BERNE – SC Bern is Switzerland’s richest club and the one with the best attendance in Europe, but it lacked in one key area: Titles. That’s all water under the bridge now as the club claimed its 12th title, its first after a five-year drought.
Just like 2008 and in 2009, SC Bern claimed the regular-season title, but this time wasn’t knocked out in the quarterfinals. Bern swept through the quarterfinals against HC Lugano and the semi-finals against the Kloten Flyers with a minimum of eight games before meeting Geneva-Servette in the final series. Servette eliminated archrival Fribourg-Gottéron and EV Zug in the first two rounds.
The regular-season standings revealed what to expect. Bern had 102 points in 50 games, just one more than Geneva.
The final series went over the full seven games, with five ending with a one-goal margin. Three games went to overtime.
The series was deadlocked after each team earned close wins on home ice in the first two games. Then the tide moved to Bern’s favour. It won Game 3 on home ice, 6-2. Servette replied with scrums in the last period to set a more aggressive tone for Game 4 in Geneva, but Bern won 4-3 in overtime.
Bern had everything in its hands leading the series 3-1, but lost Game 5 at home and Game 6 in Geneva.
Everything came down Game 7 to decide the title and perhaps end a curse.
On one hand there was Bern’s home-ice curse. It won 24 of 32 games this season in the 2009 World Championship venue, but hadn’t won a title on home ice since 1977. Since then, six championships were won on the road. After missing the title in Game 5 on home ice, fans were afraid that the same would happen again in Game 7.
On the other hand, Geneva-Servette had never won the title before, but finished seven times as a runner-up.
The fears about Bern’s home-ice curse seemed to be true when Florian Conz scored the lead for Servette 80 seconds into the game. But the Servette players ran out of gas after a long post-season with 20 games in just over six weeks.
Goals from Etienne Froidevaux and David Jobin turned the score to Bern’s favour before the first period was over. Bern controlled the rest of the game and won, 4-1.
SC Bern’s success didn’t come as a complete surprise. The club has revenues of about 23m Swiss Francs (€16m), including concessions the turnover is reportedly 35m Francs (€24m).
These figures are the best in Switzerland, and by far higher than Geneva-Servette. Consequently Bern can afford four good lines and some non-playing professionals in the system as well.
On the other side, Geneva was dependent on developing players for the top spots on the team. But the team doesn’t have as much depth as Bern.
For coach Larry Huras it’s the third Swiss title with the third team after he won with the ZSC Lions Zurich (2001) and HC Lugano (2003). After two years in Stavangar, Norway, and Villach, Austria, Huras found his way back to Switzerland to take over the job from John van Boxmeer and succeeded his first year behind the bench.
Despite spending good money for the four imports, the three biggest stars on the team were Swiss with centre Martin Plüss and winger Ivo Rüthemann, who led the team in scoring, and defenceman Roman Josi.
The 19-year-old, who missed the Olympics due to an injury he suffered at the World Juniors, had another year of steep development on SC Bern’s first line. He had not only a huge load of ice time, but almost doubled his points-per-game numbers with 34 points (15 goals, 19 assists) in 41 games. He is supposed to play his second World Championship with the men’s national team that begins in two weeks in Germany and might decide soon whether he wants to continue in the Swiss league or join the Nashville Predators.
Five players from SC Bern (Philippe Furrer, Beat Gerber, Josi, Plüss and Rüthemann) along with four from Geneva-Servette (Goran Bezina, Thomas Déruns, Paul Savary and Tobias Stephan) will be the last ones to join the camp of the Swiss national team.