The 2018/19 Champions Hockey League is in full swing now, and after four days of competition, some teams are flying out of the gates as expected, while other teams have really surprised the hockey world with performances you wouldn’t expect.
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the top moments from the opening weekend of the CHL.
Storhamar return with a shootout win.
The last time Storhamar featured in the CHL was back in 2015/16, where the side from Norway were a surprise package, advancing all the way to the round of 16, eventually falling to TPS Turku of Finland.
Now the side are back after dominating the Norwegian league last year, and they marked their return in style.
Coming in against Tappara Tampere of Finland, you’d be forgiven to expect a relatively easy game for Tappara, but Storhamar were there to stop that. Despite trailing 2 – 0 towards the end of the second period, they managed to tie the game up with just three minutes played in the third period, with goals coming from Niklas Fogström and Patrick Thoresen.
With no more goals for the rest of regulation, Storhamar marked their return with a point, but they weren’t done. With another point up for grabs, neither side could be separated at the end of overtime, and after a dominant performance by Storhamar captain Thorensen in the shootout, scoring on all three of his attempts, they grabbed the extra point after a nine round shootout.
They also almost managed an upset of Djurgården of Sweden, but lost in overtime after a third period comeback from the Swedish side.
Mads Christensen and Red Bull Munich’s dominant powerplay
If your teams powerplay is able to score one, maybe twice in a game I imagine your coach is pretty happy.
But what about five?
That’s exactly what Red Bull Munich were able to do on game day four, and Mads Christensen deserves a lot of praise for it, after all, he either assisted or scored on all five of them.
Playing host to Finnish side TPS Turku, Red Bull Munich put on a special teams clinic, scoring five times on eight powerplay opportunities to pull of a 5 – 1 win over TPS, and Mads Christensen netted himself three in the process, and added two assists, leading the entire tournament in points with six, as he also grabbed an assist in Munich’s first game, a narrow 4 – 3 win over Yunost Minsk of Belarus.
Disastrous start for a team in last years final four.
Last season, Ocelari Trinec of the Czech Republic were one of the best teams in the tournament, mostly led by their netmind Simon Hrubec who earned league MVP honours.
They managed to fight their way to the semi-finals, coming up short as they lost in a shootout in the semis to the eventual tournament winners JYP Jyväskylä.
Now after two games, they sit rooted to the bottom of Group E, following two straight losses to Tappara Tampere and Djurgården Stockholm.
In game one, they were completely outclassed by Djurgården in a massive 6 – 1 loss, and just when you thought it couldn’t get much worse, Tappara pumped them 8 – 2 giving the Czech side the worst goal difference record so far in the entire tournament.
A repeat MVP performance won’t be happening either for netminder Hrubec who has allowed 9 goals from 31 shots, in just 89 minutes of ice time.
TPS Turku on the brink of a group stage exit again
Last year, TPS Turku failed to get out of their group for the first time ever since in what was a very unpredictable group, that saw the Nottingham Panthers qualify in top spot.
Now, TPS find themselves in a precarious position, sitting bottom of Group B with Yunost Minsk, and six points off the top spot that is jointly held by Munich and Malmo.
They fell 8 – 4 against the Malmo Redhawks, and then our previously mentioned powerplay domination from Munich gave them their second loss.
But with two home games against the same opponents coming up this week, they’ll be out for revenge and to please the home fans, before trying to complete the comeback when they face an easier opponent in Minsk in October.
Who said European leagues aren’t tough?
A meeting on game day four between Kärpät Oulu and the THOMAS SABO Ice Tigers proved them European leagues can be just as physical as the rest of them.
In a blow out win for Kärpät of Finland, the two sides racked up a massive 171 penalty minutes between them, including five players being ejected, three for the Ice Tigers, and two for Kärpät .
Kärpät eased their way to a 9 – 3 victory, that surprisingly only saw two powerplay goals.
Cardiff Devils force overtime
SC Bern probably don’t like coming to the UK to play anymore, last season when they traveled to Nottingham to face the Panthers, they lost 4 – 2 and on their trip to Cardiff this year, they looked in danger of losing another one.
Cardiff held their own and matched their Swiss rivals all game long, but when the ice got bigger during three-on-three overtime, SC Bern struck early as Andrew Ebbett grabbed the extra point, going five-hole on Ben Bowns as Bern escaped with two points, instead of the three they were hoping for, and the Devils picked up their first points of the season.
HC Bolzano cause two upsets
Italian side HC Bolzano have so far managed to upset their two toughest opponents in Group C, defeating Skellefteå AIK in a shootout in game one, and then pulling off an even bigger upset, as a great second period helped them to a 4 – 1 win over Finnish powerhouse IFK Helsinki.
The two sides meet again in Helsinki on Thursday, just one of three games where the puck drops at 5pm UK time to get game day five underway in what is already an exciting 2018/19 Champions Hockey League campaign.