Frolunda makes it four
by Derek O'Brien|04 FEB 2020
Frolunda Gothenburg won the Champions Hockey League again.
photo: Stepan Cerny / Champions Hockey League
For the fourth time in five years, the club hockey champion of Europe is Frolunda Gothenburg, following a 3-1 victory over Mountfield Hradec Kralove at the Champions Hockey League final on Tuesday night in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic. 

All the scoring came in the first period, with all three Frolunda goals coming in a span of 2:52 late in the period. 

“It was a well-played game by us against a team that’s very hard to play here at home,” said Frolunda coach Roger Ronnberg, who has been at the helm for all four of his team’s European titles. “We played well technically, stuck to the game plan, and when we got the two-goal lead we were able to play really well defensively until the end.”

“I have to say I’m very proud of the boys because we gave it everything we had, but I can say without shame that they were better than us,” said Mountfield goalie Marek Mazanec, who was the biggest reason his team had made it this far. “It was a great game and I’d also say it’s a success for our team and our city to have even made it to the final, so I’m not disappointed at all.” 

In contrast to Frolunda, which was appearing in its fifth final in six years, this marked Mountfield’s debut in a European title contest and the first CHL final to be played in the Czech Republic. 

The home fans were pumped at the start as their team came out strong in the opening minutes of the first period, and they turned up the volume in the sixth minute when Mountfield drew the game’s first power play. Then just shy of the seven-minute mark, Filip Pavlik found Petr Koukal in the slot, and the veteran centre beat Johan Mattsson to the stick side to open the scoring.

Mountfield had an opportunity to go up two goals on a second power play, and then Frolunda finally started to get some offence going when the Swedish champs were awarded two power plays in the second half of the period. Mountfield did a good job of killing off three of the four minutes, but couldn’t keep the dangerous Frolunda at bay forever. 

“They got some momentum going there but we stayed calm, stuck to our game and it was a good team effort that got us back on track,” said Joel Lundqvist, who has now captained Frolunda to four European titles. 

Frolunda pulled even at 16:29 after Ryan Lasch’s pass attempt was tipped by a Mountfield stick, then redirected by Lundqvist to find Simon Hjalmarsson all alone at the side of the net. Less than two minutes later, they were in the lead when Max Frieberg capitalized on a rebound after an initial shot by Anders Gronlund was stopped by Mazanec. And with momentum on their side, the Indians scored a third time exactly one minute later as Johan Sundstrom leaned into a shot from the high shot that beat Mazanec through a crowd.
That was such an important time. Once we got the power-play goal and it was tied, we got a little momentum.
Johan Sundstrom
Frolunda forward
“Then Max’s goal and mine, it was just a matter of getting guys in front of the goalie and making it tough for him, and I think we did,” Sundstrom added.

“I was trying to make a play and got hit pretty hard and then the defender got the shot on net,” said Frolunda’s Samuel Fagemo, who paid the price on his team’s third goal but was not hurt badly and was able to continue. “Yeah, I knew the hit was coming.”

There was no scoring the rest of the way as Frolunda did an excellent job of limiting the chances against. Shots on goal in the game were 29-18 in Frolunda’s favour.

“It was a difficult game,” said Mattsson, the Frolunda goalie. “They didn’t get a lot of zone time and we did, but they got their chances of counter-attacks so I had to be ready. But we played awesome defensively and held the puck in their zone and I think we deserved the win.”

Mountfield’s best chance over the last 40 minutes was probably a quick shot by Ales Jergl with about eight minutes to go, on which Mattsson had to react quickly. 

“It’s hard when you don’t get a chance to feel the puck that often. We narrowed their zone time to almost nothing,” said Mattsson.

Whatever hope Mountfield may have had evaporated with 4:06 to play when Matej Chalupa was called for slashing. Even after the penalty was over, Frolunda kept the home team pinned in its own zone, and Mountfield wasn’t able to get Mazanec to the bench until the last 35 seconds. 

“They really came out hard in the first 10 minutes, which was expected, but once we settled in and started cycling, that’s kind of where we exploited their defensive game,” said Lasch, the CHL’s all-time leader with 91 points, who after the game was named Frolunda’s best player in the final, and also awarded the top scorer and MVP awards for the season. 

“We’ve built a good culture here that’s all about the team and winning.”

This was Frolunda’s second CHL win in Hradec Kralove this season. The two teams were in the same Group H during the group stage, with Frolunda finishing first and Mountfield second. Mountfield defeated Frolunda 3-2 in Gothenburg and then the following week, Frolunda repaid the favour with a 4-3 road win. 

Following that, both teams followed different paths from to the final. Frolunda came from behind each round, losing the first games to Farjestad Karlstad, EHC Biel-Bienne and Lulea Hockey before coming back to win on aggregate in the return games. Mountfield did it on stingy defence, conceding only three goals total in six games – one each to Adler Mannheim, EV Zug and Djurgarden Stockholm over 120 minutes.

“We beat some fantastic teams from Switzerland, Germany and Sweden. It’s difficult to evaluate, but of course this is a great success,” said Mountfield defenceman Petr Zamorsky. “I think we have advanced the club a bit further and it can be a stepping stone to further success. If someone had told me before the season that we were going to the final, I wouldn't have believed it. It’s a long journey and you have to beat some quality opponents. We wanted more, but we have nothing to be ashamed of.” 

“I think they’ve changed their game a little bit since the group stage and we had to adjust,” said Ronnberg. “We studied what they did especially against Djurgarden and they were really tough defensively. We knew we would have to get guys in front of that goalie and play really good defence. We’re used to playing decisive games and I think it showed tonight.”
Joel Lundqvist has captained Frolunda Gothenburg to four Champions Hockey League titles.
photo: Stepan Cerny / Champions Hockey League
“It never gets old to win,” said Lundqvist. “That’s why I keep playing – to be part of an amazing team like this and to win titles. It’s an amazing feeling and you never get tired of that.”

Frolunda has now won four of the six CHL titles since the competition was re-started in 2014/15. Other winners have been Lulea, who beat Frolunda in that initial season, and Finnish club JYP Jyvaskyla, who became the first and so far only non-Swedish team to win in 2017/18.

In addition to gaining its fifth CHL title, Frolunda also earns a seventh straight berth in the competition for the 2020/21 season. Previously, Danish club SonderjyskE Vojens became the first team to qualify by winning the IIHF Continental Cup on home ice last month. 

Talking about another title defence, Ronnberg said: “We don’t defend a title, we win a new one. This gold medal we won today stays. Next year, we go for another one.”