The power of defence
Article - The power of defence
KalPa Kuopio was the surprising winner of the 2018 Spengler Cup, with coach Sami Kapanen being one of the biggest discoveries of the tournament. Which Finn will enchant Davos this time around?
The Spengler Cup usually stands for unbridled offence, tempo, spectacle and magical nights laden with goals. But KalPa Kuopio was a form of countermovement in 2018. Under long-time NHL professional Sami Kapanen, to this day revered in Philadelphia, KalPo played a calculated, efficient defensive style of hockey - with resounding success. They conceded only three goals in four games, allowing HCD in the semifinal and Team Canada in the final just one goal each. The final game had to be decided in a shootout.
KalPa was the first Finnish champion in Spengler Cup history, a feat that made headlines worldwide. And the team’s performance was so convincing that HC Lugano hired the coach few months later. Kapanen’s tenure in Ticino did not go according to plan, yet the move exemplifies the importance of the Spengler Cup. Can new actors take centre stage of the tournament in 2021? Definitely possible, even if, just as in 2018, KalPo enters as the underdog.
In the meanwhile the team is coached by a man with a Swiss past: Antti Miettinen once played for the SCL Tigers. The roster of the East Finns has seen many changes with just eight players remaining from the team that triumphed in 2018. There are two EV Zug alumni among the numerous additions in the past years: number one goaltender Eero Kilpeläinen, who played half a season for EVZ in 2013/14, and centre Matti Järvinen was a playoff reinforcement in 2017. Last season’s two top scorers Kai Kantola and Balazs Sebök have left the club this summer, yet the offence is not the team’s strong suit anyway. The team with a comparatively modest budget, which finished fifth in the regular season, made the playoffs mostly thanks to allowing only 125 goals against in 58 games, the third-best defence of the league.
KalPa will look to lean on their defensive power at the Spengler Cup as well. The club impressively demonstrated in 2018 that this strategy can be successful.
Text: SLAPSHOT/Nicola Berger Foto: Keystone