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Hotting up in the SDHL - Goals and a Gordie Howe hattrick!

It has been a busy week at the business end of the 36 match season in the women’s hockey league (SDHL).

The top three: Luleå, MODO and Linköping 

Third placed Linköping’s 0-1 lost at home to Leksand leaves them with a mathematical possibility of winning - but relies on the two teams above them to lose all their remaining  matches - an impossible ask given the quality of SDHL. 

Second placed MODO Hockey won all three of their games this week. They lie just two points behind the leaders and have four games left to play. As long as they win at least one more match than their rivals above them the title is theirs. 

But it is definitely advantage- Luleå/ MSSK. They have a two game advantage and an enormous goal difference advantage over MODO. That despite winning two out three matches this weekend. The club need just 10 points by any means in the remaining six games to guarantee the Norrbotten club their fourth regulation season championship in a row. 

Relegation

At the other end of the table both SDE and Gothenburg cannot escape the relegation playoff meaning we know who will be in the playoff. 

Hanna Olsson, Djurgården IF

One person however who will not be playing in the SDHL playoff is 19 year old Swedish international, Hanna Olsson. Her and club, Djurgården IF has terminated their contract early and one if the sub-clauses in the the young talent cannot play in the SDHL for the rest of the season.

The Total Points competition 

Luleå’s 14-0 victory over bottom placed Gothenburg on Friday caused a stir on and off the ice. Firstly it caused the club’s top line of Karvinen, Hiirikoski and Nordin to all climb up significantly in Total Points to second, third and fourth respectively above Linköping’s Kennedy Marchment in fifth. MODO’s Michela Cava now only leads the competition by one point and risks losing the competition where she had held top spot for the last few months. 

Gordie Howe hattrick 

The match also saw an extremely rare event in women’s hockey - a Gordie Howe hattrick performance by Luleå’s tough back, Johanna Fällman

As you can see in the video, Luleå’s top scorer, #33 Michelle Karvinen is knocked to the ground in front of goal and makes her way back to blue line where she receives the puck. Gothenburg captain, #20 Anna Borgfeldt, then hip checks Karvinen but falls down in the process whilst Karvinen remains on the puck. Fällman takes exception to the legal hit and comes over and cross checks Borgfeldt into the ground. The referee is all ready on hand and moves Fällman away but Borgfeldt gets up absolutely livid and comes around the referee and starts laying into Fällman. Then three or four players on each team pile in and the linesman’s come in o calm things down. Even Karvinen appears to throw a punch at Borgfeldt but Fällman and Borgfeldt receive 5 plus game which still had two minutes to play by that point. 

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Champions Hockey League (CHL) - Semifinal, Match 2 Review

Tuesday night in the Czech Republic and Wednesday night in Austria saw the second and final legs of the Champions Hockey League semi finals decide who will be meeting in the final on 5 February.

Frölunda Indians (SWE) v HC Pilsen (CZE)

Frölunda Indians travelled HC Pilsen with a 6-3 lead from the first game. Both clubs knew that the home team would need to get ahead early and grind out the four, or more, goals needed for victory. But Frölunda were not in the mood for favours, or making a game of it.

The competition's top scorer, Ryan Lasch (in photo) crushed any thoughts of a home ice victory after just 3:12 with a beautiful individual effort. Faking the shot he drew Pilsen keeper Dominik Frodl out of position only to go anti-clockwise round the goal and place the puck in the net with a textbook wrap-around number (see video).

Frölunda stifled the talented Pilsen attackers so by the time Denis Kindl scored their first goal at 50:42 the match and, indeed the whole tie, was way out of sight for the Czech team. The Swedes won 3-1 on the night and 9-4 on aggregate to make it to their fourth final in five years. On this performance, few would be against the Trophy going to the Swedish club in less than a month.

Red Bull Munich (GER) v Red Bull Salzburg (AUT)

In the other match Red Bull Munich travelled the short distance across the border to face Red Bull Salzburg after a goalkeeper's game in Germany which ended 0-0 last week.

Home ice advantage seemed to make the difference for the Austrians as 25 year old Alexander Rauchenwald sent the puck past Germany's Olympic keeper, aus den Birken after 13:26.

But just like the national team had done in the Olympics, the Geman team hit back with double strike scoring twice in three minutes to go into the first period break up 2-1. And it was naturally one of Munich's Olympic stars who lead the way, as Bronze medalist Yannic Seidenberg got an assist on the first goal before the 35 year old defenseman found the net himself.

The visitors continued to pile on the pressure forcing 35 saves from Salzburg's Minnesota Wild drafted Steve Michalek by the time the final whistle went. Any chance of a late recovery by the home team was quashed with 10:01 to go as yet two more of Munich's German Olympians got on the scoreboard with Yasin Ehliz getting the primary assist on Patrick Hager's 3-1 goal.

That was enough to send a German team to the final for the first time in Champions Hockey League history. They will go to Gothenburg as underdogs when they face the two times champions on 5 February. But make no mistake, this Red Bull Munich team will be brimming with self confidence and, who knows, maybe pull off a historic victory.

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Champions Hockey League - semi final deciders

Frölunda Indians (SWE) v HC Pilsen (CZE)

Gothenburg Frölunda Indians travel to face HC Pilsen tonight knowing they are on the brink of a fourth final appearance in five years. The Czech team need to win by four clear goals to qualify after losing the first leg 3-6 in Sweden last week. 

They need to see top players like Milan Gulas and former KHL star, Jan Kovar as well as former Detroit Red Wings defenseman, Jakub Kindl play to the very best of their ability and hope that Ryan Lasch, Joel Lundqvist and company are having a bad day at the office. But whilst Pilsen have not lost at home in the CHL this season, Frölunda have only lost by more than four goals once this season in the SHL. 

Red Bull Salzburg (AUT) v Red Bull Munich (GER)

After a 0-0 result in Munich last week, the Battle of Red Bull must be decided in Salzburg on Wednesday. Last week we heard the pipe work cling more than the siren ring, so this could be a one goal game where Sudden Death, or even penalties, will decide which of these two German speaking neighbours will be the first to represent their country in the CHL final. 

Salzburg’s go-to man in front of net is Canadian John Hughes, with over 600 goals in c. 500 appearance in the EBEL. But they also have former Portland Pirates (AHL) playmaker, Ryan Duncan who has a track record of coming good in playoff scenarios. 

Munich have the advantage of six German Olympic bronze medalists in the team - a squad that beat Switzerland, Sweden, Canada and nearly OA Russia in one goal games. So, netminder Danny aus den Birken, defensemen Yannic Seidenberg, Daryl Boyle and forwards Patrick Hager, Frank Mauer and Yasin Ehliz will be the key to an away ice victory for the Germans in what could prove to be one of the best matches of the tournament. 

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Swiss super star out for rest of season- SDHL injury update

Lara Stalder

The 24 year old Swiss Olympian, Uni. of Minnesota-Duluth graduate and only European to be drafted in the NWHL has been confirmed as out for the rest of the season to have an operation on her shoulder. It has now been revealed that she has had this problem since the summer but, despite rehabilitation, she only managed to play 17 games this season, where she has amassed an incredible 38 points. But in the second period of her comeback match for Linköping HC on 5 January she was forced to stop after a battle close to the boards. It has not been decided if she will have the operation in Sweden or Switzerland. 

Denise Altmann

A ray of light for Linköping HC is that Stalder’s replacement has been 31 year old Austrian, Denise Altmann. She retired at the end of last season after being the league’s outstanding scorer leading the in Total Points, Goals and Assists by over 200 points. Altmann took up the post as Linköping’s forwards’ trainer for players such as Stalder, but the Swiss star’s injury has meant a return to the ice for arguably the great player in the SDHL’s 11 year history.

Brooke Boqvist

Eliteprospects has reported that MODO Hockey’s Canadian import, Brooke Boqvist is out indefinitely due to concussion. How it came about is unclear but the 22 year old Providence College graduate has not played since 24 November where she scored the team’s only goal in a 2-1 Overtime defeat to Djurgården IF.

Marion Allemoz

Good news for MODO Hockey, in a season where several of their star import players have been injured, was the return at the New Year of Marion Allemoz. After nearly two months out the French national captain and former Montreal Canadiennes forward was back in the all red MODO jersey. She answered for one assist in the team’s 3-2 victory over Djurgården IF.

Lore Baudrit

Injuries at MODO, however, may have introduced a new talent to the SDHL in the shape of 6’2" (190cm) tall French national forward, Lore Baudrit. After playing for the University of Montreal she played last season for the CWHL outfit, the Montreal Canadiennes. But like Allemoz, she decided on a move to Sweden this year playing for first division IF Björklöven where she has outclassed the opposition leading Total Points with 37 in just 12 games. Now on loan to MODO she has gained 7 points in 4 games, statistics that surely mean a permanent move to the SDHL is imminent for the 27 year old.

Caroline Markström

In an interview with Hockeysverige St Cloud State graduate, Markström revealed that she had suffered her first ever concussion during the third match of the season on 21 September. Not realizing what had happened, or the seriousness she played the following two days but since then has been unable to play at all. Nearly four months she still does not know when she will return. The 24 year old defenseman was in her second season at Brynäs IF after graduating in 2016/7 from the NCAA and had played for Sweden at the 2015/6 World Championship.

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Champions Hockey League - semi final, Round 1

Last night saw the first round in both the semifinals of this year’s Champions Hockey League. 

Frölunda Indians hosted Milan Gulas’ current team, the Czech Republic’s HC Pilsen. It was the former Färjestad BK forward’s second visit to Sweden in the tournament after his side knocked out Skellefteå AIK in the quarterfinals. 

In the other match it was the Red Bull Battle as Munich hosted Salzburg to see whether it would be Germany or Austria into the final for the first time. 

In a rough-tough match, both teams managed to hit the post, but ultimately it was a keeper’s game with a tied result of 0-0. 

You can bet German Olympic Silver medalist and Munich netminder, Danny aus den Birken was pleased with that as was his Salzburg counterpart, the American Minnesota Wild drafted Steve Michalek

But it was not a dull encounter by any means. It is worth watching the video to see how many genuine chances there were as well as Salzburg defenseman, Dominique Heinrich‘s incredible goal line stop. The Austrian international and former Örebro HK back is on course for one of his highest scoring seasons, but with Michalek beaten he prevented a certain goal. 

It sets up a winner-takes-all match in Salzburg next Tuesday. 

The match in Gothenburg by contrast, saw nine goals as the best two teams left in the competition went head to head. The Czech visitors showed why they were the only team to be unbeaten in the competition before the game, with great attacking play. 

But whilst never seeming to dominate, Frölunda were the team that found the net most. In just 3:19 minutes in the second period they scored three goals and ruthlessly put to the sword the visitors’ chance of an away victory. That despite three goals from Pilsen’s American defenseman, Conor Allen who has played for New York Rangers

The final score was 6-3 with both Rhett Rakhshani, pictured, (2G+1A) and Ryan Lasch (1G+2A) scoring 3 points each on the night. Lasch stretches his lead in to top scorer’s competition in the CHL and played despite being doubtful due to a serious knee injury. It all goes to show that Frölunda desperately want a third title, and only an outstanding performance from Pilsen at home next week can stop the Swedes getting to the final. 

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SHL December Review - 14. Timrå IK

14. Timrå IK

Timrå IK may be bottom of the table, but have had an incredible month in front of goal. 25 year old local boy Anton Wedin (above) climbing up to an impressive third place on Total Points as well as earning his first ever international caps for Sweden. 

Meanwhile, teammate and former Linköping HC forward, Henrik Törnqvist, topping the team's points tally in December with 9 points (2G+7A) putting the 22 year old on track for his best ever season in the SHL. Despite this, the team have won no matches in regulation and only three in overtime something that will have to change if they are to avoid the drop back into the Allsvenskan.

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SHL December Review - 13. Mora IK

13. Mora IK

Mora IK find themselves in the same place at New Year that they finished in last season, 13th, a position they will do very well to improve on given the quality of the other teams in the SHL and the resources available to the Dalarna club. But a repeat of this month, with win four out of eight, will certainly help. 

It is their North American imports who are helping in front of goal. At 5'8" ( 173 cm), this month's top scorer, 26 year old Canadian Kevin Gagne is typical of the type of player of can succeed in Europe. He has 133 games in the AHL on his CV and is now in his fourth season in Sweden, three of which have been with Mora IK. He is on course for his best points scoring season as a senior, especially if he can keep up scoring a Point Per Game as he has done in December.  

Gagne and teammate Andrew Rowe (above) were on the same roster at Anaheim Ducks' AHL development team, the Norfolk Admirals in 2012/3. Interestingly, Frölunda IndiansRyan Lasch and Max Friberg were also on this team alongside current Växjö Lakers' keeper Viktor Fasth. Like Gagne, the 33 year old American, Rowe is also on course for his best scoring season in Sweden and his 7 points (4G+3A) in December should be the confidence boost he needs as 2019 starts. 

Last year, netminder Christian Engstrand was a key factor to Mora's victory over Leksand IF in the SHL qualification matches. But the club have needed another solution after as he is sidelined due to concussion after taking a puck in the head. Great scouting has brought in the 2013 Nashville Predators drafted, Finnish keeper, Janne Juvonen from Austria. At 24 he has already played four seasons in Liiga for Pelicans and could well establish himself in the SHL with the quality he has shown over the past month. This leaves the Dalarna club with the luxury of having three first choice keeper's on their roster as they battle to stay in the SHL this year.

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SHL December Review - 12. Örebro HK

12. Örebro HK

Örebro find themselves exactly where they finished last season, in 12th one step up from the relegation zone. They are nine points below Rögle BK, but crucially top of the bottom three, in no small part due to the talented American import, Aaron Palushaj (above). Despite the team's position, he has climbed up to second place in the Total Points table with 25 points (10G+15A) only one behind leader, Jacob Lilja from Djurgården IF.

A high performer in the AHL, Palushaj was drafted in 2007 in Round 2 by St Louis Blues in the same year, round and club as Frölunda's Simon Hjalmarsson. The former Brynäs player's month can be summed up in that he scored a impressive point per game but is second in the whole league for penalty minutes. The frustration of being a top player in a team that is not performing well bubbled over after the match against Timrå IF where he received a match penalty after the game was over for Abuse of the Officials.

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SHL December Review - 11. Skellefteå AIK

11. Skellefteå AIK

Two wins in the whole month of December and 11th in the table - that is, not in the playoffs - for the team that has been in seven of the last eight finals. They are 13 points from the top position and only nine from the relegation scrap. It just doesn't seem believable, is this the end of the dominance of the greatest club of the SHL era?

The thing is they are still a great goal scoring team. Bud Holloway (above), who played his only NHL game for the Montreal Canadiens in 2015, is on track for his best season since re-joining the Swedish club three years ago. He led the team with seven points (1G+6A) in December. Meanwhile, 21 year old Swede, Andreas Wingerli, is having his best ever points scoring season and was the league's highest scorer in the month with six goals. And 36 year old Joakim Lindström is still in fifth place on the league's Total Points, just two behind the leader.

So if there is any weakness with the club is is perhaps at the back. But both netminders, Mantas Armalis and Gustaf Lindvall, are not playing badly - if you look at their career as a whole. But the SHL is a tough place to be a keeper. Since the start of the SHL in 2013/4 all winners of the Top Keeper's Award have over 92% SVS. With save percentages below that this season, Armalis and Lindvall are currently ranked at 9th and 12th respectively in a league. 

But all this has not added up to winning games.

Skellefteå AIK have a track record of coming good in the playoffs and even with the current dip in form it would take a brave man to bet against them improving and being up in the mix in April.

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SHL December Review - 10. Rögle BK

10. Rögle BK

The club from Ängelholm may only have got one win in regulation but that, together with two overtime wins, keeps them where they want to be - out of the relegation battle (by 13 points) and in with a chance of playoff hockey, currently with a two point cushion over 11th placed Skellefteå.

Their top scorer is 23 year Swede, Leon Bristedt (above) who gained 5 points (4G+1A) in December and is currently lying in 15th overall in Total Points. Whoever scouted the youngest should think about asking for a raise as he might qualify for one of the best signings of the year. A member of the junior squad at Linköping HC, he has just finished four years in the NCAA at the University of Minnesota where he was one of the team's top scorers and last year got to play alongside the USA's top scorer in the Junior World Championship last year, Casey Mittelstadt, who is now at Buffalo Sabres.

Also scoring five points, all assists, during December was homegrown returnee, Mattias Sjögren. The 31 year old has played in the AHL, KHL and NLA but has been out with concussion for nearly a year. He is finally back on the ice and has played ten 10 games for the club in 2018.

Rögle have also signed an American player, who has made an immediate impact for the club with four points (2G+2A) in just four games. 26 year old Trevor Mingoia has played a handful of games in the AHL but was snapped up by the Ängelholm club after an impressive start to his first season in Sweden at Västerviks IK in Hockey Allsvenskan where he had a 0.92 PPG.

These three could be part of the club recipe for success to finally establish themselves firmly as an SHL outfit.

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