Friday, 5 March 2021

No Game Threes

The SDHL Playoffs kicked off earlier this week, so it makes sense to do a rundown of all the action that happened in Sweden among the eight teams participating in the chase for the Swedish Championship trophy. As the title of this article suggests, there were no rubber matches needed in any of the four three-game series so don't hold your breath for a stunning comeback in any of the series. I'm not going to break down the series by game, but we'll take a look at who did what for each team.

Top-seeded Luleå started at home against eighth-seeded AIK in what looked like a serious mismatch on paper, and the scores seemed to reflect that mismatch as Luleå flexed their muscle against the Skelleftea team.

Sara Grahn surrendered just two goals - both in Game Two - while Luleå scored eleven in the series. Grahn pitched a shutout in stopping all 14 shots she faced in Game One as Petra Niemenen opened the scoring while Viivi Vainikka had a pair of empty-net goals in the 3-0 win. Credit to AIK goaltender Jule Flötgen for stopping 32 of 33 shots she faced to give AIK a chance, but they went down 1-0 in the series with the shutout loss.

Game Two was a completely different story, however, as Luleå unleashed their offensive prowess upon AIK. Ronja Savolainen, Michela Cava, and Wilma Sjölund scored in a 6:55 span in the first period to put Luleå up 3-0. AIK's Lisa Johansson made it 3-1 early in the second period, but Luleå roared back with another three goals as Emma Nordin, Petra Niemanen on the power-play, and Savolainen with her second put Luleå up 6-1 with 20 minutes left. AIK's Emmy Alasalmi scored a power-play goal six minutes into the third period, but Luleå's Jenni Hiirikoski and Niemanen with her second power-play goal rounded out the scoring in the 8-2 rout as Luleå moves on to the semi-final round.

I know I already spoke of one mismatch, but this series showed just how different the top and the bottom of the standings were in the SDHL as seventh-seeded SDE met second-seeded Brynäs in this series.

Lindsey Post was under siege in this game for SDE as Brynäs brought the full arsenal of their attack in this one. Josefin Bouveng scored on the power-play to put Brynäs up 1-0 after the first period. She added a second goal in the second period to give Brynäs the 2-0 lead through 40 minutes. Denisa Kirzova made it 3-0 just 40 seconds into the third period as Brynäs continued to hem SDE in their own zone. Bouveng would complete the hat trick at 10:11, Katerina Mrazova added a fifth Brynäs goal on the power-play 1:40 later, and Anna Meixner added a sixth goal 2:12 after that goal. When all was said and done, Eveliina Suonpää stopped all 18 shots she faced to back Brynäs to the 6-0 shutout win.

It didn't get any easier for SDE when they returned home for Game Two. Denisa Krizova and Katerina Mrazova scored 1:32 apart in the first period to put Brynäs up 2-0 through the first frame. Fanny Brolin scored 1:41 into the second period and Josefin Bouveng scored 3:11 after that to give Brynäs the 4-0 lead through two periods. Mrazova would add her second of the game in the third period as Brynäs not only swept SDE out of the playoffs a 5-0 win, but had Eveliina Suonpää post back-to-back shutouts in stopping another 18 shots and all 36 shots in this series.

In what I was jokingly calling the "U SPORTS Swedish series", sixth-seeded MODO met third-seeded HV71 with all of Manitoba, Regina, and Saskatchewan represented from Canada West while Montreal from the RSEQ had a couple of players in this series as well.

HV71's Kennedy Marchment opened the scoring just 1:49 into Game One, but Jaycee Magwood would put MODO at 9:18 as the two teams went into the intermission tied. MODO's Lina Ljungblom scored with 2:32 left in the second period to give MODO the 2-1 lead heading into the third period. Elin Svensson scored 2:45 into the final frame to tie the game before Jessica Healey put HV71 up 3-2 at 10:27. With 2:24 remaining in the game, MODO found the equalizer off the stick of Amanda Ahlm, and we'd go to overtime in this one!

It appeared that MODO came close to winning the game 7:28 into the extra frame, but the puck flirted with the goal line before HV71 forward Sanni Hakala swept it off the line to keep the game going. And as we've seen in many hockey games prior to this one, that close call usually ends up seeing the team who avoided the loss come back to win. That would be the case in this game as Marchment poked the puck from the front of the net to Michelle Löwenhielm who was to the left of the net, and she'd slide home the winner at 10:47 of the extra frame to give HV71 the 4-3 overtime victory and the 1-0 series lead!

With MODO almost stealing a game on the road, would they bring the same fire in Game Two? Just as HV71 did in Game One, they started Game Two off with an early goal as Michelle Löwenhielm found twine just 28 seconds into this game. Danielle Stone would make it 2-0 with 4:15 to play in the opening period, and HV71 took the two-goal lead into the break. Kennedy Marchment would make it 3-0 at 3:44 of the second period before MODO struck on the power-play 1:50 later when Olivia Carlsson converted to make it a 3-1 game. HV71's Anna Borgqvist and MODO's Marion Allemoz exchanged goals later in the period, and HV71 went to third period up 4-2.

Borgqvist added her second into an empty net to make it 5-2 late in the game before she MODO's Lina Ljungblom engaged in a little fisticuffs and were excused from the game with 1:18 to go. Jessica Healey scored with 39 seconds remaining into an empty-net while on the power-play following the ruckus, and HV71 took Game Two by a 6-2 score to sweep the series.

Fifth-seeded Linköping met fourth-seeded Djurgårdens in what may have been the most even matchup on paper based on standings and statistics. Would we see it play out that way? Again, the title of this article says "no" as Djurgårdens opened this series at home.

Djurgårdens' Alexis Mauermann scored the lone goal of the first period, but Nicole Hall added a marker at 1:50 of the second period before Djurgårdens scored three goals in 5:57 as Andrea Dalen sandwiched a pair of goals between Hall's second of the game to put Djurgårdens up 5-0 midway through the second period. Marthe Brunvold would get one back for Linköping, but the five-goal lead would be restored by Sofie Lundin before the period ended as Djurgårdens took the 6-1 lead into the third period. Jennifer Wakefield and Carly Bullock on the power-play would cut the deficit to 6-3 for Linköping, but Mauermann would cap the game off with her second goal as Djurgårdens skated to the 7-3 win.

Game Two was more of a defensive battle than Game One as the scoring began in the second period when Carly Bullock put Linköping up 1-0 just 2:53 into the period. Djurgårdens would rally back as Sarah Bujold tied the 3:18 later with her goal, and we'd head into the third period with that 1-1 stalemate intact. Allie Munroe would find the back of the net at 11:11 of the final stanza to put Djurgårdens up 2-1, and goaltender Lovisa Berndtsson ensured that goal remained the game-winner as she stopped all four shots in the third period to help Djurgårdens secure the 2-1 win and the sweep of Linköping.

That leaves four teams standing in the playoffs as fourth-seeded Djurgårdens will meet first-seeded Luleå while third-seeded HV71 tangles with a yet-to-be-scored-on Brynäs team. If you're wondering, the U SPORTS players who remain in the playoffs include HV71's Danielle Stone (Saskatchewan) and Djurgårdens' duo of Mathea Fischer (UBC) and Sarah Bujold (StFX). If you're looking to cheer someone on, these three are good picks!

We'll have another update next week as the SDHL Playoffs continue with the best-of-five semifinals following the same schedule as the teams will start on Sunday and see Game Two on Monday before switching cities for Game Three on Wednesday. If necessary, Game Four goes Thursday with Game Five scheduled for Friday. Note that Game Five does not switch back to the top-seeded teams' cities! While the home-ice advantage does revert back, you have to wonder if playing at home will help the lower-seeded teams assuming they make it to a Game Five situation? I guess we'll find out if we get there!

We'll have more updates next week here on HBIC, so make sure you tune in then! Best of luck to the four remaining SDHL teams in their games this week!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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