DAVOS, Switzerland – And the winner of the 83rd Spengler Cup is... Dynamo Minsk. Participating for the first time, the Belarusian KHL team won the traditional event between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve with a 3-1 victory over the hosts, HC Davos.
Dynamo Minsk prevailed in a tournament that features four top European club teams and a Team Canada roster consisting mostly of Canadians from the Swiss league. Dynamo used ten players that have been selected for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, including eight Belarusians, Finland’s Ville Peltonen, and Slovakia’s Richard Lintner.
The Belarusians had a tough start in the preliminary round, losing to host HC Davos 3-2 after taking a 2-1 lead. But they couldn’t be stopped after that.
Dynamo Minsk beat Germany’s Adler Mannheim, 2-1, Czech champion Energie Karlovy Vary, 8-0, and Team Canada, 4-3, en route to the New Year's Eve final.
Coming in, HC Davos had won all its games except against Team Canada. This marked the first time the Canadians missed the Spengler Cup final since 2004.
Last year, it was Dynamo Moscow that won the tournament in a final full of Canadian-Russian rivalry. The hockey played at the world's oldest international tournament is different from what fans see in their domesetic leagues.
For both the Belarusians and the Canadians, it’s a cross between Christmas holidays in the idyllic Swiss Alps and high-skilled European hockey in an offensive-minded, All-Star Game-like environment. This blend accounts for why the tournament has remained so famous in Europe, and why the Swiss league takes a Christmas break each year to accommodate it.
“Our goal is to make the final and to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Davos,” assistant general manager Vladimir Goncharov admitted before the tournament. The other alternative would have been to go as soon as possible to Dynamo Minsk's next out-of-town destination for the KHL regular season, Novosibirsk.
The players apparently opted to stay in the mountains, and had a better game against Davos in the final than on Boxing Day.
Alexander Kulakov opened the scoring at 9:00, and Denis Kochetkov extended the lead with a rebound on a power play early in the second period.
Davos gained some hope when Juraj Kolnik cut the lead to 2-1 50 seconds into the third period, but Andrei Mikhalev sealed the win with an empty-netter with 33 seconds left.
Dynamo Minsk goalkeeper Andrei Mezin was once again the man of the match, He wrapped up a banner year that included winning Best Goalie honours at the 2009 World Championship by hoisting the Spengler Cup trophy.
This 83rd edition of the Spengler Cup was the last in the traditional format of five teams in a round-robin tournament plus the final. The organizers have announced they'll expand the tournament to six teams by inviting a second Swiss club that has yet to be named. The 2010 Spengler Cup will be played in two groups of three teams to lower the number of games per team.