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2015-10-07 21:16:00 | Okategoriserat
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.
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.
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.
2015-10-02 16:20:00 | Okategoriserat
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).
- 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.
2015-09-29 12:03:00 | Okategoriserat
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.
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.
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.
2015-09-22 20:50:00 | Okategoriserat
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.
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.
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.
2015-09-15 09:34:00 | Okategoriserat
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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…
2015-09-02 09:51:00 | Okategoriserat
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
2015-08-21 15:01:00 | Djurgårdens IF
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.
2015-08-21 14:38:00 | Linköpings 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.
2015-04-27 10:50:00 | Okategoriserat
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.
- 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.
- 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 SHL.se English blog, a big congratulations goes out to everyone involved in the Växjö Lakers organisation on a well-deserved SM-Final victory.
2015-04-12 09:50:00 | Information
Here we go! It is finally upon us, what we have been waiting on for the last eight months. Two teams, the two best, head-to-head with the same goal, to lift the LeMat Trophy above their heads and be crowned Champions of Sweden.
This seven-game-series between Skellefteå and Växjö is arguably the most anticipated SM-Final in many years. A script for season 2014-2015 could not have been written any better than the way the year has unfolded, climaxing with a finals series that pits two-time reigning champions Skellefteå, who will play in their fifth consecutive finals, against Växjö, who are in unchartered territory, playing in their first ever SM-Final.
Växjö are the epiphany of what makes this sport so great in Sweden, working their way up from division 4, in 1999, taking the necessary steps through to HockeyAllsvenskan, in 2003, then onto the SHL, in 2011, to now have the chance to boast as the best team in the country in 2015.
It has been a long road to the top for the loyal Lakers fans who will be lifting the roof of VIDA Arena in game 2 of this series, and will hope to give their beloved team the extra boost that has seen them win both home games against Skellefteå this season. The ernes will then be on their men to try and snag a victory when they travel up north to Skellefteå Kraft Arena, a mission that has not been completed successfully this season.
The amazing Växjö supporters. Photo: Jonas Ljungdahl / Bildbyrån
– Växjö has never been in the finals and Skellefteå has never faced us in the finals, so it’s the first time for the match up in the finals, explains a fearless Tuomas Kiiskinen, who is Växjö’s leading playoff point scorer.
– I think we have more excitement and maybe get a little bit more energy from that, so I think that will help us, continued Kiiskinen on Växjö’s homepage.
Skellefteå will head into this final as favourite for the trophy after another impeccable season in which they were unexpectedly top of the league. A mass departure of playing personnel after their back-to-back championships last season brought forth many doubts about how Skellefteå were going to respond in 2014-2015.
But with some clever recruitment during the offseason and a rock solid coaching foundation in Norrland, all doubts were crushed and an all but familiar story once again played out for SAIK, making it to the end as the most feared team in the competition. Skellefteå will now attempt to do what no team has been able to accomplish in the league’s recorded history, by winning the regular season and becoming Swedish Champions in 3 consecutive years.
There are no questions that Skellefteå’s offence is the most clinical in the league if given any space to move or create opportunities. Their forwards have also transitioned into playoff hockey better than any other, a strong presence in front of goal by Captain Erik Forssell, has allowed his wingmen to run ragged from the outside-in and dissect their opponent’s defence almost at will throughout the 2015 postseason.
Junior Axel Holmstöm has been outstanding along with Patrik Zackrisson and Tim Heed, who have led the reigning champion’s offence thus far, and with firepower coming from all angles over the ice it will take a supernatural effort to diffuse what is the most productive offence in the SHL.
Outstanding SAIK goalie Markus Svensson. Photo: Ola Westerberg / Bildbyrån
Växjö’s defence certainly has what it takes to at least slow down the attack of SAIK, but they will need to lift to a new level in the final if they are to contain it. They will need to win the battle in front of their own net and force Skellefteå to play around them in their own zone, not through them, and look to move the puck quickly out of their defensive third and not let their opponents settle in there for long periods of time. A task much easier said than done.
A boost for Växjö is that they will see the return of offensive defenceman Noah Welch to their line-up after he missed his team’s game six victory over Frölunda for a check to the head of Max Görtz. Welch and counterpart Cory Murphy have been key men for the Lakers this season and will need to be at their best and lead the counter-attack of Växjö which has worked for them all season long.
Cristopher Nihlstorp has been one of the stand-out performers in this year’s playoffs of any player that has stepped out on the ice and has been a brick wall for his team, especially in their semi-final victory. His battle with rival net-minder Markus Svensson will be a deciding factor in the final with only .02 of a percent splitting the two goalies in save percentage in these playoffs.
Nihlstorp has held his opponents goalless 3 times in the postseason, where Svensson has been unable to record a shut-out. Whichever goaltender is able to stay the most consistent throughout this seven-game-series, under an undeniable amount of pressure from their opposing team’s offence, will likely lead their team to victory.
2015-04-12 09:40:00 | Växjö Lakers HC
The Växjö Lakers continue to live up to their preseason expectations advancing to their first SM-Final by taking a commanding 4-2 match series victory against the Frölunda Indians. When the Smålanders go up against duel-reigning champions Skellefteå on Sunday they will be in unfamiliar territory, stepping onto the ice in the club’s first ever premier league finals series.
As their quarter final victory, it was a well-rounded performance that progressed Växjö past Frölunda in their semi-final match up. The depth within the Lakers top three lines was the overpowering factor in the series, with each player average an individual ice-time of close to 16 minutes. Their ability to spread the time within their roster and constantly diffuse offence and create attacking opportunities themselves allowed them to find the advantageous key line match ups they needed.
– We have had a lot of pressure on us and are happy that we have taken one step further than last year, said a relieved Robert Rosen. But we are not satisfied without giving Skellefteå a game.
Växjö celebrating with their home crowd. Photo: Jonas Ljungdahl / Bildbyrån
Heading into the series there was plenty of pressure riding on the shoulders of goaltender Cristopher Nihlstorp to perform consistently game after game to give his team a chance of to play off for their first Le Mat trophy. Nihlstorp answered all his critics and went far beyond any expectations completely stoning the Frölunda offence throughout the whole series by holding a measly 1.35 goals against average and a phenomenal 94.04 save percentage.
Frölunda are now left with a sour taste in their mouths after another season where their expectations were left unmet, and self-reflection is needed to once again find out where they fell short in their goal to win SM-Gold. Things just didn’t seem to fall into place for the Gothenburg club, as it hasn’t done for the last few seasons, falling one step short of the final and leaving there fans wanting more again in 2015.
Växjö now face the ruthless task of beating the two-time Swedish Champions if they are to continue to write in the club’s history books and win their first ever SM-Final. With their win against Frölunda, they have already gone on further than any Växjö troop has gone before in Sweden’s highest league, but the team is certainly not satisfied with their performance yet. They want to lift the Le Mat trophy above their heads.
– What we have done so far is ok, but it isn’t quite enough, explains Växjö veteran Tomi Kallio.
– We want more. We are not thinking about what we have done but what is in the future.
– There wasn’t a lot of celebration after our win against Frölunda which was good and shows that we are not satisfied yet.
2015-04-10 11:40:00 | Skellefteå AIK
Skellefteå AIK advance to their fifth SM-Final in five consecutive years after another impressive semi-final win against Linköping. The defending champions wrote their wrongs after a small glitch in the system in game 4 to take the series comfortably 4-1.
It was a true display of the young and the old that saw Skellefteå take the semi-final in 5 games, sending Linköping on an unwanted early summer holiday. Team captain Erik Forssell was once again instrumental in front of goal throughout the entire series, proving to be an unmovable force, making life as difficult as possible for the opposing goaltending while putting away any scraps bouncing around the net.
Forssell’s 4 goals and 2 assists of productivity in this series was only bettered by the performance of break-out junior Axel Holmström, who hit the back of the net 5 times and assisted 3 times. Holmström has come of age in the 2015 postseason, scoring points in all of Skellefteå’s nine playoff games this year and leads his team with 13 points (6G+7A).
- It is fun to play, hockey life is blossoming right now, said an ecstatic Axel Holmström after Skellefteå’s semi-final win.
Axel Holmström, Skellefteå AIK. Photo: Ola Westerberg / Bildbyrån
Linköping didn’t make things easy for SAIK, largely due to some big-time play from goaltender Marcus Högberg in the final two games of the series. Högberg stood strong facing a barrage of Skellefteå shots as they tried to put away the series as quick as possible. But the 20-year-old didn’t make the task easy, saving 33-of-35 in his team’s lone win, to then save the first 33 shots of game 5 before Skellefteå broke the goaltender down to take the series.
American Broc Little continued his emphatic season throughout these playoffs, but his 5 goals and 9 assists still was not enough to take Linköping to the last stage of the finals series.
After their semi-final victory coach Hans Wallson lifted his team’s patience and ability to stick their game plan while Linköping put up a strong resistance during periods throughout the series.
- I think we stuck to the plan and were consistent, explained Walsson. We held our patience. It is easy that you can get stressed and lose your patience when you don’t reap the benefits. We have a strong belief in what we do and we showed that today.
Växjö will stand in the way of a third straight LeMat Trophy for Skellefteå, but a preferred opposition was not a factor in the SAIK change room where self-belief is the only ingredient necessary.
- Whichever team we meet will know us and we will know them. We know that the quarter final is one thing, the semi-final is one thing, and the final is something completely different. I think that we have quite enough experience to handle the situation, stated Hans Wallson.
2015-04-09 10:05:00 | Information
Photo: Andreas Sandström / Bildbyrån
The quest for the LeMat trophy is almost over, only the final battle between the reigning champions Skellefteå AIK and the first-time finalist Växjö Lakers remains. The struggle will be fought in a series over seven games. Skellefteå starts at home and will be having the home advantage in game seven.
A happy piece of news for all our international SHL fans out there is that the final will be available at EverSport in USA, Asia, Russia and South America. Check it out!
If you have any knowledge in Swedish (or can use a translating service), also take a look at the article about the growing international interest in SHL.
2015-03-29 12:43:00 | Weekly reviews
Frölunda vs. Växjö
Season Series: Frölunda 3-2
Most recent result: Växjö 3-0 (17/02/15)
Photo: Jonas Ljungdahl / Bildbyrån
Frölunda and Växjö began the season as two of the favourites to challenge Skellefteå’s dominance and take SM-Gold. Now, as it stands, one of them will get a shot at the Le Mat Trophy when they face off in a best-of-seven semi-final series.
Both clubs have spent the majority of the season fighting over who was going to place second in the table behind reigning champions Skellefteå, where eventually Frölunda got the ascendency by one point. In their season series, Frölunda looked to have the Smålanders all figure out early, winning their first three matches of the year between the two clubs. But as the season grew older, Växjö became the wiser and were victorious in the last two encounters.
Frölunda just survived what was an epic playoff battle against a very determined Luleå hockey club, when the Norrbotteners forced the Indians to go all the way to a full seven game series. A young Frölunda team showed plenty of playoff maturity to bounce back from a 3-1 game deficit, while managing a growing list of injuries to eventually win the series by 4-3.
Luleå lured Frölunda into some good ol’ nitty-gritty hockey which slowly but surely unveiled a grinding character that had not been seen previously in the repertoire of Roger Rönnberg’s men. Frölunda will take plenty of belief and momentum into their semi-final match-up against Växjö, after their comeback win in the quarters, and will need ex-Växjö forward Ryan Lasch to stay in the form that almost single-handedly won them game 7 in their last series.
Special teams will also play a big part in the success of either team in this semi. Frölunda’s box-play has a perfect 0-for-16 record against the Växjö powerplay during their 5 games this season. Although, Växjö’s record against the Indians has been impressive in its own right, on top of only allowing 3PP goals in 23 opportunities, which isn’t a bad kill rate, they have scored 2 short-handed goals of their own within that time. Both clubs will be looking for some vast improvements from their special teams units than how they have performed so far this postseason which may give them the key edge over their opponent in this semi-final.
Växjö’s defensive set was put to the test in their quarter-final against a firing Örebro offence, where they were able to shut down arguably the league’s most clinical forward trio of Derek Ryan, Daniel Viksten and Martin Johansson. Their courage and bravery to help out goaltender Christopher Nihlstorp, by blocking 83 shots in the six-game-series, shows that every player on the team knows what it is going to take if they want to go even deeper into these playoffs.
If they are to progress to the final, goaltender Nihlstorp will need to stay consistent in each game against Frölunda, an aspect of his game that let him down in the quarter finals. Nihlstorp is the only goalie to record 2 shutouts in the postseason but as brilliant as the 31-year-old has been, he has also been as equally unimpressive and will need to iron out the kinks in his game in this series if Växjö are to advance to the final stage of the playoffs.
2015-03-29 12:40:00 | Växjö Lakers HC
Växjö Lakers advances. Photo: Johan Bernström / Bildbyrån
Örebro Hockey Club have been eliminated from the 2015 playoff series by a better Växjö Lakers team, but their departure can be done with their heads held high after a strong second year in the SHL and an impressive first showing in the postseason. Örebro were always going to be a difficult opponent for Växjö to overcome in the quarter finals, but the Lakers did all that was required of them, winning the series 4-2.
Örebro were an opponent that trouble Vaxjö dramatically during their regular season series, but the Smålanders were able to put their woes behind them by putting on a strong defensive performance which advances them to the semi-finals. Växjö were able to hold Örebro to an average of just 23 shots per game displaying brave and courageous defensive play, blocking 83 shots throughout this six game series.
Even more outstanding was their capability to completely depress the offensive prowess of the 2015 point king Derek Ryan and goal scoring machine Martin Johansson. The formidable pair were unable to register a single goal between them, going missing in action during large parts of this series.
Växjö’s Head Coach Sam Hallam was happy with his team’s performance, believing that they deserved to win the quarter final due to their positive play.
- Really nice. Now we want to build and try and win the next (match series) as well, said Hallam. I think that we got poorly paid sometimes for our game in this quarter final series. We won two overtime games, that’s why we are here. We are very pleased with our game, even if there are things we need to improve.
The Växjö power play is one key aspect that will need to improve if they are going to make their first ever SHL final. Scoring just 1 goal in 15 attempts against Örebro with the extra-man is a statistic that Hallam will be deeply concerned with and will be sure to come up in the team’s preparations for their semi-final meeting.
Christopher Nilstorp is the only goaltender with 2 shut-outs in the 2015 playoffs, but his consistency during the quarter finals has been under question. As brilliant as the 31-year-old has been, he has also been as equally unimpressive and will need to iron out the kinks in his game in the next series if Växjö are to advance to the final stage of the playoffs.