Just one more win, and they would have defended their championship from 2019.
But, you know what they say about the last win being the most difficult one to get? It proved to be true for Rungsted.
They lost Games 4 and 5, and a 2-1 lead in Game 6. The Aalborg Pirates clawed their way back into the fight.
Then, just twenty-five seconds before the end of regulation time, the Pirates were called for a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. The Metal Ligaen used a 3-on-3 overtime even in the final, and Rungsted got to work.
Just 40 seconds into the overtime, Mattias Persson passed the puck from the point to Shane Hanna on the right circle, who beat George Sorensen in the Pirates net with a one-timer. Hanna – the leading scorer of the final series - stood still and threw his gloves in the air.
The game was over. Rungsted were the champions.
“Standing here as a champion makes it all worthwhile,” he said.
“Aalborg pushed us all the way, and I think it was a great series. When we took a 2-1 lead [in Game 5] on Sunday at home, we pulled back too much, maybe a little scared to win but today, we stayed offensive,” he added.
Persson’s assist to the championship-winning goal was important, but his most important play may have come even before the season when he talked his best friend, goaltender Christopher Nihlstorp into signing with the team.
“We hadn’t been on the same team since we were in our late teens. And here I stand now with 25 new teammates, wearing a |champion’s] golden helmet,” Nihlstorp said on the league’s website.
“The Danish league was a new challenge for me. Hockey here is open and offensive which makes for a lot of work for a goalie,” said the 37-year-old Swede, who can now add a Danish championship on his resume, with two SHL championships (2011 Farjestad and 2015 Vaxjo) and a 2014 Calder Cup with the Texas Stars.
It’s a nice way to cap a career. Nihlstrop, who was named Metal Ligaen’s First All-Star Team goalie, has announced he’ll retire after this season.
“There are so many emotions going through me now. I’m overjoyed for having won this title because that’s what we play for. But it’s bittersweet, knowing that it was my last game,” he said.
Before their 2019 championship, Rungsted had been an okay team for a long time. Their last title was from 2002 and between 2002 and 2019, they reached the Metal Ligaen final-4 just three times.
And then, in 2018, they won bronze, and in 2019 gold. And another gold in 2021.
Those are the makings of a dynasty.