ZURICH – Tornado Moscow Region (Russia), AIK Stockholm (Sweden), ESC Planegg (Germany) and the Espoo Blues (Finland) advanced to the Final of the European Women’s Champions Cup.
The finalists were determined on Sunday in the second round of the three-stage competition. The best European club team in women’s ice hockey will be crowned during the final tournament from 14 to 16 March 2014 at a venue to be announced later.
Defending champion Tornado Moscow Region will enter the event as the top-seeded team after a strong showing in Group E that was played in Bad Tölz, Germany.
The Russians opened the event with a 10-2 thrashing of Swiss champion ZSC Lions Zurich thanks to seven goals in the middle frame. Tornado’s roll continued on the second day with a 12-1 victory against Danish champion Hvidovre IK.
The biggest challenge came on the last day with host ESC Planegg, which had held a 5-0 record this season before Sunday. But an Iya Gavrilova hat trick and a 27-save shutout of Slovak national team goalie Zuzana Tomcikova led Tornado to a 5-0 victory against the Germans.
Gavrilova became the scoring leader of the four-team tournament with six goals and seven assists in three games followed by her teammates Yekaterina Smolentseva (3+6), Galina Skiba (5+3) and Olga Permyakova (2+5). It was a good event to test their offensive skills, since many of the Tornado players will be part of the Russian women’s national team at the Olympic Winter Games that start in less than two months.
Planegg advanced as the second-ranked team of the group thanks to wins against Hvidovre (9-4) and the ZSC Lions Zurich (3-1) in the first two days.
In the game that eventually decided second place, the Swiss won the first period thanks to a goal from British player Angela Taylor but Planegg turned things around in the middle stanza with two goals from Brooke Ammerman. Sophie Kratzer sealed the win with the 3-1 goal into the empty net.
The ZSC Lions Zurich finished in third place with a 3-1 victory against Hvidovre on Sunday. It will be the first time since 2009 that Switzerland won’t be represented in the final tournament, while Planegg became the first German team since 2012 when the club qualified but finished in last place.
Planegg forward Brooke Ammerman and Tornado Moscow Region captain Olga Permyakova battle for the puck. Photo: hockeywomen.de / Büchting
AIK Stockholm won Group F of the second round which was staged in Lohja, Finland, but with smaller margins than at the other group. AIK defeated host Espoo Blues 6-3 in the first game. Helene Martinsen scored two important goals for her team. After the 2-1 marker at 14:51 of the first period her team never gave up the lead and Martinsen was also responsible for the game-winning goal for the 4-2 score midway through the game.
Espoo outshot AIK 21-18 throughout the game but couldn’t manage to even the score. The Swedes had two more unanswered goals while Emma Terho’s power-play marker for the 6-3 score came too late with just 4:35 left in regulation time. The team’s remaining hope dwindled when Annina Rajahuhta missed on a penalty shot with 2:25 left to play.
On the second day AIK blanked Aisulu Almaty, the Kazakh team reinforced by eight Canadian imports, 3-0 thanks to two Emmy Alasalmi goals.
The Swedes sealed the win in the last game with a curious ending against the Sabres Vienna. AIK just needed a tie in regulation time to avoid going into the mathematics with a three-team tie while the Austrians needed a regulation-time win to keep their chances alive. The game remained scoreless until the last minute with 31 saves from Sabres goalie Victoria Vigilanti and 20 from AIK netminder Minatsu Murase.
The Sabres ended up pulling the goalkeeper in desperation but AIK forward Lisa Johansson scored into the empty net for a 1-0 victory.
AIK’s win left the Sabres empty-handed with a third-place finish while the Swedes along with second-ranked Espoo Blues advanced to the final tournament.
The Finnish host recovered from the opening-day loss and advanced thanks to a come-from-behind victory against the Sabres Vienna on Saturday.
The Austrians had the better start and opened up a 2-0 gap with goals scored by Kaitlin Spurling and Samantha Hunt after five minutes of play forcing Blues coach Sami Haapanen to replace Essi Holopainen by Mari Koivisto.
But Espoo had Emma Nuutinen, who scored three unanswered goals. And after Anna Meixner had tied the game at three for the Sabres, Nuutinen added a fourth marker for a natural hat trick in the second period.
The Sabres capitalized on the first power play of the third period with Hunt’s second goal of the game but defenceman Mira Huhta scored the game-winning goal three minutes later.
The 5-4 win against the Sabres and a 4-1 victory against Aisulu Almaty on the last day earned the Blues a second-place finish and a ticket to the final tournament. The underdog Sabres fought well throughout the tournament but didn’t earn another win after defeating Aisulu 2-1 on the opening day.
Scores & Stats: Group E, Group F