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Luleå Dam Hockey build with Olympic talent

Luleå Hockey/ MSSK took the Swedish Women’s Hockey League (SDHL) championship in style in 2017/8 and have begun their defence in the same manner, hiring two more Olympic stars for the upcoming season.

In the beginning of June they re-signed Finnish super striker, Michelle Karvinen, for another two years. The 28-year-old had one of her best ever season, winning bronze with the national team as well as winning Forward of the Year in the SDHL in a commanding performance in all categories with the most Assists and most Points as well as the highest Plus/Minus.


The Swedish city of Luleå is only 130 km from the Finnish border and is already the home team of three more of Finland’s Olympians. Most significantly, the national captain and SDHL 2017/8 highest scoring defender, Jenni Hiirikoski, and well as youngsters Noora Tulus and Ronja Savolainen.


But not content with that, on 5 June the club announced the arrival of another high scoring Finn,19-year-old, Petra Nieminen. As well as being part of the bronze medal team, she was awarded the Finnish Liiga’s Best Forward with 28 points in just 21 games for Team Kuortane.


But Luleå’s championship winning side were not just Finns, but also included a number of the Swedish Olympians including Rebecca Stenberg, Johanna Fällman and the SDHL 2017/8 top scoring Swede, Emma Nordin.


But not satisfied with having some of the league’s best attackers and defenders, as early as April this year Luleå Hockey have also signed Sweden’s national goalkeeper, Sara Grahn. The 29-year old’s Olympic performance was probably the only Swedish highlight of the Games where she finished with a .945 SVS.


The Luleå Hockey/ MSSK team will be one of the strongest team’s to ever have played in the 11-year history of the SDHL with some of Scandinavia’s most talented women hockey players on display. Unless another team buys in international talent from the Gold and Silver medal winning US and Canadian teams, Luleå could well steamroller their way to second championship in a row. 


Perhaps one of the most fascinating things will be to see how they compete against international opposition in the new Champions Cup. There they will face NWHL winners’ Metropolitan Riveters in a best of three series in September. 

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Olympic Gold Medalist to Linköping Dam Hockey

On 7 June Linköping HC women’s hockey announced their biggest new signing of the off-season, when American defender, Sidney Morin officially joined the club.

The 23 year old only played 21 games with MODO Hockey last year, but was the still second highest scoring defender in the league with 32 points, including 10 goals. She scored twice in USA’s Olympic campaign.

Morin, originally from Minnesota, will be a important part of a new look Linköping which has seen the retirement of a number of their players from their Championship winning teams of 2013/4 and 2014/5. 

That includes the SDHLs highest ever points scorer, Austrian, Denise Altmann and 2017/8 goalkeeper of the year and Swiss Olympian, Florence Schelling. 

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# I am a World Champion!

Having grown up in England, the words ‘World Cup’ usually brings me to tears of disappointment as I re-live the trauma of England’s repeated football disasters. Every four years it’s the same - this could be the team that repeats 1966’s glorious victory, only to get knocked out by Germany on penalties in the quarterfinals. 

Okay, I have had to change sport and country, but now something magical has happened in my life - I actually get to win the World Cup. 

After a glorious semifinal where Sweden majestically swept aside the USA 6-0, the Tre Kronor, made me sweat for it in the final against underdogs, Switzerland. 

Coming twice from behind, goals by Detroit Red Wings’ Gustav Nyquist and New York Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad kept the game level. 

And at the same time, somehow, helped erase the pain of Diego Maradona’s “Hand Of God” goal which denied England a semi-final place in Mexico, 1986. 

But with 2-2 at full time, I was forced to play a full 20 minutes of Sudden Death. Just like the players, I dragged myself through tiredness, groans and near-misses as Sweden hit to post twice before the final siren was blown, the game still tied. And that meant...

...penalties.

Seriously? Again? 

Then I knew it, Switzerland would win. That’s what happens with penalties, we lose. And, of course, they scored first, and, as normal, we missed. And then, Gareth Southgate shoots the ball in Row Z of the stands?  

No! Nashville Predators’ Filip Forsberg (pictured above) scores, and then Vancouver Canucks keeper, Anders Nilsson saves. 

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the mood’s changed, it’s 2-1 to Sweden with Swiss assistant captain, their best player on the night, Nino Niederreiter from Minnesota Wild to take the next penalty. 

He comes up to the centre circle and takes the puck out to the right to tee-up the shot. He pauses, waiting for the kill, gliding towards the goal, then the quick snap, but Nilsson’s right leg is down, solid as a wall, he saves it, he saves it, he really saves it!

It’s gold to Sweden!!!!!

At last, I’ve done it! For the very first time in my life I’ve won gold, a world champion in your midst, ladies and gentlemen! The feelings, the rush, Gold, I really mean it, Gold, all mine!!

I few days later I’m back down to earth. 

But I’m eager to experience it again. Now all that needs to happen is England to win the football World Cup in Russia and Great Britian to win the ice hockey world’s next year! Easy, suddenly it all seems possible- thank you Tre Kronor!!!

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SHL Hockey: best of 2017/8 season - PART IV

11. Rögle BK

27 year old centre Ted Brithén chose to return to his youth team in the year they, for the first time in the club's history, had played two seasons in a row in the top division. Having won the SHL with HV71 the year before, the undrafted Swede may have regretted his decision at New Year when the club lay at the bottom of the league having struggled all autumn. The chance of them escaping the relegation playoff seemed remote.

But something happened to the club from Ängelholm in 2018.

They decided to start winning games and Brithén put in some of the best stats of his career taking 31 points, including 10 goals. He led the internal points competition and he was closely followed by two import players with a great deal of experience in the AHL - American, Bryan Lerg (412 games) and Canadian, Craig Schira (208 games for the Binghamton Senators). Together the team finished an impressive 11th having fought their way from the brink of the abyss.

12. Örebro HK

Credit at Örebro should probably go to the managerial staff and team scouts for the selection of four players who came in to save Örebro's season from disaster. After 10 losses in a row in 2018 the team were sinking into the bottom two relegation playoff positions. But when forwards Anton Hedman (10 Matches) from Sweden and Canadian Jeremy Williams (7 matches), as well as American defenseman Nick Ebert (8 matches) and Finnish back Ari Gröndahl (7 Matches) arrived, they together answered for 16 important points as well as all having plus figures in the Plus/Minus column. So, the team from Närke was able to turn things around to set up an impressive sixth year in a row in the SHL for the city where football has historically been the main sport.

13. Mora IK

The club brought in over 1300 games of AHL experience in seven new players for the 2017-8 season with just one aim in mind - to ensure that the club stayed in the top division after promotion the year before. They still ended up in the scary relegation playoff where they saw off local rivals, Leksand IF, their goal was achieved.

Signing of the season may not have been an former AHL player, but instead their top scorer Czech forward, David Kaše. The 21 year old player was playing in the second division in his home country even though he was drafted in 2015 by the Philadelphia Flyers and despite having played for the national team at the last three Junior World Championships.

But it was not just down to import players, but also home grown talent that ensured the team's survival. For example, 29 year old keeper, Christian Engstrand. In this, his second season at the club, the Swede posted a .913 Save Percentage, better than six other first choice netminders in the division, and crucially produced three shutouts in their 4-1 relegation playoff series victory.

14. Karlskrona HK

In a season where the team ended the regular season with a goal difference of -75, then were relegated in playoff series where they led at one point 3-1 in games, it is not easy to find a glimmer of hope.

But perhaps 23 year old Swedish centre Joel Kellman can help.

Originally from the town on the south coast he returned to Karlskrona in 2014 whilst they were in Hockey Allsvenskan and then remained with the club when they got promotion to the SHL.

The 2017-8 season saw him return to being the top scorer in the club as he had been in their promotion year in 2015-6. Both this year and last he lead the club in goal scoring with 15.

His commitment to his hometown club means that he already is in the top 5 of Total Points as well as Games Played in the club's short history. But whilst Karlskrona were unable to secure their position in the top division, Kellman's quality means he will being playing SHL hockey in 2018-9, but with Brynäs IF.


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SHL Hockey: best of 2017/8 season - PART III

7. Luleå HF

The team set their sights high when they appointed former Brynäs' manager Thomas Berglund at the beginning of the season. The previous year, the former Luleå player and manager had taken Brynäs to an unlikely final where they only lost in overtime in the seventh game of the series. So it was a disappointing season for the team from Norrbotten who were swept aside by none other than Brynäs in the playoff qualifier.

The men's team had less import players than most of the others team in the SHL. But one of them, Canadian Brendan Mikkelsson, would have an unexpected impact. The 30 year old defenseman just happens to be sister to Canadian Silver medallist, Meaghan Mikkelsson. The 33 year old defender made the decision to join the women's team after the Olympics along with fellow Canadian, Jennifer Wakefield. 13 games and 8 points later Mikkelsson was able to add the Swedish championship to her Olympic medal to make a memorable year for the Canadian as Luleå women succeeded where the men had failed.

8. HV71

Last year's champions struggled to make an impact, but with many players leaving as a result of their success the result was not really a surprise.

Nonetheless, it was still a breakout season for defenseman, Lawrence Pilut. The 22 years old Swede was awarded an Assistant Captain role at the club where he has played since a junior. But more importantly, he finished off the season as the top scoring defenseman in the league and earned his first caps in the national team as a Senior, including being one of the few SHL players in the squad at the World Championship in Denmark.

9. Linköping HC

The club have always been a team that has relied on it's North American forwards for success and this year was no exception. With the NHL refusing to release it's players for the Winter Games, last summer saw a mad scramble as European clubs tried to entice players who might be willing to play in the continent to make themselves eligible for the Olympics. At the same time, players already in Europe had a chance for Olympic glory that otherwise would have been out if their reach.

So Canada's assistant captains, both with over 720 games of NHL experience, played in SHL this season. 36 year old René Bourque for Djurgården IF and 35 year old, Derek Roy, played for Linköping HC. Roy, unlike Bourque, was in his fourth season outside North America and did not disappoint expectations, topped the team in Total Points. No only that, but he also got to pick up an Olympic Bronze too.

So did Bourque, of course, but in his only season in Europe he did not play any playoff matches at all, including Djurgården's defeat of Linköping in the quarterfinals. That was because of his son's illness leading to his decision to retire from the game at the end of this season.

10. Brynäs IF

After an unexpected final appearance last year, the team had a dreadful start to the year which culminated in the newly appointed manager, Roger Melin being fired. The club also suffered multiple injuries to key players, not least, former Stanley Cup winner, Daniel Paille. The 34 year old Canadian could well have played in the Olympics if he had not suffered a season-ending, and probably career-ending, concussion in the final minutes of a CHL match.

The team, however, recovered brilliantly under new manager, Tommy Sjödin, and a new import star was born in 28 year old American, Aaron Palushaj. The former NHL, AHL and KHL forward, finished seventh in Total Points and will be able to sign with any club in Europe he feels like after an outstanding performance this season with 45 points, including 19 goals.

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SHL Hockey: best of 2017/8 season - PART II

1. Växjö Lakers

There are so many good things to say about this team. But perhaps two overlooked factors to their success are second keeper, Viktor Andrén who let in just one goal in four games against the some of the league's top scoring forwards in the final series. Of course, Hallam's philosophy has been develop a squad with a breadth of talent. So it should not be a surprise that this include the second man at the back. 24 year old Andrén had already started nearly half the matches this season and had played more games than his counterpart, Viktor Fasth, in the high pressure CHL matches.

This season was also the making of back, Daniel Rahimi as he made the transition from bruiser to creator with a staggering Plus/Minus of 23, second in the whole league behind, who else, but Pettersson.

2. Djurgården IF

Not just keeper, Reideborn but the whole team seemed to play above themselves this year. Whilst the undrafted netminder kept scores low at the back the rest of the team smashed in goals from every line.

Here we can make special mention of brothers Jonathan and Marcus Davidsson. Younger brother, Marcus, picked up a silver medal with Sweden at the Junior World Championships, whilst Jonathan won the bragging rights in Djurgården's internal competition scoring 10 more points than his brother.

Both were drafted in 2017, 19 year old Marcus with Buffalo Sabres and 21 year old Jonathan with Columbus Blue Jackets. With the increased interest from North America in young Swedish players it remains to be seen how long the Stockholm club will be able to cling onto the talented duo.

3. Frölunda Indians

The Indians were absent from the Champions Hockey League final for the first time in four years and then went out of the national competition in the playoff quarterfinals. A disappointing season for manager, Roger Rönnberg, whilst at the same time the entire world has been staring expectantly every time defenseman Dahlin sneezed within a mile of an ice hockey rink.

Finishing in the top six and gaining an automatic playoff spot was not a given at Christmas. So credit must go to the scouting agent who found Jan Mursak floating around the KHL with nothing to do. Arguably the signing of the season, the 30 year old, Slovenian Olympic team captain, promptly managed to score an incredible 20 points in just 15 games, including 10 goals in the regular season to go straight in at number four in the table for average Points Per Game in the history of the league. A new entry this year at number five was none other than Växjö's Pettersson.

4. Färjestad BK

It was a better than expected regular season, but therefore a disappointing post season for the club from Karlstad as they went out in the quarterfinals.

24 year old defenseman Mikael Wikstrand was ever-present at the back, coming in fourth in players with the most ice time. He was, on average, on the ice a whole 28 seconds more than Finnish back partner, Jesse Virtanen. But despite all that exposure, the Swede created a Plus/ Minus of 18, whilst only collecting 7 penalties during the whole season. The 2012 Ottawa Senators drafted Swede also proved himself on the Olympic stage by scoring his first and second goal in national colours at Senior level. Pretty impressive considering he only scored five goals in the regular season.

5. Skellefteå AIK

The dynamic trio of Joakim Lindström, Oscar Möller and Pär Lindholm collected 139 points together in the regular season, with all three in the top 10 of Total Points. Their dominance upfront, in combination with an outstanding Playoff performance of keeper Joni Ortio, took the team to their seventh final in eight years. Impressive stuff from the club from Västerbotten.

The attacking trio themselves were rewarded with an Olympic Games together although they were not able to produce the same fireworks in Korea as they did in Sweden.

Lindholm is the only of the three who has not won a championship with Skellefteå. Even though he has not been drafted, the talent shines through, and as he is only 26 years old the centre has time on his side to add a Swedish championship onto his palmarès and, maybe, even a year in North America too.

6. Malmö Redhawks

A season where they consolidated their status in the top half of the table, but the team can only be thinking now, of what could have been. The loss of captain, Erik Forssell, for the majority of the season due his daughter's severe illness deprived them of a leader and reliable points getter. He has scored an average of a point every other game in an 11 year career in the SHL. When the Lakers pinched their top striker, American forward, Andy Miele and had the luxury to turn this points machine into a fourth line agitator the difference between the clubs was underlined even before the Lakers victory over the Redhawks in the semifinals.

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SHL Hockey: best of 2017/8 season - PART I

The SHL Awards

When the awards for this SHL season were dished our it was obvious that Växjö Lakers would be in the limelight in a year where they dominated both the regular season and playoff phase to lift the Le Mat Trophy.

Sam Hallam picked up best manager and 2017 Vancouver Canucks drafted, Elias Pettersson made a clean sweep with MVP, Best Rookie, Best Forward and first in Total Points.

The 19 year old was joined by a few other Swedish youngsters, for example, 22 year old Viktor Olofsson who took the Top Goal Scorer award ahead of Pettersson. The Frölunda Indians forward was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in 2014, but it was undrafted pair of Lawrence Pilut (22 yrs) from HV71 and Adam Reideborn (26 yrs) from Djurgården IF, who collected Best Defenseman and best Save Percentage from the regular season.  

 

World Junior Championships

The English writing press in North America have had their spotlights shining, naturally, on the talented group of Swedes who won silver at the Junior World Championships in Buffalo, including Pettersson, Lias Andersson and Rasmus Dahlin who will eventually play on the continent.

 

The Brit On Thin Ice Review

But there have been many shimmering stars on Swedish ice here I'm going to take a look at some on them, team by team

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Champions Hockey League 2018-9 - The Draw

The draw for the Champions Hockey League took place on Wednesday 16 May in Copenhagen at the same time as the national World Championship competition was in town.

The draw was done by a group including managers Sam Hallam and Andrew Lord. Ironically, the two will soon face each other again, but this time on opposing sides of the ice as their teams, Växjö Lakers and Cardiff Devils, ended up in the same group.

The groups are seeded, but with only two teams going forward naturally some groups might be easier than others. All four finals have seen Sweden against Finland with the result currently standing at 3-1 to the blue-and-golds.

Here's a quick rundown of who should be going from the group stages into the knockout rounds to compete for European glory:

Group A

This should see Sweden's two times champions, Frölunda Indians and Swiss ZSC Zurich Lions through to the next round.

Group B

This group contains Sweden's Malmö Redhawks but is one of the most even groups with German, Red Bull München and Finnish, TPS Turku also looking to qualify. The final team in the group is Yunost Minsk (not to be confused with KHL team, Dianmo Minsk) from Belarus who also have potential to go forward if they can get results on the road.

Group C

This group should see Sweden's Skellefteå AIK and Finnish IFK Helsinki qualify against Polish and Italian opposition.

Group D

This is another wide open group where anything is possible. We will certainly see two teams who are not from Nordic nations in the quarterfinals as this group contains teams from Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic and again, Belarus.

Group E

This group contains last year's surprise semifinalists, Oceláři Třinec, who only missed the final in a penalty shootout to eventual winners, JYP. The Czech team will be fighting it out with Sweden's Djurgården IF, Finnish Tappara and Norwegian, Storhamar. Whilst the group should be another even contest, the latter club may be the weakest of the four. However, they will be bolstered by the return to his youth team of one of the country's best ever players, 34 year old, Patrik Thoresen, who played for the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers in 2006-8.

Group F

Kärpät Oulu from Finland were seeded second and will be favourites to qualify from this group. But it is another group where the teams from Czech Republic and Germany could easily go through to the knock out stages and upset the Nordic stranglehold on the cup.

Group G

Disappointingly for British hockey, Cardiff Devils are unlikely to qualify from the toughest group. They will again have to face Swedish champions, Växjö Lakers as well as SC Bern who won the regular season of the Swiss NLA. The Lakers will probably be without top scorer, Elias Pettersson next season. But SC Bern have signed Jan Mursak (pictured above) from Frölunda Indians. The Slovenian scoring machine had a higher Points Per Game average than the young Swede in the SHL last season. Whilst the 19 year old will be playing his first game in the NHL in the autumn, the 30 year old can boast 46 games with the Detroit Red Wings as well as impressive stats from the AHL and KHL.

Group H

Reigning champions, JYP Jyväskylä from Finland should qualify from this group but behind them it will be a close contest between teams from the Czech Republic and Slovenia. The Swiss, who have yet to leave their mark on this European competition, will be represented by HC Lugano in this, the final group of the 2018-9 CHL competition.

For a full line up see:

https://www.championshockeylea...

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DRAFTED: NHL Entry Draft and the SHL - Part VII - Conclusion

DRAFTED: who plays in the SHL? 

An article in parts by @ABritOnThinIce1

PART 7. Conclusion: Who plays in the SHL?

The NHL Entry Draft is a very exciting part of the sport and has a dramatic effect on European hockey. But it is not as simple as saying that the NHL and AHL drain Europe of it's best players.

I think there can be no doubt that Sweden (and other European countries) are the birthing ground of many of the NHLs best players, whether it is  Colorado Avalanche's forward Peter Forsberg or Detroit Red Wings' defenseman Niklas Lidström, or even New York Rangers' keeper, Henrik Lundqvist. But it is also the current playing field of many of Europe's greatest players, whether they come from Sweden, North America or any other part of Europe.

Take a random look at any of the SHL teams, as I've tried to do it these articles, and you'll see a fantastic mix multicultural talent. It might be rocket from the blue line by Finnish Kristian Näkyvä, a deft deflection in front of goal by Swede, Oscar Möller (above) or an aggressive fore-check from Canadian, Brendan Shinnimin. But wherever you look you'll see amazing players at the top of their game.

In the SHL you can, naturally, find a huge range of Swedish players, from young rising stars on their way to the top of the sports echelons, as well as players who blossomed in the middle of their careers, or those with talent and experience towards the latter end of their career.

But you can also find some of North America's best players over the age of 25, including those who have had a very successful stint in the AHL, even if they have not shone as brightly in the NHL.  All these missed up with a sprinkling of players from Europe's other ice hockey make the SHL what it is today, one of Europe's finest leagues.

Now all that's left to do it get out there and see some great live hockey!

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DRAFTED: NHL Entry Draft and the SHL - Part VI

DRAFTED: who plays in the SHL? 

An article in parts by @ABritOnThinIce1


PART 6. Players from Europe's other hockey nations

The quality of the SHL often draws in players from other European countries, primarily from the neighbouring Nordic countries of Finland, Norway and Denmark.

In 2017-8 season there were in fact more Finnish players than Americans playing in the SHL. That included Olympian Sakari Manninen, who like Lasch is only 170cm tall, as well as two of the highest scoring backs in the series, Färjestad BK's Jesse Virtanen and Kristian Näkyvä from Linköping HC.

The 27 year old Näkyvä (above) is due to join Manninen at Örebro BK next season. The Finn is unusual in that he was not drafted, but got to sign a one year contact with the Nashville Predators as a free agent in 2015. That meant he got to play one year with their AHL team, Milwaukee Admirals, but then joined Linköping after that, two seasons ago.

The majority of the Norwegian Olympic team play their club hockey in Sweden. That includes forward Mathis Olimb, who like Linköping teammate Näkyvä, has also played one year in the USA as a free agent, but with Rockford Ice Hogs, the AHL development team of Chicago Blackhawks.

Meanwhile, nearly half of Danish players who play in Sweden all play for the same club, Malmö Redhawks. This is not really too much of a surprise, as the city is joined to the Danish capital, Copenhagen, by a bridge. One of those players is 19 year old back, Malte Setkov, who was drafted last year with the Detroit Red Wings and played in the World Junior Championships in Buffalo.

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