HC Lugano will make its third overall and second consecutive Spengler Cup appearance. The question is: Can they capture their first tournament title?
HC Lugano is one of the most interesting clubs in Europe. The hockey enterprise has the means and charisma to attract talented players to the Resega year after year. In that regard the Bianco-Neri are the perfect guests for the Spengler Cup: The invitational tournament with its festive surrounding provides the opportunity for players to celebrate hockey rather than working. They showed that they could do so successfully during their first appearance in 1991 and the second at last year’s edition. They reached the final both times, exciting with their style of hockey. Only, it has not been enough to win a title. However, there are many reasons to believe that could change this year.
The most striking argument is probably that the once dominant club (seven-time Swiss champion) has finally returned to the its winning ways in the national championship. Between 2006 (their last championship title) and 2015 they had not won a playoff series; but now they have solved the puzzle. After a fantastic Spengler Cup campaign the Ticinesi turned up the gas, powering their way into the playoff final. It was rare bad luck that SC Bern, themselves on a formidable run, were waiting for them there. But Lugano has tasted blood. A season with two second-place finishes shows how close they are.
They are good enough
Further arguments that lift Lugano into the role of favourites at the traditional tournament? Well, one would be the Spengler Cup-proven coach Doug Shedden, who will be behind the bench for his eighth consecutive year and won the tournament with the NHL lockout team in 2013. Another is the impressive roster: from fast-climbing goalkeeper Elvis Merzlikins to creative defenseman Daniel Sondell to artists Damien Brunner and Linus Klasen, or the ice-cold scorer Patrik Zackrisson - the potential of this team is vast. One question mark comes from the strain on the Ticinesi this season. A successful preliminary round in the Champions Hockey League makes further high-level games likely. In the cup, too, the team is expected to get far. The management of strength is therefore not to be underestimated.
Yet Lugano is expected to handle it. The organization’s depth has increased thanks to its farm team in cooperation with Ambri and HC Biasca Ticino Rockets in NLB. And the Ticinesi, whose staff and players thoroughly enjoyed last year’s excursion to Davos, clearly understand how to turn the strain of the Spengler Cup to their advantage: it appears last winter the team copied Servettes’ and its head coach Chris McSorley’s approach, who used their three appearances for team building before the decisive part of the season.