SHL in English

The purpose of this blog is to give our international visitors a helping hand in and around the Swedish Hockey League. Therefore the blog is entirely written in English and aimed towards an international audience. If you wish to contact the staff, use red@shl.se!

2015-03-28 12:20:00 | Skellefteå AIK

Semi final previews, part one

Skellefteå vs Linköping

Season series: Skellefteå 3-2
Most recent result: Skellefteå 2-1 (27/02/15)

SAIK-LHC
Photo: Ola Westerberg / Bildbyrån

History tells us that this playoff series is going to be no walk over for a Skellefteå team on their quest to a third straight SM-Gold. Past playoff battles between these two heavy weights of Swedish hockey has taught us to expect a long nail biting series with little between the two sides, just as their meetings throughout this season.

Skellefteå have had plenty of time to rest and recuperate after their 4-0 whitewash of Brynäs in the quarter finals. The reigning champions have had a total of ten days wait between rounds which can sometimes have an adverse effect during a playoff campaign, although it is expected that Skellefteå’s coaching trio will be well prepared and have their team feeling spritely heading into Saturday’s game 1 clash. The Västerbotteners' powerplay was in full force against Brynäs, converting fifty percent of its opportunities, and will need that success to continue against a box-play that has had the better of it this season, scoring only 1-out-of-14 with the extra-man against Linköping.

Markus Svensson has once again started this postseason in blistering form and will need to be at his best to diffuse the barrage of offensive talent that Linköping has in its ranks. Broc Little has been in fine touch already in these playoffs, scoring 3 goals and assisting 7, and will no doubt be a menace for his opposing goaltender once again. Little’s North American compatriots, Jeff Taffe and Jacob Micflikier, had a quiet quarter final series to their standards, but it is not envisaged that they will stay dormant for too long.

To note in the Linköping power forwards versus Skellefteå goaltending battle is that first choice net-minded Svensson has only faced the White Lions once this season, with back-up Erik Hanses standing between the pipes for the other 4 games. The goaltending pairing have had the better of their opponents with a 93.75 save percentage and only allowing an average of 1.6 goals against.

Linköping will head into this series as clear underdogs and will need to scrap it out physically if they are to rattle the reigning champions. Nichlas Hardt played superbly against HV71, using his body to open up opportunities for himself and is team offensively. Hardt and fellow hard-man Daniel Rahimi will need to continue to be strong along the outskirts and give their speedy offence the possibility to capitalize on the loose puck and turn defence into offence.

Linköping’s defensive pairings will need to be dominant in front of goal, forcing a dissecting Skellefteå offence to play around the perimeter. If Janne Pesonen or Andrew Calof are able to get even a sniff inside the shooting area they will not make a mistake and Linköping will become Skellefteå’s next victim in the 2015 playoffs.

 
Jeremy Darke
English blog
red@shl.se
 

2015-03-28 12:15:00 | Linköpings HC

Hardt takes Linköping to the semi-finals

It was another historic E4 derby between Linköping and HV71 that did not disappoint, keeping the fans on the edge of their seats for six hard-fought and tense games. As many series between these two ferocious rivals it was a back-and-forth battle that was not short of physical play and emotion, which this time around worked in the favour of Linköping who overpowered the Jönköping club to take the quarter final 4-2 on matches.

Many expected Linköping would be driven by their North American signings who carried them through the season with their devastating offensive productivity, although it was an unlikely import who played the hero for the White Lions, scoring the game-winning-goals in matches 5 and 6, progressing his team to the semis.

Nichlas Hardt
Nichlas Hardt. Photo: Stefan Persson / Bildbyrån

Danish forward Nichlas Hardt proved to be the key ingredient in Linköping’s success against HV71 in this year’s playoffs, scoring 2 GWG’s plus another 2 goals which already halves his scoring tally of 8, which he scored during the entire regular season. It is not only the scoresheet where Hardt has impressed, he also proved to be a menace to his opponents by throwing his weight around, leading the league with the most playoff hits.

- I think we played awesome. I am so proud of the team, explained an ecstatic Nichlas Hardt after the series win.

- Of course it’s nice to score goals and points. Someone must score goals out there, if it is not me then it is someone else. To win is the most important.

Linköping’s ability to play playoff style hockey and grind out a result proved to be the true difference between the two the clubs. With each and every match having more swings than a moody teenager, Linköping were able to harness the momentum, when it was on their side, and turn that into a result for their club. Moving forward, Roger Melin’s men will need to embody their dexterity to ride their waves of momentum when they come up against a stronger and more dangerous opponent in the semi-finals.   

For HV71 it was a familiar story, crashing out of the playoffs in the quarter finals for the fourth straight year. Another disappointing result where expectations were left unmet after a season, which in stages, promised so much. Erik Christensen was a clear stand-out in a beaten team, scoring 5 goals, in clinical, highlight reel fashion, while shooting with fifty percent efficiency during the series.

Goaltender Gustaf Wesslau once again had an under-par playoff performance in comparison with his regular season. Going against an offence that was always going to test the 7 year veteran, Wesslau could not come up with the big performances that his needed him to provide if they were going to progress further in these playoffs.

 
Jeremy Darke
English blog
red@shl.se
 

2015-03-23 13:15:00 | Teams

Skellefteå flex muscles in series whitewash

SAIK
Skellefteå AIK clinched the semi finals. Photo: Ola Westerberg / Bildbyrån

There were no surprises in the quarter final between Skellefteå and Brynäs, the reigning champions giving the 10th place Gävle club an expected 4-0 match series hiding.

It was a typical dominant performance from Skellefteå who took command in each of their games by scoring the all-important first goal, which eventuated into unassailable leads. It was an impressive beginning to their title defence, out-classing their inferior opponents in every sense of the word.

– In the first three games our effectivity was not even close to theirs, said Brynäs coach Thomas Berglund to C More after the series loss.

– Their goalie (Markus Svensson) also did great. In the last match we were not able to muster the energy to pressure Skellefteå.

Markus Svensson has proved in 2014 that he can lead Skellefteå, from between the pipes, all the way through the playoffs and he has started the 2015 campaign in sensational form. When called upon, Svensson showed that he will be up for it once again and will be hard to beat night in and night out throughout his team’s playoff run. His 93.33 save percentage illuminates his quality against Brynäs and his striking form will be expected to be maintained throughout the postseason.

Special teams was also a large contributor in the series whitewash with both SAIK’s power play and box play in scintillating form. A 50 percent PP conversion will have Skellefteå’s unknown semi-final opponents up for hours, going through tapes of what has become a clinical man-advantage set. While the coaches are having their sleepless nights they will also be spending time trying to work out how to deconstruct the impenetrable penalty-killing unit, which only allowed one goal against after 15 possible opportunities.

Although it was a complete domination throughout this quarter-final, Brynäs were not ever in the same realm of quality as the two-time running champions. Skellefteå did what they needed to do to make sure that only 4 games were needed in this series, but there is still room for improvement. At times poor puck control let them down and forced them to rely on their goaltender to save them from any trouble, they also found it hard to shut-down a menacing Anton Rödin, who managed to score 4 goals in the quarter final.

Not a completely refined performance may give their next opponents a glimmer of hope, but with time to rest and recover and buff out any blemishes in their game you can expect a focused Skellefteå in the semi-final with one goal on their minds, a third Le Mat trophy.

 
Jeremy Darke
English blog
red@shl.se
 

2015-03-12 13:38:00 | Okategoriserat

Quarter final previews, part two

Two of the game series in the Quarter final round begin Friday night, and it's time to take a look at the four teams involved.

Växjö vs. Örebro

Season series: Örebro 4-1
Most recent result: Örebro 3-2 OT (10/02/15)

VLH-ÖHK
Photo: Alexander Viktorson / Örebro Hockey

It is the unknown that ignites the anticipation as two playoff amateurs go head-to-head in what could be the most exciting quarter-final matchup in the 2015 postseason. Växjö have only appeared in one playoffs previously, bowing out in the semi-final to Färjestad just last season, meanwhile Örebro will make their first appearance in the club’s history in 2015.

If their regular season series is anything to go by then we are set for a neck and neck battle that has the possibility to swing either way. Even though Örebro won 4-out-of-5 games between the two teams during the season only one match was won by a margin larger than 1 goal, while both teams manage to turn a 0-2 score line into a victory.

Växjö to progress: Växjö have shown enough class season long to nullify any critics that their poor record against Örebro is enough for them to stumble on the first step of the 2015 playoffs, but they will have to show loads of improvement against their season bogey.

Goal production is the obvious area were improvement is needed for the Lakers, after only scoring 11 goals in the 5 meetings this year. A large contribution to the poor goal scoring form has been their inability to convert with the extra-man against Örebro, with a horrific 8.33 percent success rate off 12 opportunities. If they are to progress they must find a way to put the puck past goaltender Julius Hudacek and into the back of the net.

Örebro to progress: 2014/15 Point King Derek Ryan has found a liking to playing Växjö, scoring 3G+4A against the Lakers in their 5 games this year, but late season bloomer Marko Anttila could be the key to Örebro’s success. Anttila has come alive since joining the top-line late in the season but has always caused trouble against Växjö this year, scoring 4g+1a in 4 games, 2 of those goals in their last meeting in February including the OT winner.

Julius Hudacek has had a 92.79 save percentage against Växjö this season and will need to continue his good form if Örebro are to progress to the semi-finals.

Linköping vs. HV71

Season series: Linköping 4-1
Most recent result: Linköping 4-2 (21/02/15)

HV71-LHC
Photo: Stefan Persson / Bildbyrån

No matter what part of the country you live in you can appreciate and enjoy the excitement of the E4 playoff derby between Linköping and HV71. Rivalry is what takes playoff hockey to the next level and with no love lost between these two clubs it is sure to be feisty battle up and down the motorway. Linköping have certainly had one over HV in their season series, but don’t let the 4-1 scorline fool you.

In 3-of-4 LHC victories  they have trailed or the score has been tied heading into the 3rd period, when HV71 have forgotten that they were in an arena playing hockey, allowing their rivals a 2-9 scoring differential. While in HV71’s one win this season they also game back from a 3-4 deficit after two periods to take the game 6-4. 

Linköping to progress: Slow starts will need to be taken off the agenda in Linköping as they cannot expect HV71 to let them back into games in the third period during the postseason. A key to their season dominance over HV was the efficiency of their power play which converted at a 26% success rate.

If their power play or top two scoring lines can get off the mark early and rattle opposing goaltender Wesslau, then this playoff series could mirror the one had over the regular season. David Rautio (95,33SA%, 0,97GAA against HV71) will need to continue his strong performances against HV, which has given his team the opportunity to come back late in their victories this season.

HV71 to progress: It is now Gustaf Wesslau’s time to shine in Jönköping and may be the last time he gets a chance to prove himself as a playoff goaltender in Jönköping, the 30-year-old going off contract at the season’s end. His record has been far from great against Linköping this season (88,66SA%, 3.26GAA) but has the opportunity in the postseason to redeem himself and silence his critics.

It will not only be Wesslau that will need to be on guard, but also the defence that will need to be on top of their game if they are to progress. With the likes of Taffe, Little and McFlikier causing as much mischief as they have all season long, it is going to take a special effort from the HV blue-line to contain them, down low and in front of their own net.

 
Jeremy Darke
English blog
red@shl.se
 

2015-03-11 15:38:00 | Okategoriserat

Quarter final previews, part one

The regular season of SHL has ended and it's time to take a closer look at the first two quarter finals, starting Thursday night.

Frölunda vs. Luleå

Season series: Frölunda 3-2
Most recent result: Luleå 3-0 (05/03/15)

LHF-FHC
Photo: Peter Skaugvold / Bildbyrån

Statistically there is no closer series in the 2015 playoffs than the match-up between Frölunda and Luleå, and it can be expected that this will directly translate out on to the ice during this best-of-seven-series. Throughout the year Frölunda have merely squeaked by Luleå, winning 3-of-5-games, including 1 win in OT and one in a shoot-out.

Over the course of the 5 games Frölunda outscored their northern opponents by 9-8 after being outshot 112-115. Both teams box-play have been outstanding in their series, holding their opponents to 5 percent effectivity.

Frölunda to progress: Unnecessary and untimely penalties have been the bane of Coach Roger Rönnberg’s existence this season, which have constantly killed any forward momentum that his team has been able to capture and has ultimately lost them games. If they can stay disciplined and the likes of Mathis Olimb and Andreas Johnson build some confidence early in the series the Indians will be hard to beat.

The fans in Gothenburg will also certainly play their role in possible victory by creating the daunting atmosphere that has not allowed Luleå to take a win in Scandinavium this season.

Luleå to progress: It has not been the best year for Luleå this season, only qualifying for the playoffs through a 2-0 in matches win over Djurgården in the play-in qualification. But now they have arrived in the final eight, it would be foolish to count them out in the quest for the Le Mat Trophy. Goal scoring has let LHF down all season, scoring an average of only 2.3 goals per game, and will need to improve if they are to progress.

One of the most eagerly anticipated performances of the playoffs will be that of goaltender Joel Lassinantti, who will cap off an incredible rookie season with a chance to lead his team through the playoffs.

Lassinantti has impressed all year long during his first season in the SHL and heads into the quarter-final coming off a strong postseason debut, allowing only 1 goal in his team’s two play-in victories. If Luleå are to progress, Lassinantti will need to continue his phenomenal form through the entire quarter-final series.

Skellefteå vs. Brynäs

Season series: Skellefteå 5-0
Most recent result: Skellefteå 5-4SO (10/02/15)

SAIK-BIF
Photo: Ola Westerberg / Bildbyrån

It wasn’t so long ago that Brynäs were involved in discussion about the Qualification Series, but now, after a 2-1 in matches win against Färjestad in the play-in, are now in the conversation of taking on reigning champions Skellefteå in the quarter-finals.

If the whole season was an uphill battle for the Gävle club, then they have just hit base-camp at the bottom of Everest. Skellefteå have had the complete ascendency over Brynäs this season and it will be a big ask for Thomas Berglund’s men to produce another miracle.

Skellefteå to progress: The new-look Skellefteå have already ticked the box of SHL regular season winners and will be looking to continue to prove their point by becoming SHL Champions. It will be business as usual as they head into this quarter-final battle against their familiar playoff foe.

SAIK have had time to rest and recoup their energy and focus everything they have on winning a third SM-Final in consecutive years. Saying that, they must not look too far ahead. They must perpetuate what they have done all season long and exhibit the depth offensively and defensively that has them heading into the playoffs as short-priced favourites.

Brynäs to progress: Brynäs have impressed, fighting their way back from a disastrous season to now making an unlikely playoff berth, but the fighting cannot stop, a sense of satisfaction cannot be tasted yet. First-liners Bill Sweat, Greg Scott and Anton Rödin have doubled the productivity of any other player in Gävle this season and if there is any glimmer of hope for Brynäs this series, it will ride on the backs of these three men.

Defensively, Brynäs has definitely struggled this year and a miraculous turn-around needs to take place if they are to be any chance of progression. Goaltender Bernhard Starkbaum has faced more shots than any other goalie in the SHL this season and has been a shining star in net and will now have to be a superstar if Brynäs are to get even a sniff of a semi-final spot.

 
Jeremy Darke
English blog
red@shl.se
 

2015-03-03 15:00:00 | Okategoriserat

Playoff picture takes shape

It has been a a very revealing week that has told the fortune of many clubs, the future looks glum for some but has glistened for others as the playoff picture in the crystal ball begins to come clear.

Facing many serious question marks at the beginning of the season, after the mass-departure of key players, reigning champions Skellefteå AIK answered those questions with exclamations all year round. It has been another machinelike performance that has won the men from the north another SHL regular season title for the third year running, after their 6-2 victory against Leksand assure that they will finish the season with the best record in the league.

It is impossible to breakdown and pinpoint any one specific aspect of Skellefteå's game that has once again marked them as the hot favorite for SM-Gold, and there are not enough fingers or toes to count how many ways they impress above the rest in the competition. It has been once again their all-round ability to make every cog turn in cohesion all season long that is based around a winning culture driven at the helm by the coaches and leaders of the club.

The success of GM Lars Johansson's off-season signings replaced all that was lost from the club after their title defence in 2014, while coaches Hans Wallson, Bert Robertsson and Stefan Klockare maintained and managed the standard of the on-ice performance like there was never a reshuffle of personnel within the team.

The mid-season signing of Janne Pesonen has proven to be vital to the end of season success for the SHL Champions. The Finn has been in scintillating goal scoring form since settling in to the club, adding 3 goals to his tally this week, making it 15 goals in just 18 games, just one goal behind team-topper Andrew Calof, who has played 51 games.

Leksand and MODO to Direct Qualification

From one end of the table to the other, Leksand IF and MODO Hockey are guaranteed to be fighting for an 2015-16 SHL contract in the reformatted Direct Qualifying Series (DirektKval). Both clubs showed moments of brilliance throughout the year, but they were only just moments, as consistency proved to be the biggest challenge and an unachievable task. Although the format is different in 2015, it is a familiar challenge for Leksand to be fighting for a place in Sweden's top league, finding themselves in a qualifying series for the eleventh time in the last twelve seasons. For MODO it will be the first time since 2011 they will need to save the pride of Örnsköldsvik from elimination from top-flight hockey and only the second time in the club's history. 

Securing their places above the direct qualification line, assuring their spot in the SHL next season, was Brynäs and Djurgården. Both teams flirted with danger in spurts this season but now live to fight another day (or year) in the SHL and even get a shot at the playoffs through the play-in series. Luleå HF will also join in in the play-in fun but the final place is the only position not assured in the playoff picture for 2015. Färjestad look the most likely candidate, needing a small miracle to take the final direct playoff spots from the grasp of HV71 and Örebro HK.

Point king down to wire

The race for the individual honor of 'Point King' brings plenty of excitement to the final two rounds of the regular season with late-season bloomer Derek Ryan taking over the top rung on the table this week from fellow North American Jeff Taffe. Taffe has lead the league in point proficiency for what seems like the entire season, but now risks being pipped at the post by compatriot Ryan. Örebro's Ryan leads the league with 43 assists and with his 1g+1a against Skellefteå on Saturday, now has a one point lead heading into the final week of the season.

By Thursday night all will become crystal clear and the process of expansion to a 14 team league will begin, not to mention a thrilling post-season.

 
Jeremy Darke
English Blog
red@shl.se
 

2015-02-24 12:40:00 | Weekly reviews

Momentum building towards playoffs

There are just five rounds of hockey before the play-in and playoffs are upon the league and it is evident that all teams are jostling for vital position, thrusting themselves as high up in the pecking order as they can before the regular season concludes.

If it wasn't apparent earlier in the year, it is as clear as day now, that the Växjö Lakers have their eyes set on SM Gold in 2015. There is no hotter team at the moment in Sweden than the men from Småland, who are riding a wave that is gaining in stature with each and every drop of the puck. It has been over 11 games since Växjö walked away from an ice-rink point-less, losing only once in that timeframe in overtime. It has been a phenomenal 28 point stretch that has taken the Lakers to second in the standings which now puts them in an ideal position for an all important home final. 

It has been a magnificent offensive display over the last seven weeks by Växjö, lead by 2011/12 leading point scorer Robert Rosén, who has posted some prolific numbers in his team's charge, reminding the fans just how good he really is, after a some-what quite 2012-13 campaign. Rosén has scored 10 goals and 3 assists in the 11 game run, highlighting his flourishing connection with Canadian Nick Johnson which has blossomed all season long. Johnson contribution has also been significant (6 goals + 5 assists) along with fellow North American Cory Murphy (9 goals + 1 assist) throughout the point streak, illuminating the current depth that is within their squad. Also adding more American firepower to the lineup since January has been Josh Hennessy. The playmaking center has fit into the Växjö system with ease, finding his feet with 4 goals and 6 assists in just 15 games.

Örebro continue to gain respect

This season's surprise packet has undoubtably been Örebro HK, and after turning some heads during the course of the year, are now making a remarkable push as a true contender for the Le Mat Trophy. Last seasons newcomers have been on a run of their own in recent times, winning 8 of their last 10, and look set to make their first playoff birth in the club's fairy-tale history. It has been Örebro's first-liners, Derek Ryan (4G, 15P), Martin Johansson (4G, 11P) and most recently, Finn Marko Antilla (6G, 7P), who has taken the place of inured Daniel Viksten, that have lead from the front during the past 10 games. With the first line producing, as a scoring line should, it has been an all-round team effort that has taken the scalps of all of the other current top-six teams, excluding league leaders Skellefteå, during their most recent meetings, creating a real sense of hope in castle town.


Foto: Johan Bernström / BILDBYRÅN /

It has not only been Örebro's on-ice performance that has gained the respect of the hockey community this week, but their public display of support for Sweden's Pride Festival. The club left their usual red and black jerseys in the change room, when they took on Frölunda on Saturday, in exchange for a symbolic multi-colored strip that represents the gay community, on their day of celebration. But that was not all, after the win the Huda-Show took center stage again, led by fearless leader Julius Hudacek, a six man contingent performed a rendition of 'YMCA' for the home fans.

Deep in the mid-table battle, Linköping, went undefeated this past week, building their confidence heading into the pointy end of the year with a four-game winning streak. With Jeff Taffe leading the point scorers this season and tallying 9 assists in his last 8 games, and current highest goal scorer Broc Little scoring 7 goals in just as many games, it is no surprise that Linköping are making their claim as one to watch out for heading into SM-Slutpel 2015. 

Favorites falter 

Adding to the excitement and uncertainty of the lead up to the playoffs was the uncharacteristic performances of both pre-season favourites Skellefteå and Frölunda. Sitting first and second to begin the week, both top of the table teams hit a stumbling block, losing 2-of-3 games this week, proving that they are not immortal and can beat. Although, Skellefteå did bounce back in their third match of the week against Djurgården to be the first team to reach the coveted 100 point mark with a 5-2 victory. 

And on a positive note for Frölunda, late-season signing Ryan Lasch continued his astonishing return to the SHL with the Indians. It has been a dream two week induction for the fast-flying American, who has already won the hearts of his new fans in Göteborg. Lasch had the crowd cheering his name after being on the ice in Scandinavium for just 30 minutes, wasting no time scoring his first goal for the club. He has then gone from strength to strength since that moment, scoring 3 goals and 6 assists in his 7 games for Frölunda after making the move from Finland. Although it was a rocky week, it would be a bold move to count out Lasch and his Frölunda teammates in the final spurt towards the playoffs.

 
Jeremy Darke
English blog
red@shl.se
 

2015-02-11 12:05:00 | Weekly reviews

Big announcements in SHL

CHL Champions
CHL Champions Luleå Hockey. Photo: Carl Sandin / Bildbyrån

It has been a quiet week on the ice with almost all teams getting a week off for a little rest and recovery during an international competition break. It also gave them a chance to watch the Champions Hockey League final which saw Frölunda HC take on Luleå HF in the inaugural competition, and it was the men from the north that became champions with an amazing third period comeback victory, beating their SHL counterparts 4-2.

There has been plenty of important housekeeping going on around the SHL this week with the announcement of the official SHL Awards 2015 that will be held on the 27th of April 2015. The awards will be broadcast live on C More and will showcase all of the high-profile personalities of the league and will award all of the year's top performers and stars.

The winners will be chosen by a jury of the league's twelve head-coaches and captains as well as twenty-four carefully selected ice-hockey profiles and journalists from both national and local media.

– It is time to recognize the amazing achievements as a player and leader for an official award of the SHL. We have now found a good format and the opportunity to do it together with C More, something I'm excited about, says SHL's CEO Jörgen Lindgren.

SHL Awards 2015

The evening will be highlighted by the following awards:

  • Best goalkeeper
  • Best defenseman
  • Best forward
  • Best coach
  • Best rookie
  • Most Valuable Player

To qualify for the year's best rookie a new criteria will now have to be met compared to previous years.

- To qualify a player cannot turn any older than 25-years-old the year in which the season begins.

- The player cannot have played more than 30 games in any top-tier professional league.

- Players can only be nominated as rookie of the year once.

- Winner's junior development club receives 50 000kr.

The presentation will also congratulate the year's:

  • Regular season winner
  • Swedish champion
  • Highest point scorer
  • Highest goal scorer
  • Best save-percentage goaltender
  • C More's Fan favorite
  • Best Referee (voted by the SHL players)
  • Best Goal
  • Best Save

It is a jam-packed agenda for the SHL Awards 2015 and it is set to be an unforgettable evening to cap off what has been a fantastic season so far.

It was also announced early last week that the schedule for the 2015/16 season will be reduced from 55 to 52 games in the regular season, containing 14 teams. The season will also entail the spectacle of back-to-back games, where two clubs will play at each other's home arena in two consecutive days.

 
Jeremy Darke
English blog
red@shl.se
 

2015-02-05 13:53:00 | Weekly reviews

New faces and two long awaited wins

Ryan Lasch
Ryan Lasch, returning to SHL. Photo: Bildbyrån

It has been a frantic week in the office as the trade deadline was reached with many teams dipping their stick in the trade circle to bolster their chances in the playoffs, or utilizing a last-minute opportunity to bring in reinforcements and give a glimmer of hope for surviving in the SHL next season.

There were no less than ten players who made a move into the league or into new colors in the final week before the trade deadline, many of the new recruits making a move over the Baltic Sea from Finnish league SM-Liiga. Club HC TPS released three of their stars to the SHL, centre Tero Koskiranta will bolster the resurgence in Färjestad, while Djurgården picked up Canadian offensive-defenseman Simon Gysbers.

The headline move from TPS was most certainly the return of former Växjö Lakers winger Ryan Lasch to the SHL, although this time the speedy, 28-year-old, will suite up for Frölunda. Lasch had stepped up his scoring prowess in Finland this season, matching last season's points tally of 36 (12+24) already this year, and will no doubt bring more fire-power to Frölunda's forward-line in their push for SM-Gold.

Also returning to the SHL after 3 years in North America playing for the Nashville Predators organization is Patrick Cehlin. The 23-year-old Swede has faced the grueling task of coming back from a hip operation earlier this season and has returned to help in the fight to keep Leksand in the SHL in 2016. Cehlin spent the last 2 seasons playing for AHL club the Milwaukee Admirals, but was unable to make his mark and earn an NHL debut.

On the ice it has been Växjö who have begun to push their way into title contention talks, going 9-wins-from-11 in an impressive run that has turned heads around the league. There were high expectations on the Smålanders heading into this season and now they have begun to prove their worth and move into second place in the standings with a hard-fought 3-2 win of league leaders Skellefteå, and also a 6-1 dubbing of Leksand this week.

With 11 games left in the regular season the Lakers are proving that they now have the perfect balance within their squad, and have cohesion that gives them a well-rounded offense that does not rely on any one individual with the likes of Rosén, Johnson, Murphy and Reddox all pitching in resulting in an unpredictable attack.

MODO and Brynäs break drought

In an unexpected move by new coach Per-Erik Johnsson, tough-guy Donald Brashear spent this last week on MODO Hockey's second line, after getting no more than a few shifts in his previous ten games for the club. The move has paid dividends in Örnsköldsvik, with the team taking their first 3 point win since the 29th of November.

Donald Brashear
Donald Brashear in action. Photo: Jonas Forsberg / Bildbyrån

Brashear surprisingly played 9.38 minutes in Modo's 0-1 loss to Örebro on Thursday, then backed it up with 7.46 minutes in their 5-3 win against Linköping on Saturday. The increased involvement of the enforcer may or may not be the catalyst to an improved performances of MODO, but it has assured his fans that after much speculation and criticism it appears that he is here to stay.

This week also marked the first win for new head coach Thomas "Bulan" Berglund in Brynäs, the Gävle team scored late to take a 4-2 win against Frölunda and give their coach his first win of his new reign.

Bulan had been under some severe pressure from his critics after only taking one point in his first 4 games in-charge and dropping below the qualification series line. But now After getting the monkey off his back Berglund can only look forward in hope of holding the 2012 Swedish Champions in the SHL next season by avoiding the expanded qualification series.

 
Jeremy Darke
English blog
red@shl.se
 

2015-01-28 15:17:00 | Okategoriserat

Regulations, remarkable streak and relief


Foto: Johan Bernström / BILDBYRÅN

The SHL and Swedish Ice-Hockey Federation agreed on Friday what requirements will be needed for a club to participate in Sweden's highest league, the SHL. The Swedish Ice-Hockey Federation along with the SHL have spent many hours working together to devise a plan and a standard that will lift the level of hockey in Sweden both on and off the ice. Both parties have agreed that it is vital that specific needs have to be met if a club wants and is allowed to compete in Swedish Hockey League.

The first requirement is that a club's economy must be in order,which will be regulated by a minimum entry of 4 million crowns worth of equity within the club. If a club cannot visibly show that they have 4 million crowns of visible equity by their inclusion into the 2015/16 season they will enter a so-called control-year. A control-year will allow them until the the beginning of the 2016/17 season to visibly show they have the required amount of equity to satisfy the needs of the league.

Secondly, any club that participates in the Swedish Hockey League must have an arena that has a minimum capacity of 5000, in which at least 3500 are seated places. This is to ensure that all teams have a modern arena that can create sufficient revenue for the club.

- The agreement between SHL and SIF will allow SHL to continue the development of the league and with the Federation take responsibility for strengthening Swedish ice-hockey, which is enormously gratifying, said Jörgen Lindgren, CEO of SHL.

On the ice, the talking point around the league after their 3-2 win over second place Frölunda has been Växjö, but more specifically the clinical, offensive danger of their box-play. During their win on Saturday, Växjö did not take advantage of  any of their 3 powerplay opportunities, but had a goal scoring success rate of 30 percent whilst short-handed, scoring 2 goals. That box-play double took their season total of short-handed goals to 12, just one short of the most short-handed goals in a season this millennium. If it is put into perspective for a moment, that is just 3 goals less than both MODO Hockey and Luleå HF have scored on the powerplay all season, and is also just one goal shy of the the rest of the league's 4-man tally combined.

Johansson makes history

Örebro HK's Martin Johansson set an impressive goalstreak, scoring a goal in 8 consecutive games. The 27-year-old has developed into a goal scoring asset since his move from Brynäs to Örebro two years ago and has found a home along side Daniel Viksten and Derek Ryan.

- The bounce is with me right now and it does that when you play with such good players like I do, said Johansson to C More.

The trio have clearly been the stand-out for Örebro this season, with all three line-mates at the top of the club's internal points standings. While, Johansson sits second in the entire league for goal scoring, just one goal behind Linköping's Broc Little, American Derek Ryan has ridden his line's recent success to make him the number one chaser to Jeff Taffe in the SHL's point standings. It is on the back of this chemistry that Örebro are beginning to cement their place in Sweden's top league and look set to make their first playoff birth in the club's history.

Kahnberg's wait is over

It has been assured that the Champions Hockey League will have an all Swedish final in its inaugural  season, making another clear statement in Europe about the strength of the SHL, as Frölunda and Luleå will face off on 3 February to be crowd the champions of Europe. It just so happened that the two clubs were scheduled to meet each other in their first game back in the SHL after progressing to the CHL final, where Frölunda stamped their authority in a confidence building 4-1 win. The win was highlighted by the return to the goal scorers list for Frölunda great Magnus Kahnberg, who broke his season duck with the final goal of the game at the end of the second period. Kahnberg has been troubled this season with injury and has been unable to find his usually reliable touch to hit the back of the net this season, but was now more ecstatic than ever to notch his first goal in 21 games. A long wait for Frölunda's 2013/14 highest goal scorer.

- Right now it is the sweetest goal I have ever scored. It's nice to crack the zero, an excited Kahnberg told SHL.se. I've waited a long time for this.

 
Jeremy Darke
English Blogger
red@shl.se
 

2015-01-22 09:35:00 | Weekly reviews

Trades leaving their mark in final spurt

It has been an interesting week in the SHL this week, but not so much for what happened on the ice, but more so for what has been going on off it. Team managers have certainly began to embrace the league's silly season period with trades occurring left, right and centre, as no one's job can feel safe for those who might be struggling to perform.

There is no better place to start than at the bottom where MODO Hockey has began to make their move in a last ditch effort to rectify there season. On Thursday, against Djurgården, Finnish veteran Juha-Pekka Haataja is set to make his debut for the club. The 32 year old, brings experience to the club that General Manager Per Svartvadet hopes will give a lackluster MODO offense the energy kick they need to lift themselves off the bottom of the table.

- We are in the final stages of the season and hope that newly signed Juha-Pekka Haataja provides an energy boost for the whole team, as he is an experienced player who can can produce in the offensive play, explains Svartvadet to the club's homepage.

Leksand IF have scooped up on the release of Mattias Guter from Djurgården, the Dalarna club finally finding a replacement for Eric Himelfarb, who was released from the club for the second time this season, early this month. Guter will be looking to add to the offensive momentum that Leksand have mustered up this week after they took a much needed 6 points, that bring them now level with Brynäs in the standings, with only point differential keeping them below cut-off line.

Out with the old and in with old in Gävle

Brynäs IF find themselves gasping for air and flirting with danger as their season has begun to sink further and further out of their grasp. In a last ditch effort to save their season, for a team that thrives on results, a coaching change has taken place that ends the involvement of a seven year tenure for Tommy Jonsson at the club. The end of era now brings forth Thomas "Bulan" Berglund who will take over the head coaching position. Bulan was a long serving servant at Luleå HF, where he spent 17 years as a player, 3 season as head coach of the clubs J-20's and also spent 3 seasons as assistant coach of the A-team behind Jonas Rönnkvist.

Berglund will bring with him counter-part Petter Nilsson as his assistant, who has played and coached with Bulan throughout his own career.

On a positive note for the people of Gävle, fan favorite Johan Holmqvist will return to Brynäs to strengthen the goaltending group at the club. Holmqvist was let go at the end of last season but has now been brought back to give support to Bernhard Starkbaum, who has been one of the only shinning lights for the club in what has become a tough season. Starkbaum will remain as the number-one in the net, but be sure, the crowd in Gävle will not have to wait long to see their beloved 'Honken' back in action.

In the foot steps of fellow star junior William Nylander, Swiss born, Kevin Fiala will leave HV71 and the SHL after being assigned to the Milwaukee Admirals by the Nashville Predators for the rest of the 2014-15 season. Fiala, who is just at the bright age of 18, has posted 14 points (5G+9A) in 20 games this season for HV71, and after showing his class in the recent World Junior Championships, Nashville have decided that Fiala's development as an NHL-ready player requires him to make the move and become accustomed to North American Hockey, in a comparison to the way the NHL rookie-of-the-year favorite Filip Forsberg did just a couple of years ago.

League wide-open

With all of the trades this week and many more expected over the next 10 days the league is more wide-open than ever. There are still 18 rounds to play, which leaves 54 points up for grabs for each team, and considering there is only 11 points between 2nd and 9th and a only a further 7 points to the Kvalserien line, anything can happen, and most probably will, in the remainder of an exciting and tense 2014-15 season.

 
Jeremy Darke
English Blogger
red@shl.se
 

2015-01-15 12:40:00 | Weekly reviews

SHL heads to final third of season

The holiday season has gone by in a flash but the action hasn't stopped in around the league providing us with just as much news to stuff our faces with as Christmas ham and candy.

Two-thirds of the season has now been played and one thing has stayed consistent throughout the 37 games played, that is the class of SAIK. Skellefteå AIK have barely missed a beat during 2014-15, continuously proving why they are the benchmark in the league and have been for the past two years. Even with an injury to Russian scoring machine Kirill Kabanov the defending champions have continued their next-to-flawless run which has seen them sit at the top of the SHL for most of the year.

It doesn't look like there will be any slowing down for the heavy favorites for the Le Mat Trophy as injured, Danish born, Nick Sörensen is set to make his season debut for Skellefteå alongside the return of Kabanov. To make matters worse for their opposition, SAIK have also acquired the services of Finnish left-winger Janne Pesonen from AK Bars Kazan in the KHL. Pesonen has made an instant impact in his first three games for the club scoring 4 goals and 1 assist.

Janne Pesonen
Janne Pesonen, new in Skellefteå AIK. Photo: Ola Westerberg / Bildbyrån

Roster changes ahead as deadline draws near

With the trade-deadline set at the 31st of January, it is not only Skellefteå who have been taking advantage of a mini KHL clean out and snapping up Swedish stars who didn't quite reach their peak in North America in 2014. Two of the more high-profile transfers that have taken place are the return of homegrown hero Mattias Bäckman to Linköping HC, after he failed to make an impact for Detroit Redwings farm team the Grand Rapid Griffins. Also Jeff Tambellini returns to the SHL, although this time the Canadian will test his luck with the Växjö Lakers after a mediocre season with MODO Hockey in 2013-14.

It is no secret that Frölunda HC have had a small slide from grace over the Christmas period after earlier being the only team that has managed to put any pressure on Skellefteå at the top of the table throughout the season. The Gothenburgians have slipped from second to fifth over the last month and have been heavily rumored to be on the look out to snap up some new talent of their own before the trade-deadline closes. A mid-season collapse has struck the club, losing 9-of-their last-11 games.

MODO Hockey to fight for survival

The problems in Gothenburg are incomparable to the turmoil that is taking place on the east coast in Örnsköldsvik. MODO Hockey will spend the rest of their season fighting for survival to stay in Sweden's premier division after falling apart in a big way over recent times, only managing to take a win once since the 22nd of November which has resulted in some dramatic changes at the club.

In early January coach Anders Forsberg, who was sacked as Skellefteå head-coach previously, was stood down from his position in-charge and replaced by Per-Erik Johnsson at the helm of club. Johnsson made the move from Färjestad where he was coaching the club's U16's, although brings 9 years of SHL coaching experience with him.

William Nylander
William Nylander in action. Photo: Peter Skaugvold / Bildbyrån

To put even more pressure on the situation, it was announced this week that superstar William Nylander will not be with the club for the rest of the year after being summoned to Toronto to play for the Maple Leafs farm team the Marlies. Nylander's departure leaves a substantial hole in what was already a struggling MODO offense which leaves the presumption that if the club is any hope of staying in the SHL next season, they too will have eagle eyes on the transfer market over the next two weeks.

Exciting changes to OT

Also to note, as of December 26 2014, the SHL introduced the rule change of 3-on-3 play during the 5 minute overtime period. The rule change was introduced in hope that more matches will be decided during the overtime period without the need of a penalty shoot-out.

– Changes will be evaluated after the current season of SHL and our hope is that more games will be decided in overtime because of the more open space and a greater chance of a scoring opportunity and goal, said SHL Sports Director Johan Hemlin.

Here are the key specifics to the overtime changes:

- The change means that if there is a draw after 60 minutes an overtime period of 5 minutes will be played with three skaters and a goalie on each team.

- If a player is sent off during overtime it will become four against three. When the penalised player comes onto the ice, play will resume as four against four until the next whistle, when it will return to three against three.

- If two players of the same team are penalised, a five against three power play will be enforced.

- If play is five against four, after regular time, the overtime period will begin as four against three.

 
Jeremy Darke
English blog
red@shl.se
 

2014-11-24 10:16:00 | Weekly reviews

Leksand and Färjestad on verge of breakthrough

Photo: Simon Hastegård / Bildbyrån

If change is as good as a holiday than a holiday must bring forth change. Well in any case, it has definitely work out that way for the two cellar dwellers after their short break for the Karjala Cup.

Maybe a little bit of the Swedish success from the Karjala Cup was left in the change rooms in Dalarna and rubbed off on Leksand If players, or perhaps a little break from the unconstructive attention that has been floating around since the beginning of the season was just what the doctor ordered. No matter what the catalyst, it now appears that Leksand IF's season has done a complete u-turn and is now heading in the right direction.

Since the timely break Leksand have mustered together 3 wins and 10 points from the last five games to put them within striking distance of the rest of league, for, well, pretty much the first time this season.

Ryno in hot form

It has been a courageous effort to finally be on the verge of breaking free from the dramatic crisis that has been the club's season so far. Ironically it has been the man that has been under the most fire from the club that has stepped up to lead his team into greener times, none other than captain, Johan Ryno.

Ryno has been carrying the pressure of the awful start heavily on his shoulders, but has proven to all his critics that he is the right man to lead his men out of the hole that they have dug. Since the break, Ryno not only netted his first goal of the year, he has added another 5 more to his season tally and has scored 8 points in the past 5 games.

Although, his early defensive woes have not been completely consolidated, he has shown that his offensive prowess is what will bring points to Dalarna. His recent splurge of goals have even now made him the second highest scoring Swede in the league this season, just 1 point behind Brynäs's Anton Rödin, who has 18.

Pogge the new go-to guy in Karlstad

Things are also looking up for Färjestad BK after the international break, the Karlstad club also racking up 10 points in the last 5 matches, which has leapt them out of the danger, for the time being, anyway.

For Färjestad it has been the influence of last season's head coach Leif Carlsson who has made the difference in Karlstad, the current general manager has moved from the office to the bench where he is playing a guidance role as assistant coach, whilst maintaining his normal GM duties.

Carlsson has been brought down to the bench to advise new head coach Tommy Samuelsson on what worked for him last season,when Färjestad BK were in a similar situation, and be another voice to the team.

– I have been a piece of the puzzle in it all, explains Leif Carlsson. I support Tommy (Samuelsson) and give him some angles that can be good for him and the team. It is him that makes the decisions, but we know each other so well that we can pretty much say anything to one another without it being a problem.

– I am working both jobs and will stay on the bench for the rest of the season.

Credit also needs to be given to the outstanding play of back-up goaltender Justin Pogge. The Canadian, who had a successful year with BIK Karlskoga last season, certainly hadn't turned any heads in his cameo appearances before the Karjala break, when he had been given the start in front of Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel. Since then though, he has popped up as the preferred starter and has impressed with a save percentage of 95.08 and has two shutouts in his four games since the week off. Besides a first period meltdown most recently against Brynäs, Pogge has been close to flawless and may just take the mantle as Färjestad's number one for the rest of the season.


Photo: Jonas Forsberg / Bildbyrån

Target practice in Örnsköldsvik

If there was trophy given to the player with the toughest job in the SHL, it would hands-down, no questions asked, be awarded to MODO Hockey's goalie Linus Ullmark. It would be very surprising to hear if a goaltender in the SHL has ever faced more shots over a three-game period than what Ullmark stood in front of this past week.

MODO are currently in a vicious downward spiral and it doesn't take any analytical ability to pinpoint the obvious cause of their destruction. If a team can allow over 50 shots in each of their last three games and a further 54 total wide or blocked shot attempts at their own goaltender you are going to have some severe problems.

They are lucky that their superstar netminder and last year's Goaltender of the Year has awoken from his early season sleep and has thrived in the tough conditions. Ullmark has put his early season issues behind him and put up 94.8 save percentage after facing a total of 153 shots during the last three games, and even recorded a shutout against Linköping, where he face a barrage of 50 shots on goal.

 
Jeremy Darke
English blog
red@shl.se
 

2014-11-10 09:22:00 | Weekly reviews

SHL 2014/2015 – Surprises so far


Photo: Anna-Lena Bergqvist / Bildbyrån

Almost a third of the season is behind us and already we have been surprised and intrigued by how the league has played out so far. With that in mind, here are the most notable happenings, in no particular order, from around the SHL that have raised an eyebrow or two.

Fortune of finalist

Leading up to the season, one of the biggest concerns was how Skellefteå AIK were going to survive after the loss of many key players that have made the core of the SAIK dynasty over the past half a decade. It is apparent now that these apprehensions in the stratosphere didn't quite make it all the way up to Norrland as Skellefteå's winning culture has stood firm.

It has been a case of 'out with the old and in with the new' to keep business running as-per-usual in Skellefteå. New signings Andrew Calof, Kirill Kabanov and Pär Lindholm have replaced the irreplaceable and have kept the momentum of the era alive in the north.

The domination over their opponents may not be at the same level as it has been in the past, but the aura of the reigning champions is living on. Their systematic method of play has continued to be dangerous for their opposition and has allowed their scorers to light the lamp 55 times (tied 1st in SHL), so far this season.

Photo: Peter Skaugvold / Bildbyrån

On the other hand there is Färjestad BK, who currently sit below the Direct Qualification line in eleventh place. It has been somewhat of common ground for the Karlstad club in recent times to start the season poorly, but it does not make in any more unexpected time and time again.

It is simply a case of underperformance that has struck FBK to start the 2014-15 season, and it feels that it is only a matter of time before the fire will light behind them and they will take off towards the top. But the fact of the matter is, it hasn't yet, and the dwelling thought is always there that they might just fizzle out this time.

Discipline has been an enormous contributing factor to horrendous start to their season, topping the league with 266 penalty minutes including 4 five minute majors and 4 game misconduct penalties.

The other detail is goaltending. It is hard to win hockey games when your goaltender is under-performing and that is putting it nicely in the the case of Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel. FPW has not found any kind of form this season and is currently ranked a lowly 13th in the league with an 89.97 save percentage and 10th in the SHL with a 2.72 GAA. To make matters worse, back-up net minder Justin Pogge has not been able to do any better during his time between the pipes, putting Färjestad in a goaltending pickle when looking forward to the rest of the year.

Imports dominating individual stats

At the end of last season there were just two Non-Swedish players in the top 10 in point scoring. After 18 games in 2014, the stats have been flipped on their head with only one Sweden born player making the same list. 

HV71's Ted Brithèn is the ninth best point productive player in the the league, but is the highest ranked Swedish scorer. The eight men in front of him are all import players from USA, Canada, Finland or Norway and of those eight, six of them are playing in the SHL for the first time this season.


Photo: Peter Holgersson / Bildbryån

Considering that stat, it is clear as day that the international scouting in the SHL has begun to improve and clubs are beginning to find players that will fit the style of game that is played in Sweden, pinpointing the skills and attributes of a player to fit their team and the way the game is played in the SHL.

The production of Linköping trio Jacob Mickflikier, Jeff Taffe and Broc Little has been a unexpected highlight of the year to date, even though the anticipation of their performance was high to begin the year.

The expectation was high for the three North Americans, but in reality there were very few that truly believed that Mickflikier, Taffe and Little would live up to their expectancy in Linköping, but it is clear that the trio will be worth their weight in gold if their form can continue for another 30 or so games.

Örebro Hockey cement spot in SHL

It is a real fairy tale story unfolding each day in Örebro, as the little guy of Swedish hockey begins to grow into a brutal force to cement their place in the country's top league.


Photo: Johan Bernström / Bildbyrån

Watching the Örebro HK of today, it is hard to believe that just six years ago they were playing tier 3 hockey. The transformation in such a short time has now seen them take on and take down the Goliaths of the SHL week in and week out.

On the back of stellar Slovakian goaltender Julius Hudacek and a powerplay that is the best in the SHL, converting at 24.56 percent, Örebro Hockey have now shown Sweden that they mean business, and will not stop their dream run until they are one day -sooner rather than later- holding the Le Mat Trophy above their heads.

Goaltending on the rise

It has been a highlight of every week to sit and watch "Veckans Snyggaste" goalie saves in 2014, because I know how hard it must be to pick out the top five every week.

The standard of goaltending this season has been a true reflection of the quality of net minders that still exist here in Sweden. As a collective group they have offered 15 shutouts from 18 rounds, while 12 of the leagues 15 registrable goaltenders boast a save percentage higher than ninety.

Luleå's Joel Lassinantti has been a surprise drawcard for the Norrbotteners this season, the 21 year-old  has showed maturity well above his years putting up impressive numbers in his first full season in the SHL, a 92.28 save percentage and a 1.98 goals against average.

Gustaf Wesslau currently tops the league with a save percentage of 93.09. Wesslau appears to have returned to the form that saw him as one of the best goaltenders in Sweden back in 2011-12, and has played a big part in the success of HV71 so far this season.

Rookie of the year or MVP

Frölunda junior Andreas Johnson was a well-deserved Rookie of the Year last season, but the Swedish JVM  star is on a path to greater things, far beyond his years. The 19 year-old has stepped up another gear once again this season and has become one of the most valuable commodities not only in Frölunda, but in the entire SHL.


Photo: Ola Westerberg / Bildbyrån

With a shooting percentage of 18.18 percent, Johnson has scored 10 goals this season, but it is the matter and timing of his goals that has made his performance this year so special. 5 of his 10 goals this season have been the all important first goal of the game, giving his team the great start that every coach asks for in the change room before every match. Also, 5 times already this season Johnson has played hero for the Gothenburg fans and scored the game-winner to give his team a victory.

Nylander the Great

After missing the start of the 2014-15 due to an extended preseason stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2014 round 1 draft pick, William Nylander has shown why he is the next 'big thing'.


Photo: Daniel Stiller / Bildbyrån

Nylander has played just 8 games for MODO Hockey this season, but has displayed the playmaking skills that has everyone in the hockey world talking. With 3 goals and 8 assists, Nylander is scoring at a rate of 1.38 points per game, which is higher than the current SHL point scoring leader Jacob Mickflikier at 1.12PPG.

The 18 year-old has only been held pointless once in his 8 starts so far this year and has been influential and invaluable in putting MODO's season back on track after a tough start to the year.

 
Jeremy Darke
red@shl.se
 

2014-10-28 08:12:00 | Weekly reviews

Trending form gives standings a new look


Photo:
Simon Hastegård / Bildbyrån

Another week has passed in the SHL and for the third week running we see a new team take the series lead, with the league tightening up at the top as form curves begin to viciously spike north and south. HV71 have stealthily been riding a wave of incredible form, making their way quietly up the standings and to the top of the league after 15 rounds. It has been no less than 7 games since the Jönköping club saw defeat last, only walking away once without a win in their last 10 games.

It has been somewhat of a surprising rise to the top by HV71, who have flown completely under the radar to lead the SHL. Their ten maximum 3 point wins tops the league in its category and if it weren’t for the club’s shaky start to the year, of just two wins from their first five matches, they may not be just clutching onto a one point advantage in the series.

Return of Fiala lifts HV71

The return of 18 year old Kevin Fiala from training camp with the Nashville Predators at the beginning of October has given an immediate lift to HV71. The Swiss born winger has impressed in his return to Jönköping, scoring 3 goals and 5 assists in just 6 games and has given a spark to the HV powerplay, where 5 of his 8 points have been tallied.

Team captain Ted Brithén has also been in scintillating form since his team’s last loss seven matches ago. Brithén’s has found his goal scoring prowess, netting 5 goals since the loss to Luleå and has also been the provided on 4 occasions. His hot form has not gone unseen by national coach Pär Mårts, who has rewarded the HV71 star with a national team appearance in the Karjala Tournament in Leksand, which will be played from the 6-9 November.


Goalie Henrik Lundberg celebrates (Photo: Johan Bernström / Bildbyrån)

Örebro hope history won’t repeat itself

Örebro Hockey Club has also been surprise movers this week after taking the scalps of three top teams on their quest to consolidate their place in the SHL for the second year running. Wins against Luleå Hockey, Frölunda and Växjö this week have cemented their place in the league’s top four, although, Örebro will be having flashbacks  of a similar situation last season, where they were sitting pretty through October to eventual  fallout of form and under the Kvalserien cut-off by the end of November.  

It is apparent, though, Örebro Hockey have matured from that experience and under the guidance of coach Kent Johansson have put forward much more consistent and stable performances and results to begin their second year in the SHL. A large factor to their success this season has been the acquisition of Slovakian goaltender Julius Hudacek whose big play between the pipes has given momentum to the men in front of him, like American Derek Ryan, to score goals and win it for the underdog.

Örebro Hockey will be put to the ultimate test of strength when they go up against league leaders HV71 in a form-strong match up on Tuesday night in SHL.


Luleå Hockey's coach Fagervall. (Photo: Andreas L Eriksson / Bildbyrån)

Luleå Hockey have lost five straight

If there are teams with form curves going north their must also be teams that unfortunately head south, which is the case for early league leaders Luleå Hockey. The Norrbotteners have lost five straight and have only managed one overtime loss point under that time, dropping them all the way down into seventh in the league. It is a little early to declare a mini-crisis in Luleå, but as coach Joakim Fagervall explained after the team’s fifth straight loss, there are certainly a few cogs missing in the machine that is Luleå Hockey at the moment.

– We make an effort but it isn’t enough. It is a little typical of how it looks for us right now. There is a stop in the machinery, explained a disappointed Fagervall. 

– Exactly what to do (to fix the losing trend) is not easy to point out. We have to be there all the time in every situation in front of the goal. At the moment it is just bouncing a little wrong for us all the time.

 
Jeremy Darke
English Blog
red@shl.se
 

 

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