SHL in English

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2015-11-25 16:28:00 | Okategoriserat

Weekly Wrap from SHL

The News

It is starting to become a two way race at the top in the standings between the country’s two most consistent regular season teams, Skellefteå AIK and Frölunda. It is no surprise that these two teams are sitting at their familiar spot at the top of the table as we begin to get into the grunt and grind of the season. The past two years have shown us that when all early season issues have done their best to throw a spanner into the works Skellefteå and Frölunda brush aside their issues and get wins, just as they have done again this season. Skellefteå’s start was a little unstable but with 14 consecutive games scoring  points and only one loss in overtime to last year’s champions, Växjö, during that time. It now looks as though it will not be long before they move their way back to the top of the standings and assume the position of series leader, where they have finished the regular series for the past 3 years. 

Frölunda look like the only club that have any chance of standing in the way of SAIK and a fourth consecutive regular season title, and will be doing everything in their power to remain at the top. The Göteborg club have had their best 20-game start to the season since than they became Frölunda HC in 2004-05 and don’t particularly look like slowing down either.  With 17 wins and 3 losses to start the year Frölunda are quietly going about their business in the hunt for not only the regular season title, but for the Le Mat Trophy as well. Something that has slipped out of their grasp the last 3 season in one way or another.

The Good

Noah Welch took his time getting to MODO Hockey this season, but it is definitely proving to be worth the wait. Appointed team captain upon his arrival at his new club in Örnsköldsvik, Welch has taken the role with both hands and has lead by example. The American has averaged more time on the ice in his first 6 games of the year than any other player in the league. Welch’s 25:11 TOI/GP is 49 seconds per match more than Färjestad defenceman Jonas Holös who on second in average ice-time. Welch is not only putting in the long minutes, he is producing points also. The 33-year-old has scored 6 points (2G+4A) in 6 games since he joined the club and is proving why he was named last season’s playoff MVP. 

Djurgården’s Markus Ljungh is the SHL’s hottest point scorer right now with 9 points. The 22-year-old’s productivity of 3 goals and 6 assists is better than any other player in the league over the last 5 games and has helped the Stockholm club take a vital 9 points during that time. The Djurgården assistant captain had a slow start to the year but has certainly come to life over the last couple of weeks. His combination with wingers Robin Alvarez and Lukas Vejdemo has blossomed more and more as the season has progressed, which is something that Ljungh gives credit to when talking about his form to DIFTV.

– I have two good wingers who help a lot, it is happening for them too, says a humble Markus Ljungh. It is fun when we work hard, which we do, and fun when everything works. You get to know each other more and more each day and you know where each other are. We have played with each other every match and of course it is a plus.

The Bad

It is never an easy task to move up from HockeyAllsvenskan and into Sweden’s top league, the SHL, and for this year’s new comers it is continuously proving to be a challenge to hang on. Karlskrona have had trouble since the season began and after 20 games already look as though they will be fighting for their life at season’s end in the qualifying series against HockeyAllsvenskan’s best. For Rögle and Malmö, it is more MODO Hockey’s poor start to the year that is keeping them over the relegation line than their own good form that is keeping them above it. It feels that it is only a matter of time before the three promoted clubs will be tussling between each other to see who will be the two teams up for relegation. 

The Ugly

HV71’s Teemu Laine has been ruled out for the rest of the season due to a knee injury that he suffered against Karlskrona on the 12th November. The Finn landed awkwardly after a check by Alexander Viklund and looked to twist at the knee when he hit the ice. HV messaged to say that Laine would require an operation at the beginning of December and would need 6-9 months rehabilitation.

Another one of the league’s Finnish stars, Janne Pesonen, will also miss a large chunk of the year with a soft-tissue upper-body injury. Pesonen left the ice in Skellefteå’s match against Örebro two weeks ago and after further observation last week, SAIK have ruled him out until the playoffs. 

Skellefteå have found their replacement for Pesonen in Mattias Ritola, who has slotted in nicely with Patrik Zackrisson and Andrew Calof, and has already scored 2 goals and 3 assists in 3 games.

Jeremy Darke

2015-11-19 14:23:00 | Okategoriserat

About MODO, Växjö and Luleå

Modo and Växjö heading in right direction

The SHL is back in the swing of things after the Karjala Tournament break which saw Sweden take out the tournament with two wins against the Czech Republic 6-2 and Finland 3-2 and a loss against Russia 3-6, eventually handing them the cup on goal differential over the Finns.

Since the break it has been business as usual for most of the clubs, except for MODO Hockey, who appear to have been taking on a new approach to their season under new head coach Andreas Johansson, winning 2 games out of 3 since the international break. It looked as though Johansson’s appointment was an instant fix to Modo’s problems when they beat Färjestad in overtime 4-3 in Karlstad last Thursday. Reality hit back hard with a 0-5 loss against Örebro HK the following day, but with a dominating 5-2 win against Karlskrona on Wednesday it does give the impression that they are beginning to move in the right direction towards the other half of the standings.

- We need to prove that we belong in the top half of the league and to do that we need to win every game against teams in the bottom half, and we did that tonight. So we have got to keep going, explained Modo’s Kyle Wilson to the MODO Channel after his teams win against Karlskrona.

Although things do seem to be improving in Örnsköldsvik, the team are under no illusion that their season is not miraculously saved and that their first 3 point win since the 10th of October is just a building block in their recovery and something that they can use to give them more confidence.

- (The win) is something to build off, we haven’t got three points in a while so every point counts. It is nice to get that feeling in the dressing room and have guys smiling again. It is a good building block. That little bit of confidence can go a long way. Hopefully getting that feeling of a three point win can give us a little confidence and keep us rolling, said a hopeful Wilson.

Kiiskinen and Nihlstorp lead the way for Växjö

After a shaky start to the year for the reigning champions, the Växjö Lakers have turned things around and are showing that the consistency that won them the title in 2014-15 is back within the group, taking points in their last 11 games. Most recently they have hunted down Linköping, who were six points ahead in their standing before the Karjala Tournament break, beating them twice in 3 days to have them tied on 33 points and share 4th place in the standings. A lot of the chatter when speaking about Växjö has been about Robert Rosén and Richard Gynge, but it was their first line partner that almost single-handedly took down Linköping. Tuomas Kiiskinen was the only man to score in Växjö’s 1-0 win last Thursday, he then followed it up with two goals in their rematch with Linköping on Saturday, ensuring that he did his part in the double victory for his club. The return to top form of Christopher Nihlstorp has also been a large factor in Växjö’s recent hot streak, especially in their two wins against Linköping where he recorded his second shutout for the season, followed by a save percentage of 92 in their return match in Vida Arena.

- We have met Linköping two times in three days and have taken six points but it has been extremely close, explained a somewhat relieved Växjö Coach Sam Hallam after the game on Saturday. Torpet (Christopher Nihlstorp) was incredibly good. If there is someone to point out, he was the factor today who made the difference for us.

Luleå under fire

Highly rated at the beginning of the season, Luleå Hockey, have been the biggest disappointment in the 2015-16 season, winning just 7 games from 18 matches, which is beginning to create some unrest within the club and its fans. On paper the club is star-studded, but on the ice all those stars have simply failed to shine and the time is drawing near for the club to start making some difficult decisions and begin to make changes. With so much talent on the roster the natural place to look first would have to be the coaching staff. Joakim Fagervall is in his second year as Luleå’s head coach and it would be a surprise if his job is not under fire over the next coming weeks, if things don’t miraculously change of course. In Fagervall’s defence, he has been dealing with an unexpected goaltending crisis to begin the season. Joel Lassinantti was one of the league’s top goalies last year and many expected him to continue his good form and have another breakout season in 2015-16. This has most definitely not been the case, the 22-year-old posting some horrible stats in his 10 games played-in, a 3.05 goals-against-average and an 88.77 save percentage. Alternate goalie Daniel Larsson has not been able to do any better either, his 87.98 save percentage and 3.20 goals-against-average has not given Fagervall any other real option to turn to. Due to an injury and sickness Luleå may be forced to head to Örebro with two junior goaltenders in their line-up on Thursday, which, who knows, it may just turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the club.


Jeremy Darke

2015-11-05 00:31:00 | Okategoriserat

Skellefteå climb as MODO begin to right wrongs

The champion of two seasons ago, Skellefteå didn’t have a bad start to the season, but it was under par in comparison to what was expected of them. Since the first month of the season things have begun to return to normal in Västerbotten as the players begin to climb their way back to the top of the standings.

Sometimes good things happen after a bad situation has unfolded and you could say that was the case for Skellefteå AIK. The suspension of Captain Jimmie Ericsson, 3 weeks ago, unveiled a more focused and determined Skellefteå, who came out on a mission each game to play hockey and take all points on offer. In the six games Ericsson missed, Skellefteå took 15 points of a possible 18, which continued to roll on when the veteran returned this week, winning both back-to-back games in regular time against Malmö last weekend. In the absence of Ericsson it has been Skellefteå’s second-line forwards that have taken the initiative on themselves to bring their club back up to where they belong. The combination of Patrik Zackrisson, Janne Pesonen and Andrew Calof, has come to life the past 8 games with the trio accounting for 32 points (11+21) and have become the foundation of Skellefteå’s offence.

Although, the slow start to 2015-16 for Zackrisson, Pesonen and Calof, it was only a matter of time before the trio found the chemistry again that was influential at the end of season and during the playoffs for Skellefteå last year. Since January, 2015, when Pesonen joined Skellefteå from AK Bars Kazan, has the Finn, Swede and Canadian built a combination that has been one of the most dangerous in the league and it is no surprise that when they began to get their mojo back so did the rest of the Skellefteå AIK line-up.

MODO Hockey begin to make changes

If you take a look at the roster that General Manager, Per Svartvadet, has put together for MODO Hockey it is hard to believe that they are placed second last after 15 games into the season. You could say that MODO haven’t had lady luck on their side after losing their first center and captain Byron Ritchie for an extended period and also star signing Ryan Whitney after just two games, but in such a tough and tight league like the SHL you must be able to stay afloat even if a few curve balls are thrown your way. Unfortunately, the boat in Örnsköldsvik has been sinking, and sinking quickly, and the first to walk the blank is Coach Larry Huras. Canadian, Huras, was brought in to MODO to mentor a more North American roster than what has been seen at the club ever before, but to the dismay of the team, it has proven to be a failure with Huras left eating his words more often and not, being unable to deliver the results on the ice that he has talked about off it. GM, Svartvadet, assessed his club’s poor start and came to the conclusion that the problem did not lie within the playing roster but within the systems in which they play.

– This is not a situation you want to be in, but now we are there. We have started the season disastrously bad and when we analyze the problems we see major flaws in our entire playing system, says MODO Hockey GM Per Svartvadet to the club's website.

Huras’s departure has now given a final chance in the SHL for new MODO Hockey Head Coach Andreas Johansson, who was ‘pushed-out’ of HV71 just a few weeks before the season began. If things continue to go disastrously for MODO Hockey under the guard of Johansson, it will most likely be the last time he is seen as a coach in the SHL. Some may see this as a risky choice from Svartvadet, but it may just be the perfect fit. A desperate team with everything to lose, needs a coach that has a fire within to make sure that the club wins, and they will certainly get that from Johansson, because he is out to take revenge and prove his critics wrong. Johansson is joined in MODO by long-time colleague Fredrik Olausson, who specialises in working with defenders, and the pair have taken no time in in letting the league know that they take over a team that they believe has the potential to achieve a lot more than anyone can imagine.

– I believe in this team. It is an incredibly interesting squad and it is also a reason why we took this job. Now we are going to put in a good foundation and bring order to this team. Then we will start to climb, says a determined Andreas Johansson

– The goal we will take together with the players. We want them involved. But my personal goal may well be higher than many others, explains Fredrik Olausson. Yes, so high that many people would think I was crazy if I said it. But there are qualities in this team that have not been seen yet. There is much more to take out of this squad.

Things are already beginning to look up for Johansson and MODO Hockey with Noah Welch finally arriving in the club after being stalled with tax issues. Last year’s playoff MVP is already being labelled as a possible ‘saviour’ for his new club, a title that the American is doing his best to brush off.

– I do not come here as a saviour, I'm alone no solution to the problem. This is a team sport and we have to fix this together, says a sincere Noah Welch.


Jeremy Darke

2015-10-27 13:20:00 | Okategoriserat

Lundqvist leads devastating Frölunda offence

Leading the league by an astonishing 8 points after 13 rounds makes it is the simple truth that there is one team that all the rest are beginning to fear after the first quarter of the season is behind them. The Frölunda Indians have been dominating since the beginning of the season and are going from strength to strength, taking complete control of the league last week with a clinical and devastating display in their three matches. A win against Linköping, who were second in the league at the time, was the first of two 7-1 victories, the other coming against Karlskrona on the second leg of their back-to-back, after a tougher 3-1 victory on the Friday in Blekinge. The Gothenburg club’s 34 points in the standings is the fastest start in Sweden’s top league for 10 years, when Timrå IK also jumped out of the blocks with 12 wins (2 in extra time) and only 1 loss after 13 games played.

The mortifying thought for all of Frölunda’s opponents is the fact they not only sit well clear at the top of the standings but they sit there with an incredible plus -34 goal differential which is astonishingly plus -25 GD higher than any other club in the league, which clearly indicates that they have the best offence and defence in the SHL. Captain Joel Lundqvist is usually known for his leadership prowess and his strength in front of goal, but this season he finds himself becoming a scorer as well. At age 33, it wouldn’t be wrong to think that Lundqvist best scoring years were behind him, but ironically enough they look to be in the not so distant future. Lundqvist has started the year with 9G+7A which points him just 6 points behind his entire 2014-15 tally. His 16 point start also points him well on his way to beating his own SHL point scoring record of 37 points in one season, which was back in the days of West Frölunda HC in 2002-03.

HV71 back on track

It was a treacherous start to the season for Jönköping’s HV71, winning the first game of the year to then go on and lose the following 6 games in-a-row. Now, things appear to be on the way back up, after the return of some injured players, none of which are more important than Captain Ted Brithén. Since Brithén’s return HV71 have taken all 9 points on offer to them in the past 3 games and have looked to have found their offensive mojo, especially on the powerplay. Although Brithén hasn’t been in the points so much himself, it is clear that his composure and leadership means a lot to a HV team that lacked confidence during the first 10 games of the season. Now, though, it shows that confidence is coming back into their two-way game with a 14-5 goal differential the past week, making what, forward, Erik Christensen says is much more fun hockey.

- It is much more fun to play hockey now than it was a couple of weeks ago. We have got our self-confidence back with the players that have returned from injury, explains Canadian Erik Christensen to HV’s webpage. We are doing a much better job on the forecheck, which puts more pressure on our opponents and makes it harder for them to come up the ice.

KHK’s Wiklund writes history

Things haven’t gone so well for Karlskrona this season with just 4 points after 13 rounds. But if we are scraping the barrel for some positives to the start off the year at least they have now written themselves into SHL history with the fastest goal ever. It took Alexander Wiklund just 5.5 seconds to score against Frölunda on Friday, after Lukas Bengtsson fell over his own laces on the blue-line after the opening faceoff, allowing Wiklund to skate in all alone on goalie Johan Gustafsson where he made no mistaking ripping him high over his left shoulder. The official goal time of 5 seconds was one second faster than any previous goal in the SHL.

Jeremy Darke
English Blogger

2015-10-21 12:51:00 | Okategoriserat

Time to react before it's too late

It is only early in the season. There are 42 rounds left to play. But it is time to start getting worried before some teams get left behind and others streak out of reach.

Leading up to the season there were big concerns for how Karlskrona were going to compete in the SHL. Now, after 10 rounds have been played, and just 1 win and an OT loss registering the newcomers points, there are some even deeper concerns about where they are going to find any more points during the rest of the year. To be fair, they haven’t been an easy beat, if you take a look at the results. They have hung on in most games and found a way to keep the score respectable, but that is just it, they are just hanging on and hanging in there. Their survival style of hockey shows that they have the right attitude and are playing the way they need to play, but it may only be a matter of time before they cannot gasp for air any longer, unless some changes happen and happen quickly.

Goaltending has been a problem but that is on the back of some serious poor patches of defence. Head coach Per Hånberg has to be concerned with the amount of shots his two goaltenders are facing and the quality of opportunities his defence are giving up. Neither Linus Fernström nor Patrick Galbraith have performed to the standard that is needed to keep Karlskrona away for the relegation playoff, but when they are facing the most amount of shots in the league and the most amount of shots in the high percentage scoring areas you can give them a little sympathy and understanding. The sit back and counter-attack style of hockey is obviously not working in Blekinge. It may be time to take on a more aggressive approach, because really, what have they got to lose?

Växjö recruit and find success

Things didn’t start out the way reigning champions Växjö would have hoped this season, but they have not mucked around and made some decisive decisions early in the year to make sure that they stay in reach (just), of the action at the top of the standings. The success of Robert Rosén, Richard Gynge and Tuomas Kiiskinen has been phenomenal for Växjö, but Coach Sam Hallam and GM Henrik Evertsson took no time realizing that they were lacking on their other three lines, and straight to the buyer’s market he went. It has only been 2 games, but the purchase of Joey Crabb looks like a winner. It certainly helped that Crabb scored the game-winning-goal in OT in his first appearance with the club, but his presence on the ice and his chemistry with line-mates Josh Hennessey and Joakim Hillding has been instantaneous.

Hallam and Evertsson have not stopped there though, now signing NHL and Stanley Cup merited forward Adam Burish, which they hope will help fix some of the problems that the Lakers are having on the boxplay (63.89%, lowest in SHL), and also believe that his leadership and experience off the ice will also be a plus.

– Adam Burish is an interesting player in many ways. He is physical and reads the play very well. But he is also a nice profile off the ice, said Evertsson to Växjö’s webpage. He is going to be an important part in making our boxplay better. 

Brynäs first 3 lead way

The early season success of Brynäs IF has continued to roll on nicely, all on the back of what has to be said as the SHL’s most dangerous forward line. Captain Anton Rödin (8G+8A) is holding strong at the top of both the point and goal scoring standings in the league and is being accompanied by his line-mate Greg Scott (7G+8A) just one goal and one point behind. The third link in their chain is Oskar Lindbolm (1G+7A) who leads the league’s juniors in scoring with 8 points. The Gävle club’s form has also been carried by a strong penalty kill and powerplay, where both Rödin (2PPG+6PPA) and Scott (2PPG+3PPA) have also found success, something that coach Thomas ‘Bulan’ Berglund says has been a solid aspect of their game all season.

– (Our Powerplay and penalty kill) has been good all season, I think. We know what we are going to do and we feel comfortable with it, explained Bulan to Brynäs’s homepage.

Jeremy Darke

2015-10-13 12:50:00 | Okategoriserat

Dramatic week as ill-discipline continues

It has been a wild ol’ week in the SHL this week as the season begins to open up and the standings begin to crunch together. After eight rounds played this season it feels that the 2015-16 is shaping up to be one of the most contested seasons in recent times, and that almost any team on any day can beat the other, give or take a few matchups here and there. This feeling doesn’t come just from the fact that all of the clubs this year are so evenly match, as much as I would love to say so, unfortunately, it also has a lot to do with how each club shows up on the day. Frölunda, who even had their first loss of the season this week, are the only two team to have shown consistency to start the season, the rest of the pack have been up and down like a hand full of yo-yos. As much as the start of this season has not doubt given a few coaches minor heart attacks, the unpredictability of each game definitely makes every hockey night an exciting one for all the fans. I don’t think at the start of the year anyone would have predicted that both teams from the north, Skellefteå and Luleå, would be wedged in the middle of the standings, at this time of the year, meanwhile Brynäs and Djurgården sit above the direct playoff qualification line and are showing that their only intention is to stay there.

Djurgården’s four-game winning streak has given the Stockholmers plenty to be happy about, especially after their back-to-back wins against Växjö this past week, without preferred goaltender, Mikael Tellqvist. 23-year-old, Lithuanian born, Mantas Armalis, stepped in this week, after Tellqvist was hurt in Djurgården’s CHL match also against Växjö, and he put in two solid performances to keep his team’s winning stretch alive and to also move him to the top of the goaltender rankings with a 94.02 save percentage after four games played in. Finn Tomi Sallinen has also been a big contributor to Djurgården’s fine form, scoring 1G+3A in his team’s two wins this week and averaged an incredible 23 minutes of ice-time, which is almost unheard of for a centerman.

Discipline the problem in Jönköping

In Jönköping the season has not started off anywhere near as planned, with HV71 sitting 13th in the standings after losing 5 straight games. If there is any excuse, which there always is, HV have had up to 12 of their starting players missing over the last couple of weeks, due to injury or suspension. But that is just it, discipline has been a big problem in Jönköping and you don’t have to look any further than the statistics page to prove it. When you have 168 penalty minutes registered after just 8 games (that’s 21min/game if you do the math), you would want to have the best box-play in the league, the problem is HV71 don’t. After giving their opposition 35 opportunities with the extra man they have let through 10 goals, which gives them a short-handed percentage of 71.43, the second worst in the league.

The stats are also against them when it comes to their offence, scoring just 18 goals this season (the least in the SHL) and have only managed to score the first goal in a game just once. As their players begin to return things may get better for HV, but they will only continue down the spiral of extinction if they don’t stay out of the penalty box and away from disciplinary hearings.

Checking to the head becoming an issue

It isn’t just HV71 who have been finding themselves in disciplinary trouble though, the Swedish Ice-Hockey Association has played a big part in the beginning of the season by handing out heavy punishments for unsportsmanlike like conduct, setting the standard for the rest of the year. A total of 14 players have been sent to the disciplinary committee so far this season where they have handed out 57 games worth of penalties, some of which have been taken as fines instead, plus 20 000kr in penalties for 3 diving incidents. Checking to the head has been the issue that has surfaced the most with 7 players being suspended for careless high hits to their opponents. This week was no different with Skellefteå captain Jimmie Ericsson receiving the biggest suspension so far this year after his uncharacteristic, ugly hit to LHC’s Garrett Roe, while his head was down. Ericsson took a hefty 9 match ban, which was reduced to 6 with an 82 500kr fine. It has to be said that Ericsson made no excuses for his ill-discipline and was extremely remorseful, and naturally glad to hear that Roe did not suffer any serious injury.

- I have sent a signal to hockey Sweden that is not good. I have no excuses, absolutely not, said a regretful Jimmie Ericsson after his hit on Garret Roe.

- As I understand, it was Martin Lundberg who was fighting for a bouncing puck with their player who took the hit (Garrett Roe). I went in to check him and it went completely wrong. At the same time I checked the guy I thought ‘oh shit’.

-I’m not worried about what is going to happen to me, my first priority is to see if the guy I hit is okay, finished a concerned Ericsson.

Jeremy Darke

2015-10-07 21:16:00 | Okategoriserat

Frölunda step into spotlight as others make changes

Unbeaten after six games to start the season it is no surprise that Frölunda take the step into the limelight as the early season favourites to win the Le Mat trophy. It is not just the 6-0 record that is impressive it is the quality of competition that they have already displaced to stamp their intentions on the 2015-16 SHL season. Wins over arguably higher tipped teams, Skellefteå, Luleå, Växjö and Färjestad, have made an early statement for the Gothenburg team, that they are looking to outdo their recent performances from the last couple of years, where they placed second after the regular season and could not progress any further than the quarters or semis respectively.

After their most recent 6-2 victory against Skellefteå AIK, 24-year-old, Norwegian, Mats Rosseli Olsen, who has started the season in break-out fashion with 3 goals and 3 assists, confirmed that his team had been underestimated at the start of the season and believes that with the group that they have this year, they will be very hard to beat.

– It is not something we think about, but it's a bit like that every year that we are underestimated. But we've been second in the series two years in a row and lost in the semifinals last year. We have shown that we can be pretty good. We hope that we are even better this year, says Rosseli Olsen to Aftonbladet.

– When we play like this (6-2 against Skellefteå) we are very hard to beat. We have great offensive power in the team and it can explode like this, explained Rosseli Olsen.

LHC’s Roe makes flying start

After a shaky start to the season taking just 2 points in 2 games Linköping HC have turned their season around with 4 straight wins of their own, moving up to third in the standings. One man who has contributed considerably to this change in form and settle the ship in Östergötland, is newly signed American, Garrett Roe. Roe missed the first two games of the year due to an injury he picked up in the preseason, but since his returned he has shown why he was one of the most anticipated talents to the join the SHL this season. Roe has used his quick speed and creativity to ‘wow’ the Linköping fans to score 3 goals and 4 assists in his first four games in Sweden, to place him straight up into sixth on the point scoring list. The 27-year-old center has been a point a game player since moving to Europe, where he played for EC Salzburg and EHC Munchen the past two seasons and looks to continue that form now he has made the move to the SHL.

Teams begin to make hopeful improvements

MODO Hockey messaged on Friday that inspirational captain Byron Ritchie will be away from play for up to 12 weeks, due to a raptured Achilles tendon. Ritchie was taken from the ice and straight to the hospital after an incident, in the third period of MODO’s match against HV71, where he was cut by a skate.

Although the club are yet to show any signs of picking up a replacement for Ritchie, they finalized the details to bring in Canadian defender Joel Kwiatkowski, who will fill the skates of the recently retired Ryan Whitney. Kwiatkowski, 38-years-old, brings loads of experienced to his new club, boasting 282 NHL matches, plus 7 seasons in Europe, 2 in the KHL and the last 5 in the Swiss NLA.

Also to make new signings this week are Karlskrona and the Växjö, who have brought in Robin Persson and Joey Crabb, respectively, to help bring their seasons back on track. Karlskrona have not had the easiest of transitions up from HockeyAllsvenskan to the SHL, sitting all the way down the bottom of the standings, due to a defence that has let through 21 goals in six games. In an attempt to fix the issue, the club has brought in experienced defenceman Robin Persson, who is a solid stay-at-home defender, to help stabilise them on the blue-line. The Växjö Lakers haven’t had a dream start to the season either and have utilized the misfortune of American Joey Crabb missing out on a place in the Arizona Coyotes, to sign the 32-year-old on a one-year deal. Beside the production of their first-line, Växjö’s offence has been lacklustre and has been easy to control by their opposition. With the inclusion of Crabb to their line-up, General Manager Henrik Evertsson, hopes the problem will be on its way to being solved and give his team broader production.

Joey Crabb is very motivated to come over to Europe and we see him as a player that will broaden the team and spread out production, says Evertsson the club’s homepage.

Jeremy Darke

2015-10-02 16:20:00 | Okategoriserat

Peter Mueller: “We are building chemistry”

When advancing from HockeyAllsvenskan up to the SHL it is vital to your survival to find players out there, on the broad player market, that you are certain will strengthen your team and give you the best possible chance of achieving your number one goal, to stay in Sweden’s top league.

On the 12 August, Peter Mueller, became the final piece of the Malmö Redhawks team building puzzle and is turning out to be one of, if not, the most important piece. After only being with the team for a little over a month before the season began, his combination with fellow American T.J. Galiardi and Swede Björn Svensson has blossomed expeditiously, and already appears to be one of the more dangerous forward lines in the league, even though the Redhawks sit at the lower and of the standings.

- Obviously it has taken a little bit with the preseason and stuff like that to get it going, but now that I know the system and now that I know how the team plays, it’s more comfortable now than it was a month ago, explained Peter Mueller to Malmö IF’s web-TV.

- Especially with the chemistry within the team, pursuing this and putting me in spots where I can score and help make the team get points has obviously been great.

On Thursday, Malmö let another chance to take their second win of the season slip through their fingers, losing to Färjestad BK 3-2, their third one goal loss in as many games. On a positive note for the Redhawks, Peter Mueller hit the back of the net for the third time this season, which puts him on a three game point-scoring streak (3G+1A).  

"Getting some chemistry"

- I’m getting some chemistry with the line mates, its building, which is good. Obviously putting points up to help the team win would be better. At the end of the day I can still work on a lot of things. Keep coming to practice every day, work harder and try and get better said the sixth, 2006, NHL draft pick.

- Obviously, it is promising to see that over the last couple of games that it keeps going up and we are creating more and more chances. So you need to take it in stride and be very positive with that and look forward to the next game.

Although the individual success has been good for Mueller and his ability to spark instant chemistry with Svensson and Galiardi has been a highlight, in what has been a bleak start for the club, the 27-year-old, knows that personal accolades will take him nowhere and is focused in on what is most important for his club.

- Obviously we need to stay focused on getting the team three points instead of the personal statistics, assured a determined Peter Mueller.

A 3 point win for Mueller and the Redhawks, against Djurgården this Saturday, could turn Malmö’s poor start around, potentially jumping them from 12th to 7th overnight in the standings, if results go their way.

Jeremy Darke
English Blogger

2015-09-29 12:03:00 | Okategoriserat

Historic week for Karlskrona as Brynäs impress

Karlskrona HK started their first SHL campaign in, what you could say was, the toughest circumstances possible, losing three straight matches and hunting their first win in Sweden’s highest hockey division. But, history was made, on Saturday, when the Blekinge team took their first ever win in the SHL, getting the monkey off their back with a 4-2 win against Stockholmers, Djurgården. 26-year-old, Jimmy Andersson scored the 3-2 go-ahead goal with just two minutes left in the game becoming an instant hero in front of the 3218 Karlskrona fans, making what he believes was a statement to the rest of the league that his team deserve to be mixing it with the big boys in the SHL.

– It is of course extra nice to show everyone else that we belong here, said the match winner Andersson to C More after the win. We are here to play good hockey.

Westerholm twins a danger 

Like many teams in the SHL heading into the 2015-16 season, Brynäs IF saw the departure of many key players that have helped them stay afloat over the past few seasons. You would not have been alone if you thought that the men from Gävle may find it difficult to compete this season especially after losing number one goaltender Bernhard Starkbaum after just 2 games. But as the old saying goes, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going,’ which has certainly been the case for Brynäs. With the loss of Starkbaum, rose 18-year-old Felix Sandström, drafted in round 3 in 2015 by the Philadelphia Flyers, who has been a brick wall between the posts in his two starts against Djurgården and HV71. The Gävle born and bred goaltender has looked like a 10 year veteran allowing just one goal per game and boasts a 95.35 save percentage after facing a total of 41 shots in his two games played-in, which tops the league in both categories.

Brynäs young goalkeeper Felix Sandström. Foto: Foto: Andreas L Eriksson / Bildbyrån

A lot can also be said for the leadership of new captain Anton Rödin, who has simply shown the way from the front, topping the league in goal scoring and point production after four matches. Rödin was given the captaincy at the start of the 2015-16 season and has taken the roll with both hands, lifting his game as he plays with a confidence that he has never shown before. Rödin’s poise and determination has spread through his team and is demonstrated through twin-brothers Pathrik and Pontus Westerholm, who have already developed into one of the most dangerous combinations in the SHL so far this season. The twins, who barely impressive last year, have appeared to have matured dramatically during the offseason, using their knowledge of each other’s game to create opportunities for one another, combining three time in the last 2 games to help lift their team to their two latest win.

Can Wallmark’s return lift Luleå Hockey?

It is certainly too early to begin to throw around the word ‘crisis’, but after such hype around Luleå Hockey’s hunt for gold at the beginning of the year, I think it is fair to say that there are few worried faces in the camp in the North. It is no secret that Luleå bought up big this offseason and skated out onto the ice two short weeks ago full of confidence that they had built a team that was going to lead the way in the fight for the Le Mat trophy. Unfortunately, things haven’t gone to script, after winning their first match against reigning champions Växjö, Luleå have gone on to lose 3 straight games, two against Skellefteå and the other against Frölunda. Although they have met quality competition, Coach Joakim Fagervall cannot be happy with the way his team has begun the year and responded to the self-place pressure of competing for gold this season. The productivity of first line Jacob Micflikier, Bill Sweatt and Jacob Lagacé, all who were bought in this offseason, has been a big disappointment in their three losses. Now, after only playing 5 minutes of their latest loss against Skellefteå, it is apparent that Lagacé is the first feel the wrath of the coaching staff and is set to lose his spot in the top line. Carolina Hurricanes prospect Lucas Wallmark returns from his training camp in North American and will slot right in with Sweatt and Micflikier against Karlskrona on Wednesday, a line that excites the young center.

– It feels good, it’s going to be fun, says Wallmark to Luleå Hockey’s homepage. They are new line-mates for me so it is only going to get better and better. They are two good leaders and are very skillful. The thought is that we are going to have a very productive line and we want to show that from the beginning. We three know that we are that, we just have to show it, explained a very confident Wallmark.

Jeremy Darke

2015-09-22 20:50:00 | Okategoriserat

Exciting start to 2015-16

Finally the season is underway and it certainly hasn’t disappointed with what has been a somewhat unexpected and surprising start to 2015-16. Färjestad BK, who didn’t reach the playoffs last season, have shot out of the blocks with vengeance producing two strong performances in the first week of the year, meanwhile, last year’s champions Växjö are suffering a gold-plated hangover, starting their season in the worst possible fashion with 2 losses.

Even though Färjestad BK missed the 2015 playoffs they have still been in many expert’s top three picks to take out the Le Mat trophy in 2016, and just after two rounds have been played there is plenty of excitement around Karlstad as everybody is relieved to see the team start the year on such a good note. If compared to the beginning of last season it is easy to understand the big sigh of relief from the FBK camp, which took 5 rounds to score over 5 points in the standings and all 12 rounds of games to record two 3 point wins at the beginning of 2014-15. It appears early on that the guidance of prodigal son Magnus Nygren has given the team the leadership that it needs to return back to the top of the SHL, along with the continued development and offensive prowess of Czech forward Milan Gulas and junior Joel Eriksson Ek, who have started the year impressively.


For Växjö the cloud above their head this season has only darkened after their first two performances this year, which have done nothing to silence the doubters. Up against quality teams in first Luleå HF then HV71, the reigning champions have failed to keep up with their opposition throughout the entire match, suffering from continuous lapses in concentration and have not displayed the eagerness and hunger that took them to the top of the league last year. On the plus side the reignited combination between Robert Rosén and Richard Gynge has already paid dividends with the pair being in the centre of the offense that Växjö has displayed, and it does seem evident that the duo will continue to flourish as the season goes on.

Sweatt and Laine disciplined

The season has also not begun without a little bit of controversy with both American Bill Sweatt and Finn Teemu Laine being disciplined by the league for separate unsportsmanlike behavior. Sweatt has been handed down a 2 game suspension plus a 20 000 kr fine for what was an uncharacteristic slash between the legs of Oliver Bohm in Luleå’s game against Frölunda on Saturday. Sweatt was sent from the ice immediately after the incident with a game misconduct penalty, which after review was upgraded to a match penalty. Sweatt will now miss two important games for Luleå, the first being their CHL round-of-32 meeting against Färjestad then also Friday’s SHL derby against Skellefteå.

During the offseason the Swedish Ice Hockey Association came out saying that there would be a crack-down on players that were proven to have taken a ‘dive’ to win their team a penalty, and that any kind of this behavior would be taken seriously by the league and would be punished accordingly. HV71’s Teemu Laine is the first to feel the wrath of the league after he was deemed to have fallen overzealously after slight contact from Joakim Hillding, who was sent to the penalty-box for 2 minutes for interference in the Jönköping club’s game against Växjö on Saturday. After review from the SHL’s situation room, Laine, 33, was the first to face the tribunal on the charge of diving and received a 5 000 kr fine for his actions.

Whitney retires from hockey

In unfortunate news for all involved, star MODO Hockey signing Ryan Whitney has hung up his skates after just 2 games in the SHL. Whitney has come to the realisation that his body cannot keep up with his ambitions to continue his illustrious hockey career in Sweden and has decided to retire from the sport at the age of 32.

– I want to extend my warmest thanks to MODO Hockey for giving me the chance to play this season, but unfortunately I feel that my foot injury prevents me from playing at the highest level. Örnsköldsvik is a really nice city, organization around the team is world class and I really wanted to play throughout the year here, but when the body gives up I have no choice, says Whitney.

– I took the decision after the game yesterday. I've been thinking about it for the past week and during the match yesterday my body could not answer to what I wanted it to do on the ice and it felt both tired and sore. I feel it is not fair to the team, the city and my teammates when I cannot perform at the level I want to perform, concluded Whitney.

Jeremy Darke

2015-09-15 09:34:00 | Okategoriserat

The joy of the unknown

There is excitement and anticipation in the air, there are nerves and mystery as well. No, it’s not Christmas Eve, it is better, it’s the day before the hockey season begins and our lives are complete again. I relate, just like many of you, hockey eve to Santa’s big night but not just for the fact that I’m so pumped that I could internally combust, but more to the point that each team is like its own little gift that slowly unwraps itself over the next 52 rounds. Some teams end the year exactly how you expected, like a bicycle that sits beside the tree, poorly wrapped by your dad, others are like that small little gift that you don’t take interest in until you open it and find a Rolex watch that you never expected, while unfortunately others that looked so perfectly wrapped with a beautiful bow turn out to be that ugly sweater that you wish you could “accidently” drop into the open fire.

Anyway, enough with the Christmas analogies, what I’m really trying to say is that the hockey season is full of unknowns and that is what is so thrilling and intriguing about it. This year in the SHL is no different to any other, the offseason and preseason has been active for most clubs which brings forth curiosity and uncertainty upon if these changes will be for the best or for the worst.

Here are a few that are hot on my mind just one sleep out from the big day.

Can the champs reign again?

The Växjö Lakers are in a similar situation to what Skellefteå AIK were in this time last season, with many of their superstars departing and questions over the talent that they have brought in to get the job done. Replacing a captain is never easy and there is no exception here with Tomi Kallio hanging up his skates. Kallio has been at the heart of Växjö’s success over the past few seasons and will be sorely missed along with much of the offensive firepower that took the Lakers to gold. With the departure of Rhett Rakhshani, Jeff Tambelllini and Nick Johnson, Växjö’s first six will have a whole new look and much of their offense will now ride on the re-ignited combination between Robert Rosen and newly acquired Richard Gynge. Rosen and Gynge were a succuss duo for AIK in 2011-12, a year in which the pair took a clean sweep of the league’s scoring awards, Rosen the highest assist and overall point scorer and Gynge best goal scorer. Also departed is playoff MVP Noah Welch who leaves a goliath size hole on the blue line.

How will Örebro HK survive without Derek Ryan? 

You can’t say that Derek Ryan alone was responsible for the success of Örebro HK last season, but he certainly played an extremely large roll in their first playoff appearance in the clubs short SHL history. It is never easy to replace a guy that can score 60 points in a season, but unfortunately Örebro have no choice, with the American impressing his way to a Carolina Hurricanes contract this season. Coach, Kent Johansson has now placed new Czech forward Jakub Petruzalek on the first line with Martin Johansson and Daniel Viksten, and all eyes will be on this trio to replace the chemistry that they had with Ryan. Johansson had, what you can say, a break-out season last year and will need to regain the form that saw him as one of the clinical goal scorers in the league, for a portion of season. Viksten also began to find his feet at the end of the last year, if he can continue his development and find a spark with Petruzalek, he may be the guy that can give Örebro the offensive boost they need.

Luleå HF’s proclaimed hunt for gold?

It is no secret here in Sweden that Luleå Hockey are on a gold hunt this season, and are not afraid to say that they believe that they are one of the favourites to be fighting for SM-Gold come April next year. The club has bought up big in the offseason landing some big signings like Jacob Micflikier, Toni Rajala, Bill Sweatt and Jacob Legace, just to name a few, and certainly look the part on paper to be up there with the contenders, but will they fizzle out and disappoint? Big names can look great underneath each other on the team sheet but it doesn’t ensure chemistry or wins for that matter. Expectation is now high for the Västerbotteners, from themselves and also from their fans, with the package that they have put together they are set to be one of the top teams in the SHL, but let’s just hope for their sake that they don’t end up burning away like a boring sweater.

Is Linköping HC’s preseason a sign of things to come?

Year in and year out it is evident that preseason is nothing to go by, but year in and year out we can’t help ourselves getting excited over the team that dominates early. In 2015 Linköping are that team, going 8 games undefeated after 4 Champions Hockey League games and 4 games against SHL opponents. A lot has changed in Linköping since last season, beginning with Coach Dan Tangnes, who is a breath of fresh air after the era of Roger Melin. Tangnes and the management have brought in players such as Andrew Gordon, Garrett Roe and new team captain Niklas Persson who provide a more two-way game than what has been seen on their roster in previous seasons. Defence is what has been found wanting in Linköping in recent years and just maybe they have now hit the nail on the head with their signings this offseason. It clearly appears so, if preseason is anything to go by, or is it not what it seems?

Are MODO Hockey a dark horse?

Last season was a disaster for MODO Hockey, that is a fact, but what is unknown is how they will bounce back from one of their worst seasons in the club’s history. A North American approach has now been taken by the club to resolve the issues that were evident last year. General Manager Per Svartvadet hired Canadian coach Larry Huras plus a total of 8 North Americans now featuring on the team’s roster. From the outside in it appears that experience has been the ingredient that Svartvadet has searched after most from his transatlantic players, bringing in the NHL merited Ryan Whitney, Bobby Butler and Maxim Lapierre to try and settle the ship and take MODO back to a playoff contender like it once was. What is also exciting is placing one of Sweden’s youngest talents, Carl Grundström in the middle of all of all of this experience. Grundström is set to be one of the best prospects heading into the 2016 NHL draft and if he can find his feet playing with one or two of the old boys he could be the little surprise packet that helps MODO Hockey into the 2016 playoffs. With the heavy changes that have happened in Örnsköldsvik it is safe to say that they will be a big success or a complete flop. I guess it is not really safe to say anything…

Jeremy Darke

2015-09-02 09:51:00 | Okategoriserat

Five new North Americans to make an impact in 2015-16

Scouting and signing the right imports is not an easy task for club managers and coaches. There are many questions that need to be answered and boxes to be ticked before the presumption is made that a player will perform in the Swedish hockey environment, not only on the ice but also off it. This preseason has seen another influx of non-Swedish born players join arguable Europe’s second strongest league behind the KHL with now just under 100 import players making an SHL roster. Of those players, fifty are from either Canada or the United States of America.

The SHL has seen many unsuccessful signings in relation to North Americans who make the move across the Atlantic, but now more than ever has it proven to be worth the risk to take a calculated gamble on transatlantic players. In 2014-15 the top four, and seven out of the top ten, point scorers were of North American heritage. While the Växjö Lakers proved that having a more international roster can be a key to success, utilizing the experience of North Americans, Finns and Danes which took them to their first Le Mat trophy in the club’s history.

Many clubs have now begun adjusting to the swing in which the league has taken and are spending their resources on scouting quality North American talent from directly over the Atlantic or poaching it from clubs around Europe. Below are five NEW North Americans that have been signed this offseason and head into 2015-16 with high expectations of creating a strong impact in the SHL.

Spencer Abbott, f, Frölunda

Coming most recently from the Rockford IceHogs, but spending the majority of his pro career in the Toronto system, Abbott displays a knack for creating space for his teammates in scoring positions. He uses his speed and strong skating skills to make plays and also has a big shot in his pocket if the opportunity arises. He is a commodity on the powerplay with the ability to play multiple positions in an extra-man setup. Abbott’s stature is on the small side at 5’10” and 75kg, but we know that size doesn’t matter when it comes to point production on the larger Olympic size ice. If he utilizes his speed as many other little men have done before him in the SHL we can expect to see his name floating around the top of the point scorers list at the end of the season.  

Andrew Gordon, f, Linköping

It hasn’t taken Andrew Gordon long to get settled in to his new surroundings at Linköping, the Canadian kicking off his SHL career with one of the strongest preseasons in memory. The 29 year-old, has scored at least one point in all of Linköping’s preseason games, tallying 5 goals and 3 assists in 5 matches. His offensive prowess comes off the back of a hard-work ethic that has been instilled throughout his career. Gordon is known to give his all and to lead by example crashing the net and working tirelessly in the corners. His offensive instincts are only one part of his game though, Gordon uses his skating ability to make plays defensively as well, which is a large factor in his appointment at LHC.  Two-way forwards were lacking slightly in Linköping last season, but with the signing of Gordon and a few others Linköping just might have the package to take them that little bit deeper into the playoffs.

Derek Meech, d, Malmö

When making the promotion from HockeyAllsvenskan to the SHL, experience and calmness can be priceless inside the change room and especially on the blue line. Derek Meech has both of those attributes, boasting 144 NHL and 455 AHL games and his knowledge and ice-cold demeanour is just what is needed if Malmö are to retain their place in Sweden’s top division. Meech is a mobile offensive-defenceman who rocks a good shot but is better known for his vision and ability to read the play before it unfolds. He is a strong point player on the powerplay combining his shooting and passing ability to create chances. Although Meech is not the biggest defencemen around he is not afraid to play a physical style of hockey.

Peter Mueller, f, Malmö

Peter Mueller has the potential to be the buy of the offseason for Malmö and is just the type of player they need that brings experience and composure to the group. The 27 year-old was stopped in the prime of his career by a concussion injury that saw him miss the whole 2010-11 NHL season with the Colorado Avalanche. Mueller has spent the last two seasons as one of NLA’s Kloten Flyers best players in Switzerland proving that the larger ice surface is not an issue. The Minnesota born winger was the final piece in what is to be Malmö’s first-line where he will pair up with Canadian T.J. Galiardi, who he played with during his time in Colorado, and also Andreas Thuresson. If this trio can find the chemistry that the Redhawks organisation believes will spark, then they may become one of the most clinical forward line-ups in the SHL.

Jacob Lagacé, f, Luleå

If Jacob Lagacé can continue the form that saw him top the point’s league in HockeyAllsvenskan last season, 20 goals + 37 assists, it is hard to see that he will not be among the leaders in the SHL in 2015-16. Lagacé is a fine addition to what is a new look North American forward line in Luleå, combining with fellow transatlantics Jacob Micflikier and Bill Sweatt. With such a productive year behind him in Asplöven HC there is no question that his speed and playmaking skills will cause problems for his opposition this season, especially playing alongside two well-known offensive powers like Micflikier and Sweatt.

Jeremy Darke
English Blog

2015-08-21 15:01:00 | Djurgårdens IF

Matt Anderson: We are working towards a style of play Djurgården will stand for

The 2014/15 season was testing one for Djurgården in their first year back in Sweden’s highest division, the SHL, after two seasons playing in HockeyAllsvenskan. The transition back into the SHL saw the club struggle in the early stages of the year, although, they finished the year strongly, qualifying for the play-in series which ended in a 0-2 series loss to Luleå HF. Surviving the promotion year is an achievement in itself, but in season 2015-16 the Stockholm giants will need to put their best foot forward and build towards becoming one of the heavy weights of Swedish hockey again. 

The preseason has brought forth some mixed results so far for DIF with 2 wins and 2 losses in 4 matches, although results are not really the focus at this stage. Improvement has been the topic in the change room each and every day, says new American recruit Matt Anderson, who continues saying that the club has been training hard to learn the style of hockey they want to play.    

– I think that right now we are in a kind of training mode. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say, explains Matt Anderson. There are obviously positives and negatives from tonight (2-4 loss to Tappara in the CHL). What is more important for us as a team is that next week we are better, I think that is the focus right now.

– We are training hard, that’s our big focus right now, and working on our forecheck and really learning the style of hockey that we want to play. I think some of the finer details are still to come for our team and our systems but we are working towards that.

After an offseason that has brought in some key new faces like Matt Anderson, Daniel Brodin and Tomi Sallinen, coach Hans Särkijärvi has been testing many different combination throughout his preseason trials to discover and develop a new style of hockey that Djurgården will build towards in 2015-16.

– Right now we are just trying to see what works, I don’t think anything is set in stone just yet. We are just working towards a style of hockey that we are trying to play and that Djurgården is going to stand for.

For Matt Anderson, who has most recently spent the last two years playing in the KHL with Spartak Moskva, Medvescak Zagreb and Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, has also had to face the challenge of adjusting to a new country, a new team and a new role, but says that there is one common denominator all over the world and that is, if you want something to work you need to work hard for it.

– Everyone is training different all over the world. But what is most important is that you are working hard. No matter what you are trying to do in life, if you are not working hard it is not going to work. Moving forward though, it is getting in with the guys and their style and trying to make a role for myself and my team mates as well, and get comfortable in the dressing room, says a determined Matt Anderson

– It has been a good transition. The organisation has really helped me, I couldn’t have asked for more on that front, getting me over here and getting me settled in. Everyone is speaking English and I’ve got twenty-five pretty great friends in that dressing room already and brothers, and that, again, is something we are working towards getting more comfortable with one another.

Anderson admits that there is still a lot for him to learn when it comes to Djurgården and the league, as a whole, but he knows that one thing is for sure and that is that DIF fans are some of the best in the country and playing in front of them is one of the things that is exciting him the most about their home premier on the 19 September.

– I’m excited to play in front of these fans. Obviously there is a lot of tradition here and it is something I’m really looking forward to.

– As far as the SHL, I’m still learning some of the teams and how they play. It will be nice to get into a rhythm and see some of these different teams and learn the style of hockey. Obviously I’m excited about the start of the season and it is going to be here before we know it.


Jeremy Darke
English Blog

2015-08-21 14:38:00 | Linköpings HC

Broc Little: “Aggressive” the word for Linköping HC

Broc Little continued his fine goal scoring form when he returned to Sweden for the 2014/15 season, after two seasons in the AHL and KHL, the American finished the year as the league’s most productive goal scorer. 

Now all the statistics have been washed away into the record books and the speedy Linköping HC forward goes into the season with expectation on his shoulders, but he is keeping a cool head and putting the team first as he looks to build on his successful 2014/15 campaign.

– It gives you confidence knowing that last season went pretty well. Everybody starts at zero again so I’m just trying to take it one day at a time, explains Broc Little.

– To be honest it doesn’t matter if I score or set guys up with assists it all depends on what we have. Obviously I expect to produce but I don’t think I feel too much pressure. 

Linköping were one of the SHL’s strongest offensive forces last season with the likes of Little himself, Jeff Taffe and Jacob Micflikier leading the team, and the majority of the league, in scoring statistics, the trio placing second, third and fourth in the league’s point scoring table, combining for a total of 153 points.

– Those guys produced a lot offensively for us last year. We had a pretty good season but I think we hit our ceiling a little bit there last year, just overall how we played as a team. 

Little’s North American counterparts have now gone their separate ways forcing the club to shop around for some new transatlantic attacking prowess, finding what they need in SM-Gold champion Rhett Rakhshani, Andrew Gordon from the Philadelphia Flyers organisation and Garrett Roe who was a point-per-game player for EHC Munchen in the DEL.

– I think this year we are trying to focus more on being a two-way team. They brought in guys that can play that type of game and I think that they can produce offensively just as well as those guys (Micflikier and Taffe). Hopefully they can bring that, as well as their defensive game. Hopefully we can start with a better defensive game this year and the offense will work itself out. That is our focus, says Little.

Also to depart the club was Little’s line-mate Mattias Sjögren, who was a big contributing factor in the success of the American last season. Finding the right man to fill Sjögren’s skates and partner Little, and most likely Nichlas Hardt, in the forward line will be high on the agenda this preseason for the coaching staff.

– We have been playing with Niklas Persson in practice mostly. Obviously he is very skilled and has spent a long time on the (Swedish) national team. I think we will be able to work with him just as well as we did with Sjögren last year. Obviously we are yet to see it in games but we have had some good chemistry so far in practice.

Assistant coach Dan Tangnes has now stepped up into the Head Coach role after spending last season behind Roger Melin, who has now departed to AIK, after a three year tenure at LHC. In his short time in charge Tangnes has already begun to tweak things, endeavouring his team to take a more physical approach while becoming more aggressive on the forecheck.   

– I think it has been the biggest word that we have heard, that’s “Aggressive”, all three coaches have been preaching that to us since we started a couple of weeks ago. You definitely saw it tonight (against Skellefteå, August 11), guys were all over the place and just trying to pound the puck a little bit more and focus on defence a little bit more than we did for most of last season.

The previous three seasons have ended in semi-final misery for LHC, but with a new-look playing troop and a new man in charge of the bench, Linköping and its fans can only see upwards for the 2015/16 season.  

– We are just taking it one day at a time but I like the way we are headed. If we play to our identity like the coaches want us to I think the sky is the limit for us. We don’t want to look to far ahead at this point, we just want to get ready for the season and try and make the playoffs, then see what happens, states Broc Little.

Jeremy Darke
English Blog

2015-04-27 10:50:00 | Okategoriserat

Växjö Lakers are Champions of Sweden

It took double overtime in game 6 of the 2015 SM-final for the Växjö Lakers to complete their historic and emphatic journey to the top hockey and be crowed the Champions of Sweden.

- It is so wonderful. It is such a great group with fantastic guys, said an emotionally proud team captain Tomi Kallio.

Vaxjö’s path to champion has been nothing short of inspirational. They came out at the beginning of the 2014-2015 season as one of the heavy favourites for the LeMat Trophy and rode the waves of expectation and criticism from start to finish and took what was expected of them. It was a deserving end for a team that has come together and matured as a group, from not only the beginning of this season but since their promotion into the SHL just 4 years ago.

It has been a unique group that has taken Växjö all the way in 2015 with a blend of many nationalities within the team’s line up, giving them strength and knowledge from many different hockey backgrounds, which has been a perfect potion for success. They have been able to draw on their individual experiences to develop an unbreakable bond within the group to conquer all that has been thrown at them.

"Handled it in a fantastic way"

- This year we have had expectations on us from all around, and maybe even from ourselves, but we have handled it in a fantastic way, explained assistant team captain Alexander Johansson.

- Especially after Christmas it has been a fantastic journey. What character in the group and vibe. It is many things that create that. There are many nationalities in the team, so there is no segregation. We have mediated and tried to get the same message to everyone, and it helps that everything in the locker room is in English. There is no one that falls out of context. So many nationalities and still be able to hold it together, it’s amazing.

Finnish team captain Tomi Kallio has been with Växjö since their advancement into Sweden’s most elite hockey league and could not be prouder to be the leader of the gold-winning team.

- It is such a great group with fantastic guys, to be the captain of this gang is simply wonderful, explained Kallio.

- It is always nicer (to win at home) you could say. Home is always home and I am glad for the fans who have supported us so well.

It may just be that little bit sweeter and a little more special for Växjö to knock over the double-reigning champions Skellefteå AIK in the final, after they have dominated Swedish hockey for the past five years, as a new generation of team and players look to begin their reign at the top. There was not much to separate the two teams in the 6 game series, but it was Växjö that won the little battles all over the ice to win and become champions.

"They were incredible matches"

- I think that we were a little stronger in the match series, but its small margins. Skellefteå have dominated Swedish hockey for a long time and they were incredible matches, said Växjö goalkeeper Chritopher Nihlstorp.

- We have an awesome dynamic in the group and have experienced the joy of each day to go to work.

From English blog, a big congratulations goes out to everyone involved in the Växjö Lakers organisation on a well-deserved SM-Final victory.

Jeremy Darke
English Blog


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