With contests against both Skellefteå and Färjestad this week, the struggling Lakers turn things around to move in to the top 10 for the first time since the early stages of the season.
Team of the Week
All teams were back in action on Thursday evening after an almost two week international team break in the schedule. The Växjö Lakers were able to go in to the break on a high note with a victory over Luleå and were hoping to string together back to back wins for the first time this season. They were coming up against a struggling Skellefteå team that had won just one game in their past five.
Skellefteås struggles continued on Thursday night as they gave up a pair of goals in both the first and third period, including a shorthanded tally to Roman Horák in the third period that all but sealed their fate. Just one goal from Skellefteå in the second was not enough to rally the team and they ended up on the wrong side of a 4-1 score. Despite the win, the Lakers managed just 19 shots on net compared to Skellefteås 29. But, backed by one of the best performances from Viktor Andrén this season, the Lakers grabbed a very important three points in the standings and looked ahead to Saturday afternoon as they would face off against Färjestad.
On paper, the contest against Färjestad was a much tougher challenge for the Lakers. Coming in to the game Färjestad lead the league in both goals for per game and powerplay percentage. They had also won 10 of their last 12 games and, like Växjö, were looking to improve their win streak to three games.
Despite Färjestad having the better stats coming in to the contest, the game was fairly evenly matched throughout. The teams traded goals in both the first and third periods and would require extra time to determine a winner. Despite the tie game after regulation, the Lakers were the more dominant team, heavily outshooting Färjestad in both the first and third frames. The Lakers managed to hold Färjestad to just three shots in the first and four in the third. Final shot total, including overtime, was 25-18 in favour of Växjo.
Just like the rest of the game, the overtime frame proved to be a tight period. Both teams struggled to get shots on net and, in fact, the only shot of the period for the Lakers was the one that proved to be the winner. Newly acquired Miika Koivisto, in just his second career SHL game, took the feed from Emil Pettersson and snapped it home with less than a minute remaining in overtime to give the Lakers the 3-2 victory.
With the win, the Lakers now sit tenth overall in the standings, back in a playoff spot for the first time this season. They will try and continue their new found success this week with matchups against Malmö and Djurgården.
Game of the Week
Our game of the week this week came back on Saturday evening as Brynäs played host to Skellefteå. Coming in to the game, neither team had been having much recent success. With their loss to Växjo on Thursday, Skellefteå had just one win in their previous six games and Brynäs had just two. Despite both teams recent struggles with producing offence, this game would turn out to be a high scoring affair.
It wouldn't take long for Brynäs to open the scoring as Lukas Kilström made a move off the end boards and the puck found its way to Daniel Mannbergs stick, he was able to send it home for the go ahead goal just under three minutes in to the opening frame. Skellefteå would answer back courtesy their top sniper, Joakim Lindström ripped home the game tying goal after a nice feed from Tom Pyatt. The tie would be short lived, however, as Brynäs would regain the lead before the end of the frame and the first would finish 2-1 in favour of the home team.
The second would be just as close as the first, however neither team was able to generate a whole lot of chances. Brynäs managed just three shots on net and Skellefteå managed six. Despite the lack of shots and chances, both teams were able to ripple the mesh in the late stages of the period. Adam Brodecki gave Brynäs the 3-1 lead, but just 58 seconds later Tuomas Kiiskinen was able to pull Skellefteå back within one. The game would head to the final frame 3-2 in favour of Brynäs. The third period would prove to be a crazy one.
It didn't take long for Brynäs to restore the two goal lead. Just 49 seconds in to the frame Brodecki stole the puck behind the net, walked out front and ripped home his second of the game. The next ten minutes would be the calm before the storm as the goals came fast and furious in the second half of the frame. Oscar Möller would kick things off with a pair of goals in just over a minute to tie the game at four. However, it would have been three goals in just over a minute, but one of the goals for Skellefteå was waived off. Emil Molin would play hero for Brynäs as he would give them the go ahead, and eventual game winning goal just a couple of minutes after Skellefteå tied it up. An empty net goal from Greg Scott would seal the deal and Brynäs would come away with the three point 6-4 victory.
Watch full game highlights here:
The big movers in the standings this week are Luleå, Växjö and Linköping. All three teams managed back to back wins this week to significantly increase their positions. Luleå jumps from fifth in to second with 36 points on the season and Växjö and Linköping are finally able to move out the bottom two spots with 21 points each. The Lakers now sit tenth overall with Linköping nipping at their heels in eleventh. Leksand and Oskarshamn now occupy the last two spots in the standings and Brynäs gets knocked down to twelfth. Other than that, the rest of the standing remain relatively the same as they were before the two week break.