes in the third period handing his team their third victory in five days.
Linköping have had their ups and down this season, currently sitting seventh in standings, but there individual talent is one thing that no one can question. Pär Arlbrandt has sat on top of the league’s point scoring table for most of the season, while line comrade Simon Hjalmarsson has lead the goal scoring for the league. Over recent times there has been a third musketeer that has joined the clinical point and goal scoring duo, in the shape of American Chad Kolarik.
Kolarik has shot his way into second in the league’s goal scoring standings with 19 goals, just two behind teammate Hjalmarsson at the top. The former AHL star has also made it into the top five of SHL players in point scoring, the highest ranked Non-Swedish player in the league.
The year ticks over to 2014 and moves the SHL season into the crucial final third of the season. With everything still up for grabs heading into the playoffs, every team will be looking to get off to a flying start to the new year.
2013-12-20 09:25:00 | Weekly reviews
It has been a turbulent time for SHL as a basis for negotiations reached the tabloids, which stirred up lots of emotions. It has been a week where happenings off the ice have taken more of the attention than what has happened on the ice. But the off-ice distractions certainly didn't bother current champions Skellefteå, as they continue to go from strength to strength as the season now moves into it's Christmas break.
In more off-ice news HV71 head coach Ulf Dahlén was let go from the club as a repercussion of their poor first half of the season. The Jönköping club were quick to replace Dahlén with the club's Coaching Director Torgney Bendelin taking over directly. J20 coach Anders Olsson will now move in as assistant trainer for their SHL team also.
On the ice, Skellefteå continued their complete dominance this week, clearly outclassing their opponents and cruising to three victories, including a 1-4 win against Frölunda in an outdoor match at Gothenburg's Gamla Ullevi. Skellefteå are proving why they are last years's champions and this year's one and only favorite for the trophy, consistently taking home wins week in and week out with controlled defensive play and an unpredictable offense.
Pär Arlbrandt found his early season form this week scoring 3 goals and 3 assists in Linköping's two wins. Arlbrandt's 6 point week now gives him a 4 point lead in the league's individual point standings.??The season will now break for Christmas and return on the 26th of December. If that is too long of break you can get your hockey fix with the Channel One Cup, where Sweden and it's SHL stars will take on the Czech Republic, Finland and Russia from the 19th to the 21st of December.??
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
2013-12-10 13:43:00 | Weekly reviews
In a week where European hockey has moved into a new era, SHL's top two teams Skelefteå and Frölunda continue to hold firm at the top. Leksand rediscovered their mid-season form, while MODO Hockey and AIK continue to deal with problems as they drop vital paces in the standings.
Skellefteå and Frölunda control things at the top of the standings, as they both continue to consistently bring home points from week to week. This week was no different, both teams collecting two wins each, giving Skellefteå an 11 point buffer in first position while Frölunda maintain a 6 point gap on Leksand in third.
After a tough week last week, Leksands IF found their winning ways again, beating Luleå Hockey 2-3 in OT, MODO Hockey 3-2 and HV71 2-3 this week, putting them on a three game winning streak heading into the last week before the international break. The Dalarna club have been strongly guided by their first line of Johan Ryno, Mikael Johansson and Jacob Blomqvist, who contributed to 6 of teams 9 goals this week. A combination that has blossomed as the year has gone and has been vital to the newcomers success so far this season.
MODO Hockey have been the biggest movers in the standings this week, but unfortunately in the wrong direction, the Örnsköldsvik club are on a four game losing streak which has dropped them from third place to seventh. Although their penalty killing has the highest success rate in the league, a lot of MODO’s trouble is their inability to stay out of the penalty box, ranking the second highest in the league by giving away 118 power play opportunities.
AIK are now the team with the worst record in the SHL, their 7-4-4-14 puts them on the bottom of the standings. It was another tough week for the club, the Stockholmers only managing to add 2 points to their total with their penalty shoot-out win against Växlö, going down to both Linköping and Skellefteå. AIK have been flirting dangerously at the bottom all season, the club not able to string together a streak of more than two wins all season.
In the individual point standings Skellefteå's Joakim Lindström has been able to take a large chunk out of the lead of Pär Arlbrandt and Linus Klasen. Lindström has scored 2 goals and 6 assists in his last 4 games to now edge within 4 points of Klasen and 5 of Arlbrandt at the top.
On Monday it was official that the SHL will participate in the Champions Hockey League which will replace the European Trophy in August 2014. The Champions Hockey League will consist of 26 founding clubs and the reigning champions and regular season winners from Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and Finland. Luleå, Frölunda, Färjestad, HV 71, Linköping and Djurgården (if they play in the SHL in the future) are the permanent founding teams from Sweden.
The league will also include wildcard entries from other top European leagues that will participate in a 149 game schedule that will span from August 2014 until February 2015.
2013-12-03 13:00:00 | Weekly reviews
This week in the SHL we saw an epic battle between two previous champions, Skellefteå and Brynäs, meanwhile the revival of HV71 continued with the club going undefeated in 3 games. The same can not be said for Örebro and Linköping as their woes continue, the latter now deciding that it is time to shop their way out of trouble, signing two Canadians to help save their season.
The highlight in the SHL this week was goal-fest between champions Skellefteå and Brynäs, a 6-5 result going to the team from Gävle in overtime. The star of the show, one of this season's surprise packets, Andreas Thuresson, who put together a five point game with 3 assists and 2 goals, one of those goals being the game-winner in OT. With their 3-2 victory against Luleå later in the week, their fourth win in-a-row, Brynäs now sit fourth in the standings.
HV71's revival from the bottom of the standings now appears to be near completion after a long start to the season. The Jönköping club picked up 3 wins this week and 7 out of a possible 9 points on offer beating Örebro, Färjestad and Växjö. The 3 game streak now gives HV a comfortable 3 point buffer over AIK who sit in eleventh place under the Kvalserien line.
A lot of HV71's revival comes down to the continuous hot form of speedy Finn Toni Rajala, who has scored over a point per game since joining HV71 when they were planted on the bottom of the standings. Rajala has scored 9 goals and 6 assists in 14 games with his new club and has been able to produce points in dyer situations to lead his team to the win.
Kent Johansson's initiation into Örebro Hockey certainly did not go to plan after losing all 3 games in his first week in charge. Besides being clearly outclassed by Skellefteå 1-4 in Kenta's home premier as coach, there were some good signs from his new club. Örebro clearly out-played HV71 in their OT loss but simply lacked the finishing touch against goaltender Gustaf Wesslau to get the win. They then pushed Färjestad all the way to a penalty shoot-out but once again lacked a hero that could finish the job.
Johansson will now have to have an instant impression on his new team if they are not to slip too far away from the rest of the league in last place in the standings.
Although Linköping recorded their first 3 point win since the 26th of October, wining 1-4 against Leksand on Saturday, their season is still under pressure. The ”white lions” are now only one loss outside of the Kvalserien cut-off and have now decided that recruitment is the path that they will go down to help bring the team back to form.
Linköping have added Canadians Mark Matheson and Kent McDonell to their line-up, signing both players until the end of the season. Matheson is a defenseman that comes most recently from the Vienna Capitals and will complete the club's defensive pairings, while McDonell is a forward who has 232 games experience in the SHL, scoring a total of 121 points with Färjestad, Skellefteå and AIK.
The scuffle in the middle of the standings will continue this week as the league attempt to bridge the gap to Skellefteå at the top. Frölunda and MODO will go head to head on Wednesday night as two and three in the standings, while later in the week we will see many key mid-table clashes like HV71 vs. Leksand and Luleå vs. Växjö in a jam-packed hockey Saturday.
2013-11-29 09:09:00 | Örebro Hockey
It was a disappointing result yet a bright start to Kent Johansson's coaching career in Örebro Hockey. His new team went down Wednesday to a HV71 outfit, clearly outplaying their opponents in their 2-1 overtime loss.
Of course a win in his first game in charge would have been a dream start for Johansson, unfortunately the result did not go his way, but there were many positive aspects to take out of the game that he can build on in his tenure at the club.
Kent Johansson could be exactly what the doctor ordered in Örebro, using his down to earth and realistic coaching style to drag the club out of it's current rut. Winning SM-Guld in 2007/2008 in his first year with HV71 has obviously been the pinnacle of Johansson's coaching career to date, but what must also be highlighted is the early years in Timrå where he created the platform of his coaching legacy.
Sure there was no title won, but the transformation in Timrå during Johansson's first year in charge in 2002/2003 was unbelievable. He took a group that was fighting for survival in the relegation playoffs of Kvalserien in 2001/2002, to a team that contested for the Elitserien title the following season. Timrå placed third in the regular season under Johansson, eventually going down to SM-Guld winners Väst Frölunda in a seven game semi-final series to cap off the remarkable turn around season for the club. This same revival attitude is what Kent "Lill-Kent" Johansson brings to Örebro and is what gives them hope of staying in Sweden's top league next season.
The form of the newcomers in the beginning of the season is something that needs to be reignited within the playing group, a spark that has been lost in the abyss over the past two months.
Johansson will need to bring back the fire and commitment that was shown when Örebro Hockey was sitting unbelievable in second position in the league early this season. A team that did not accept the result of a loss, a team that was forechecking to win the puck like their lives depended on it, a team that was throwing themselves constantly in front of firing bullets from the blue line, a team that was desperate to prove that they deserved to compete with Sweden's best.
There is now no better time for Örebro to demonstrate that commitment and desire than when they face the leagues most clinical and potent opponent Skellefteå, on Friday night. A task that Johansson and Örebro must be up for if they are to rekindle the hope within the clubs true and faithful.
2013-11-26 11:41:00 | Weekly reviews
It has been a big couple of weeks in the SHL after the national team break, although the league has come back right where it left off. Örebro, Linköping and Luleå continue to be slumping as they fight for points to stay intact in the standings. Meanwhile surprise packet Patrik Hersley and Leksand have moved their way up in the standings in hunt of front-runners Skellefteå and Frölunda who continue to show their class at the top.
Örebro's woes have continued after the break as their record stretched to 12 games without win, resulting in coach Patrik Ross leaving the club. Örebro's winless streak was eventually broken on Friday with a 2-1 win over MODO Hockey, which now gives newly appointed head coach Kent Johansson, who coached in Frölunda last season, some positive light to work with when he joins the club for the first time on the ice on Tuesday.
The downward spiral continues for both Linköping and Luleå, both clubs battling to keep a grip in the standings. Linköping have been suffering the most, dropping to ninth position in the league, the club only managing 3 points in their last 8 games. Luleå not managing too much better, winning only one match since the national team break, placing down in fifth in the standings.
Leksand have began to show their worth in SHL, much to the thanks of defender Patrik Hersley, who is on pace to break Leksand's internal defender goal scoring record of Jan Huokko's 21 goals in one season. Hersley's 15 goals in 25 games has moved the Dalarna club into third position in the standings, winning five of their last six matches, including a 1-2 victory away from home against Skellefteå last Thursday.
Hersley's outstanding goal scoring performance has even caught the eye of of national coach Pär Mårts, who is now considering the offensive defender for Swedish national team duties in December during the National One Cup.
Frölunda now sit comfortably in second place in the league standings, 4 points ahead of Leksand, after a strong couple of weeks. The Göteborg club dropping only 2 points in their last five games as their young team strives for greatness. A lot of talk around their success has been about coach Roger Rönnberg, who coached Sweden's J20 national team the previous 3 years, and his ability to get the most out of his young players.
Rönnberg has been able to motivate and inspire his young players, as they now become the new team to contest last year's regular season winners Skellefteå at the top of the table.
It is no surprise that Skellefteå continue to sit comfortably in front of the rest of the league, being the only team that has been consistently impressive since the start of the season. The Swedish champions have ignored plenty of off ice drama, regarding the firing of last year's head coach Anders Forsberg, now MODO Hockeys head coach, to stay top of the standings. The team from Västerbotten taking 12 of a possible 15 points in their last 5 games after the break, continuing to show that they mean business in backing up their title this season.
The fight in the standings heats up this coming week with many key match ups between clubs jostling a for position in the middle of the standings, as the season edges towards it's half way point.
2013-11-06 09:50:00 | Weekly reviews
It has been a positive week for the cellar dwellers at the bottom of the table as they begin to creep back into contention in the league. HV71 and Färjestad both found form this week, while Örebro, Linköping and Luleå performed well under their best in a week where the goaltenders took the spotlight.
It is astounding how fast things can change in the game of hockey. It was not long ago HV71's season looked over, before it had really even began. Sure the Jönköping club are still on the bottom of the table, but they now sit just two points from tenth position in the standings.
After many crises meetings within the club over the past couple of weeks, things are now beginning to look up after winning back-to-back matches for the first time since round two and three of the season, taking a 3-0 win against Brynäs and a 2-3 win that put a stop to MODO's eight game winning streak.
Färjestad have also began to turn things around this week, winning two out of three games, a 1-2 penalty shoot-out win against Örebro and a 3-0 drubbing of Luleå, which was just their second home win of the season. The club has begun to rally together in their time of crises and now move up to tenth place in the standings and will look to continue their climb after the national team break next week.
Örebro's SHL honeymoon period appears to be over after their eight straight loss this week. The newcomers had a dream start to their first SHL season but now find themselves in panic mode after another winless week. Going down to Färjestad and Luleå both in a penalty shoot-out earlier in the week, Örebro where then destroyed and humiliated by Växjö 7-0, giving them a true taste of reality in Sweden's top league.
Linköping have also found themselves in a form slump, losing all three matches this week and moving down to seventh in the standings. Recent times have seen the club struggle to keep the puck out of their own net, allowing an average of 3.66 goals against per game over their last three matches.
At the beginning of the week Luleå had the chance to take top spot in the league from Skellefteå, but a goal dry week has allowed Skellefteå to distance themselves by 8 points at the top of the standings. Luleå were goalless twice this week, the first coming against their Norrland rivals Skellefteå and their second against Färjestad, an uncharacteristic performance which gives them issues that will need to be addressed over the break.
Reigning champions Skellefteå continue to set the standard in the league, once again going undefeated and extending their lead on the rest of the competition. Besides their 0-3 dominant win against rivals Luleå, it wasn't easy for the team from Västerbotten, having to get the job done in a penalty shoot-out against both Växjö and AIK, but their ability to close out the win in any circumstance stamps their authority at the top of the table.
Pär Arlbrandt and Linus Klasen have been continuing their fight in the point scoring standings but this week the limelight was stolen by the goaltenders. Their have been seventeen games in the SHL this season where a goaltender has completely denied his opposition from scoring, five of those coming in just last weeks games. Markus Svensson, Linus Ullmark, Gustaf Wesslau, Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel and Scott Munroe all kept their opponents scoreless, recording a shut-out and keeping the goal scorers honest.
The SHL now has a week off for national team duties but will be back in action, bigger and better than ever on Tuesday the 12 of November.
2013-10-28 09:49:00 | Weekly reviews
It has been a week of goals and close games in the SHL this week as the league begins to tighten up. Strong performances from MODO Hockey, Frölunda and Brynäs have seen them narrow the gap at the top of the standings, meanwhile Linus Klasen continues to put pressure on Pär Arlbrandt to be the league’s top point scorer. HV71 have begun to put things in motion to get out of their slump, recruiting four new players, which has had an instant impact on their performance.
MODO Hockey have become the hottest team in the SHL, winning their last six games in a row, after another stellar week. Modo produced two overtime wins this week, the first against AIK 1-0 in a tight affair, the next against the other form strong team of the league Luleå, a 3-2 win that put a stop to the norrbotteners five game winning streak.
A combination of strong goaltending from Linus Ullmark and Anton Forsberg mixed with a sublime cohesion within the team has helped the Örnsköldsvik club climb to within one point of direct qualification into the playoffs.
Frölunda have been making their way through the standings, the Göteborgians sneaking their way up to third with 28 points. Their climb is a result of their current five game winning streak, going undefeated for a second consecutive week.
It has once again been Frölunda's third line of Andreas Johnson, Robin Figren and Mathis Olimb that continue to come up with the goods. Figren scored two goals and the overtime winner against Örebro on Monday night to give his team the 3-2 win. It was then Andreas Johnson turn to be the hero for Frölunda, scoring the go-a-head goal in a penalty shoot-out against Färjestad sealing another 2-3 win.
There has been a goal rush in Brynäs, the men from Gävle scoring 12 goals in their 2 matches and staying undefeated this week. The flow of goals began away from home in Kraft Arena beating Skellefteå 3-7, they then backed that up two nights later with a 5-3 win against Örebro, for only their second 3 point win of the season at home.
Canadian Greg Scott impressing the most for Brynäs, scoring 4 goals and 2 assists in the club's two wins, moving him up to fifth in the individual point standings, the best of all import players in the league.
The battle between Linus Klasen and Pär Arlbrandt continued this week both players producing three points in round 15. Klasen inched closer to Arlbrant's total of 29 points on Saturday though, taking advantage of the Linköpian's pointless match against AIK, Klasen registered 2 assists in Luleå's 3-2 overtime loss to Modo, bringing his season’s point total to 28 points.
It is no secret that HV71 have been in crises mode, the club now looking to buy their way out, signing Toni Rajala, Anssi Salmela, Erik Christensen and Chris Campoli. The recruiting has appeared to be helping, the Jönköping club winning two of their last three games which now moves them to within 3 points of the Kvalserien line.
The excitement only builds looking forward to next week, a tantalizing top of the standings clash between Skellefteå and Luleå on Tuesday could give us a new league leader, while the rest will look to take advantage of the opportunity to bridge the gap to the top two.