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SHL 2019/20 - October Review - Luleå

As November rolls in, the players in the SHL will take a two week break to make space for the international Karjala Cup in Finland. That gives us a chance to look at what has happened over the last month in Sweden's top division.

Luleå HF (5th)

The last of these top teams in Luleå HF who continue where they left off at the end of last year as the team that lets in the least goals in the league and grinds our low scoring wins. Keeper Joel Lassinantti is key to this strategy and his in an form, leading the league with a GAA of just 1.69. Goals are rare and precious for the Norrbotten club and their top scorer is a new name for many. It is 19 year old Swedish defenseman, Nils Lindqvist (above). Drafted in 2018 by the New York Rangers, he is only in his second full season in the SHL and his 10 points (2G+8A) already equals his tally from 2018/9. But the team's low scoring approach means that top scorer Lindqvist is way down the the list at number 40 on the Total Points table.

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SHL 2019/20 - October Review - Färjestad

As November rolls in, the players in the SHL will take a two week break to make space for the international Karjala Cup in Finland. That gives us a chance to look at what has happened over the last month in Sweden's top division.

Färjestad BK (4th)

Just as few expected Örebro to lead the league, so another surprise awaits as we look at the Total Points table. It is lead by undrafted Färjestad player, Marcus Nilsson. The 28 year old Swede has matured slowly earning his place in the Karlstad club after five years grinding out a pro career, primarily in the Allsvenskan with BIK Karlskroga.

For three years at Färjestad he has put up figures of just 0.50 PPG, but this year the magic in starting to happen and he is now leading the league in Total Points with 20 points (5G+15A) in 16 games - that is 1.25 PPG!

(In the photo, above, Nilsson in on the left and the league#s top goal scorer, Michael Lindqvist on the right).

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SHL 2019/20 - October Review - Örebro

As November rolls in, the players in the SHL will take a two week break to make space for the international Karjala Cup in Finland. That gives us a chance to look at what has happened over the last month in Sweden's top division.

Örebro HK (1st)

Örebro HK who are at the top of the table- an unexpected position for the club that usually finishes outside the playoff places.

In an exceptional run of form, they have only lost once in 10 matches since 26 September. That coupled with their two wins at the beginning of the season gives them a league leading 11 wins this year.

Whilst they have not managed a shut out so far, in five of their wins they have kept their opponents down to just one goal. By contrast, in the opposite third of the ice they have repeatedly found the net and come to the international break with a plus/minus of +17.

Their chief weapon is 2005 Colorado Avalanche drafted, Ryan Stoa (#94, above). He was 2018 US Olympic teammates with current SHL rivals Broc Little (Linköping HC) and Jonathon Blum (Färjestad BK). The 32 year old has more than adequately filled the hole left by temperamental Canadian Aaron Paulshaj who moved to the KHL after an unhappy year in Närke.

However, it is former Mora player, Mathias Bromé who leads the team with 15 points (6G+9A). That puts him in sixth on Total Points, whilst Stoa is in second on Goals scored behind Farjestad’s Michael Lindqvist. And these two players early season form has not gone unnoticed as both Bromé and Lindqvist have been rewarded with an international place for Sweden in the up and coming Karjala tournament.

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SHL 2019/20 - October Review - Frölunda and Rögle

As November rolls in, the players in the SHL will take a two week break to make space for the international Karjala Cup in Finland. That gives us a chance to look at what has happened over the last month in Sweden's top division.

The table has split into three groups: - teams 1-5 separated by just 6 points; teams 6-9 who are only 4 points apart; and finally a cluster of teams at in the bottom four places who are just 3 points from each.

This week we're going to look at the top five clubs in the SHL starting with the second and third placed clubs.

Frölunda Indians (3rd)

Frölunda Indians and Rögle BK continue the strong start they had in September, but will probably be glad for a break as they both took two defeats in a row before the pause denying either club the top spot.

The teams owe their early season success to two different approaches. The third placed team from Gothenburg have smashed in goals with Californians Rhett Rakhskani (7G+11A, in photo) and Ryan Lasch (5G+10A) leading, as usual, with support from 2007 St Louis Blues drafted, Simon Hjälmarsson (7G+7A). The team has amassed the largest goal difference of 21 points.

Rögle BK (2nd)

Rögle are in second place having eked out wins with a conservative strategy by keeping it tight at both ends of the ice. Captain and Canadian Kodie Curran, tops the scoring in the league from the blue line with 3G+11A, the same amount of points as Swedish teammate, Leon Bristedt who has 7G+7A, equalling west coast rival Hjälmarsson.

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SDHL - October 2019 Review

November has just started but in the SDHL that means a two week break to allow for an international training camp. The women will return to the ice on 15th November, so we've got a chance to take a look at the action that has taken place over the last month here in Sweden.

Luleå/ MSSK have dominated the SDHL-era of club hockey since it's inception in 2016 raising the Swedish championship trophy three times in those four years playoffs. Behind them has usually been Linköping HC or MODO Hockey.

But now in the 12th year of Swedish women's elite hockey, with all the teams having played at least 13 matches, there are already signs of a power shift.

And so far, this season's team to beat are HV71 who after 16 matches have only lost twice. As one of those was an defeat in overtime, the club has still collected points in all but one of their games so that they lead the SDHL by 12 points over second placed, Brynäs IF.

It was third placed Djurgården IF, who were visiting the Kinnarps Arena, who have been the only team to beat the league leaders' in regulation.

HV71's winning streak is based on a classic formula - being stingy in defence and successful in front of net. The Jonköping club extended it's contract with their 2018/9 goalkeeper, Alba Gonzalo. Whilst the Spaniard does not have the league's highest save percentage, she has the lowest Goals Against Average letting in a painfully low 1.55 GAA when between the posts.

This summer saw a huge amount of transfers and HV71 signed four of the best players from last year's SDHL and made them their own. The result is yellow and blue players dominate the Total Points table with Kennedy Marchment (13G+13A), Hanna Olsson (9G+13A), Sidney Morin (6G+15A) and Kaitlyn Tougas (6G+13A) all in the top eight of scorers.

Therefore the Jonköping club has the highest scoring Swedish player in the league with Olsson and the highest scoring defender with Morin (pictured). The blueliner, who is a 2018 US Olympic Gold medalist, also has the top plus/ minus in the league with a staggering +24!

HV's dominance can been seen when you compare to their opponents. Whereas the league leaders have won 14 matches, Brynäs IF (in second) and AIK (in fourth) have only won 8 whilst Djurgården IF (in third) have won nine of their 15 matches. The season is far from over, but it is already smelling like gold in Kinnarps Arena.

For second placed Brynäs IF their position has a lot to do with their signing of Swiss Olympian, Lara Stalder. Like Morin and Marchment she has come from Linköping who are struggling this year. Stalder tops the Total Points and Goal scoring with 20G+11A clocking up a netbreaking 2.21 PPG average.

The 2019/20 season is already promising to be one of the the best in women's hockey history here in Sweden. The quality is improving year on year, something that can be seen in the fact that the top two scorers, Stalder and Marchment, were drafted in the NWHL and that at least eight CWHL players have joined the league this year in the fallout from the #forthegame movement.

Another encouraging sign in that the bottom two teams for the last few years, SDE and Gothenburg HC, who previously were there just to make up the numbers, have improved beyond recognition this year. Both teams have already won more matches this year that they won in the whole 2018/9 season. It means that every match SDHL is 60 minutes of hard fought and competitive hockey, the highest standard seen in Sweden in the 12 years of elite women's sport.

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CHL 2019/20 - four Swedish sides to face each other in knockout rounds

Today at 12 noon in Helsinki the draw for the knockout rounds of the Champions Hockey League took place.

And the chance of another Swedish winner in the competition have been heavily reduced as four of the five clubs from that nation have been drawn against each other in the playoffs. Only Luleå HF will face foreign opposition in the last 16 stage, but they will find that SC Bern, the home club of 2012 New York Rangers drafted Swede, Calle Andersson, are no push over if they want to advance.

Current champions, Frölunda Indians, will also have their work cut out against Färjestad BK, whilst Skellefteå AIK will face Djurgården IF in a re-run of last year's SHL quarterfinal match.

Whoever survives this clash will almost certainly face last year's CHL finalists, Red Bull Munich. They have been drawn against Yunost Minsk who are the first team from Belarus ever to make it to the playoffs. Munich should win with ease and my feeling is that they will beat which ever Swedish team they meet in the quarterfinals. That's because they will probably be more hungry for CHL glory than their SHL rivals.

If Munich win against Skellefteå or Djurgården they could well face another DEL club left in the tournament. That is because German team Adler Mannheim are in a favourable position as the strongest team in their quartet of playoff clubs. They will play Czech team Mountfield HK and then play the winner of Tappara Tampere verses EV Zug. If Mannheim played as they did in the group stages they should be capable of beating all three of these teams.

For more details check out the Champions Hockey League's own pages:

https://www.championshockeyleague.com/en/news/playoff-draw-in-the-books-the-road-to-the-final-starts-now

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CHL 2019/2020 - knockout stage matches

The group stages of the European competition are finally over and the knockout stages will begin on 12 November.

Swedish teams, Luleå HF, Färjestad BK, Djurgården IF, Skellefteå AIK and reigning CHL and SHL champions, Frölunda Indians all made through, whilst Swiss team EHC Biel-Bienne collected the most points only losing one game, away at Tappara Tampere of Finland.

Frölunda's Ryan Lasch again tops out the scoring table with 1G+14A, whilst HC Pilsen's former Färjestad player, Milan Gulas (above) leads the goals scored and with 8G+4A is just behind the American on Total Points.

And the predictions made by A Brit On Thin Ice in June when the draw was made for the Group stages of who would go through almost worked perfectly.

Perhaps the major surprise was the advancement of Belarus team, Yonust Minsk, as the first team from the country to make it out of the group stages. from Group D.

However, my tip for Silver medal this year, Finland's Kärpät Oulu, never made it out of their group of death. Even an overtime win at home to Skellefteå AIK proved not to be enough as SC Bern's win took them into second place knocking the Finns into third, despite the fact that the three teams all finished with 11 points.

Swedish teams have competed in all five CHL finals winning four times. And this year, on current form it might be German side Adler Mannheim or Swiss side EV Zug that can threaten the blue and gold dominance over the trophy. Both teams had strong group match phases and beat tough opposition at home (Djurgården IF and HC Pilsen respectively).

But don't count out a repeat of the first ever CHL final in 2014/5 which was, so far, the only all Swedish final.

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SDHL - September 2019 Review

October is already upon us and the SDHL teams have all played five or six games in the first few weeks of the 2019/20 season here in Sweden.

Since 2013/14 season five of the six finals have been won by either Luleå HF or Linköping HC. But as suggested in my pre-season preview, this supremacy could well come to an end this year. With last year’s finalist in 5th and 8th place respectively and neither team having a player in the top 20 on Total Points the shift in power is already tangible.

For Linköping the change has come as the squad has been stripped of all its best players without replacements of a similar calibre coming in. For example, as we start October the league’s top Goal and Total Points scorer is a former Linköping player Lara Stalder. The Swiss international and first European to be drafted in the NWHL has 8+3 in just 5 games with new club, Brynäs IF.

But for Luleå a more dramatic change has occurred. That is that the manager who created the dominant force that is Luleå/ MSSK women’s hockey team, Fredrik Glader, has left for MODO Hockey. Although it is only effective as of today, the news broke in the first week of the season as four years and three Swedish championships at Luleå comes to an end for Glader.

The team who are currently top of the table are HV71 who have dropped just two points in their six games so far. The Jönköping club having not lost in regulation with five wins and one Overtime loss at defending champions, Luleå. Their top two scorers are former Djurgården IF forward, Hanna Olsson (5+3) – on left in picture - and former Linköping and US Olympic Gold medallist defender, Sidney Morin (3+5).

Meanwhile in second place in the table is Stalder and Brynäs IF who are yet to lose a single match this season, although have only won three of them in regulation meaning they are 3 points behind the league leaders.

A final word must also be said about Stockholm’s SDE Hockey who have been saved in relegation in all five years they’ve been in the SDHL. Currently they are shocking the Swedish women’s hockey world by being in third place.

The team has a completely new look roster that included a number of players from last year’s CWHL champions Calgary Inferno. But it is two hitherto unknown mature international players from minor women’s hockey nations who are leading the scoring. 28-year-old Slovenian provider, Pia Pren has 1+6 whilst 30-year-old Dutch forward, Savine Wielenga has 3+3 and both sit comfortably in the top 10 on Total Points so far this year.

This squad is good enough to provide the upset of the year and I think that they have not just had a lucky run but are here to stay in the top part of the table.

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SHL - September 2019 Review

The NHL starts this week, but here in Sweden most team’s have already managed to squeeze in six matches a piece since the start of the league on 14 September.

That Frölunda Indians are up in second place already is probably not a surprise to many. But above them, and with only one loss to their name, is an unexpected name - Rögle BK. They are the only team, apart from the Indians, who have four regulation wins so far this season.

The leaders remain undefeated away from home and have beaten Malmö Redhawks, Linköping HC and Örebro HK on the road. In fact, the only match they have only lost to newly promoted IK Oskarshamn.

Tipped by many, include A Brit On Thin Ice, to go back down to the HockeyAllsvenskan, the east coast club have had an excellent start in proving everyone wrong. They only lie four points behind the league leaders and are part of a handful of teams that have won three matches in regulation. Netminder, Tex WIlliamsson, had never played a SHL match until this season now leads the keepers’ table with a 95.5 SVS%. Another SHL newby is their 28-year-old American forward, Tyler Kellher. The former Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) player joins a familiar name at the top of the goal scoring table - 2002 Columbus Blue Jackets drafted Joakim Lindström (Skellefteå AIK). But alongside them also with 5 goals and 2001 St Louis Blues drafted, Sebastian Wännström now with Leksand IF.

Back at Rögle, Canadian defenseman, Kodie Curran, pictured, continues where he left off last year for the Ängelholm club. He is the league’s top scoring defenseman with 7 (2+5) putting him in sixth on overall points. But he has new signing Dennis Everberg (3+3) and American assistant captain, Taylor Matson (4+1) also contributing from the forwards.

For the Indians it is the regulars Rhett Rakhshani (4+5), Simon Hjälmarsson (4+3) and Ryan Lasch (3+4) who have netted to get their challenge of winning a second SHL title in a row off to a good start.

Meanwhile at the bottom of the table are four teams who have only one regulation win so far this season - HV71, Linköping, Brynäs IF and Växjö Lakers. But as the regular season in 52 matches long there’s no need to panic yet. Both Linköping and Brynäs will play on 1 October so have an early chance to creep up the table before the first full month of SHL action gets going.

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Preview: SDHL 2019/20 - Teams in 3rd to 10th place

Here’s my “one liners” about the team’s I believe will finish in 3-10 in the SDHL in March 2020.

Djurgården IF – one of the more stable teams with a similar roster to last year. If their NCAA products can settle in they will be a force to reckon with. And any team with Canadian multi gold medallist, Jennifer Wakefield should not be discounted as she is a highly talented game changer.

MODO Hockey – the club has lost two of the league’s best forwards but retain the excellent Klara Peslarova in net and talented French internationals, Marion Allemoz (above) and Lore Baudrit. They also have the addition of one of the best forwards to come to the Sweden from the CWHL, Montréal Canadiennes, Katia Clement-Heydra.

SDE – This could be the surprise success of the year. It all will come down to how their influx of North American players gel with each other and how they react to a new environment and league.

Linköping HC – Will struggle in comparison to the last few years where they have been the second-best team in the league. They have lost their strongest players, but Pernilla Winberg and Emilia Rambolt remain and the American Hickel sisters from Calgary Inferno will play an important role.

AIK – a good team but has made no significant changes since last year to improve the squad.

Leksand IF – the team has essentially lost all it’s top players over the summer. The one ray of light is that they have Canadian Emma Woods coming in – one of the top 30 points scorers in the CWHL and drafted in 2017 in both the CWHL and NWHL. Will have nothing to fear in any playoff match with Division 1 opponents.

Göteborg HC – the weakest team last year and not made significant changes over the summer.

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