3 Swedish teams, 1 Czech in CHL semis
by Derek O'Brien|11 DEC 2019
Defending champion Frolunda Gothenburg came back from a deficit at EHC Biel-Bienne to reach the semi-finals of the Champions Hockey League.
photo: Simon Bohnenblust / EHC Biel-Bienne / Champions Hockey League
In the Champions Hockey League quarter-finals, all three remaining Swedish teams won and all three remaining Swiss teams lost. In dramatic fashion, defending champion Frolunda Gothenburg again came from behind to advance. The other of last year’s finalists, Germany’s Red Bull Munich, wasn’t so fortunate, bowing out with a pair of convincing losses to Djurgarden Stockholm.

All that means that the final four includes three Swedish teams and one from the Czech Republic – Mountfield Hradec Kralove. Mountfield will take on Djurgarden in a match-up of two teams in the CHL semi-finals for the first time while the other will be a rematch of the 2014/15 final – Frolunda vs Lulea Hockey. 

Frolunda Gothenburg def. EHC Biel-Bienne 7-6 OT (2-3, 4-3, 1-0)

It seems that Frolunda always finds a way. In the round of 16, the three-time CHL champion equalled a record by overcoming a five-goal deficit on aggregate to beat Farjestad Karlstad. This time, it was a three-goal deficit in the first game on home ice before battling back to make it a more manageable one-goal deficit heading into the second game in Switzerland. 

There, in a wild, back-and-forth game, Frolunda scored twice late in regulation time to win 4-3 in 60 minutes and tie the aggregate score to force overtime. On the power play in the extra period, Patrik Carlsson’s shot through a screen beat Jonas Hiller for the winning goal. Over the two games against the reigning European champs, Hiller made 87 saves.

“Yeah, we were lucky here in the end,” said Frolunda head coach Roger Ronnberg. “We were in a bad spot but we managed to come back. What a show of character from the boys – it’s unbelievable.”
That game just summarizes that we have a never-die attitude. The tougher the game it is, the harder we play.
Ryan Lasch
Frolunda forward

Lulea Hockey def. Lausanne HC 7-3 (2-1, 5-2)

In the semis, Frolunda will meet the team that beat them in the first final of the revived CHL in 2014/15: Lulea Hockey. 

After earning a 2-1 win in Lausanne in the first game, Lulea returned home needing only a draw to advance and did better than that, earning a three-goal win to advance to the semi-finals for the first time since that 2014/15 season. Robin Kovacs scored two goals in the first game and Noel Gunler accomplished that same feat in the second. 

“We did what we had to do but nothing more than that,” Lulea head coach Thomas Berglund humbly said after the second game. “The first two periods were pretty even and we did what we had to do to advance.”

Djurgarden Stockholm def. Red Bull Munich 8-1 (5-1, 3-0)

After a decisive win for Djurgarden in the first game, Red Bull Munich faced an uphill climb on home ice. Indeed, after a scoreless first period, Djurgarden won for the second game in a row to win convincingly and finish off the last German team standing – and last year’s finalist.

“I’m satisfied with the boys today and I think we made a good performance,” said Djurgarden head coach Robert Ohlsson. “We had a good result last week in Stockholm and I think we did a good job here tonight.”

This is the furthest that Djurgarden has ever gone in the CHL, although the team from the Swedish capital is no stranger to success on the international stage, winning the IIHF European Cup in back-to-back years in 1990/91 and 1991/92.

Mountfield Hradec Kralove def. EV Zug 5-1 (1-1, 4-0)

In the only quarter-final not to involve a Swedish team, Mountfield and Zug opened with a 1-1 tie in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic. That set up a return game where Zug dominated the opening period but couldn’t beat former NHL goaltender Marek Mazanec, who would go on to record 28 saves for the shutout in this game. Mazanec has now surrendered only two goals in four CHL playoff games as Mountfield scored three times in the second period, eventually winning the game 4-0. 

"He's been fantastic for about two months and we're happy for him," Mountfield captain Radek Smolenak said about Mazanec. "We hope it lasts, but we can't depend on him to bail us out every game. We need to give him support, both offensively and defensively, so he's not under so much pressure."

“Zug was strong in the first period so it was important we didn’t allow any goals,” said Mountfield coach Vladimir Ruzicka. “In the second period, we controlled the puck more and created some chances.” 

Luca Hollenstein, who is expected to play for Switzerland at the upcoming World Junior Championship, was solid in goal for Zug in the first game. In the second it was veteran Swiss international goalie Leonardo Genoni – the silver-medal hero from 2018 – just returning back to action after missing several weeks with a groin injury.

In addition to being the only non-Swedish team left, Mountfield is also the only team left that has never won a European club championship.

Semi-final matchups:

Lulea Hockey (SWE) vs Frolunda Gothenburg (SWE) 
Djurgarden Stockholm (SWE) vs Mountfield Hradec Kralove (CZE)
The semi-finals will be played over two legs – first games are scheduled for 7/8 January and the return games, a week later, on 14/15 January – with each team playing one game at home. The schedule will be based solely on factors such as arena availability and broadcasting obligations. 

The CHL final is a one-game showdown to be played on 4 February 2020 at the home venue of one team. To determine which of the two finalists earns the right to play this ultimate game at home, multiple factors are accounted for: first and foremost the accumulated record leading up to the final, but also other factors such as the capacity of the venue, expected attendance, as well as technical facilities of the arena.

For more information, visit championshockeyleague.com.