Hockey spectacle in the ice palace
Article - Hockey spectacle in the ice palace
The two newbies Frolunda and Bern Selection enter the 94th Spengler Cup this Boxing Week as the favourites.Yet it is Sparta Prague, KalPa Kuopio, Slovan Bratislava, and HC Davos that know from past experiences how to win the traditional tournament. Therefore, these six teams guarantee a hockey spectacle in the ice palace.
The corona pandemic mixed up the field of participants in the last moment. Bern Selection and the leader in the current Slovakian standings, Slovan Bratislava, took the places of record title holder Team Canada and Ambri-Piotta on short notice. The Bernese selection is made up of eight players each of SC Bern, EHC Biel, and SCL Tigers. The roster holds no less than twelve foreign players lead by Nation League top scorer Jesper Olofsson and the Finnish world champion Harri Pesonen. Also on board is the current free agent NHL legend Bobby Ryan (917 NHL games). The captain is Beat Forster. This will be the eleventh Spengler Cup for the long-time HCD and now Biel defenseman. Bern Selection will be lead by the three club head coaches Antti Tormanen, Jason O’Leary, and Johan Landeskog.
Frolunda marks Europe’s Hockey
Just as the Bernese selection, European club hockey powerhouse Frolunda HC will be entering its first Spengler Cup. The team from the Swedish city of Gothenburg has won four of the past five Champions Hockey League titles and yet again finds itself in the semifinals of this year’s edition. And it’s no secret that Frolunda wants to expand its proud international trophy collection with a triumph at the Spengler Cup. The last Swedish team to win the traditional tournament in Davos was Farjestad in 1994. Roger Ronnberg is the mastermind behind Frolunda’s success. He has already been head coach since 2013 at Frolunda, which regularly produces players for the NHL. Despite their investment in the youth department, Frolunda’s team does not lack proven players and attractions, lead by 39-year old captain Joel Lundqvist, twin brother of NHL goaltending legend Henrik Lundqvist.
With a strong team, the two-time Spengler Cup champion (1962 and 1963) Sparta Prague returns to Davos after a ten year absence. In 2004 the Czechs lost the final against Davos 2-0. Last season the team around former Czech national team coach Josef Jandac was stopped in the playoff semifinals after finishing atop the regular season standings of the national championship. Now its desire for the first national title since 2007 has been further reinforced. Seven players with NHL players experience bolster the roster, lead by Vladimir Sobotka and Milan Jurcina.
Will KalPa repeat its upset?
In 2018 KalPa Kuopio caused one of the biggest upsets in Spengler Cup history. As the first Finnish team ever, it won the oldest club tournament in Davos. Having entered as a heavy underdog, KalPa took the final game 3-2 over Team Canada. The decision only came in a penalty shootout - and only on the 15th attempt. Because only the best Finnish club not to qualify for the Champions Hockey League can enter the Spengler Cup, KalPa could not defend its title in 2019. Only eight players remain from the 2018 title team. The most notable is Kim Nousiainen. As an 18-year old, the defenseman was then selected into the Spengler Cup all-star team. Last spring the then 20-year old made his world championship debut on Finland’s silver medal team.
Slovan Bratislava, just like HCD turning 100 years old this year, is the current leader in the Slovakian championship. The team is powered by strong foreign players. Only one Slovak is among the top six scorers of the internal top scorer list. Two Canadians, two Americans, and a Finn set the pace with many points. This quintet of imports shall also bring excitement with offensive hockey in Davos. Slovan won the Spengler Cup three times in a row between 1972 and 1974 - then under the Czechoslovakian national flag and superstar Vaclav Nedomansky.
HCD wants to keep its good run in the national championship going at the Spengler Cup and has a serious word to say in the fight for the tournament title. For the Spengler Cup, Davos has reinforced itself with Andrew Rowe of the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers and Valtteri Filppula of Servette. The Finn brings the experience of 1222 NHL games with him to Davos. HCD GM Jan Alston is currently still looking for another foreign forward.
The 94th Spengler Cup will be opened on December 26 at 15.00 with the matchup between Slovan Bratislava and Frolunda. In the evening, Sparta Prague and Bern Selection will face off at 20.15.
Quelle: Hansruedi Camenisch / Davoser Zeitung Bild: Keystone