Rogle advances to CHL final
by Derek O'Brien|12 JAN 2022
Dennis Everberg of Rogle (M) celebrates with team mates after scoring the second goal.
photo: Carl Sandin / Bildbyran / CHL
One of the finalists for the Champions Hockey League’s title game was decided on Tuesday when Rogle Angelholm defeated four-time champion Frolunda Gothenburg 3-1, winning their two-game semi-final 8-4 on aggregate. 

“Our guys were ready to play,” said Rogle head coach Cam Abbott. “I thought we were confident, resilient, and played through a lot of penalties tonight.”

“Unfortunately, it looked as usual against Rogle,” said Frolunda head coach Roger Ronnberg, whose team has had trouble this season against its rival 190 km to the south. “We had control of the puck in their zone a lot and created some chances, but I think we missed three open nets and our power play wasn’t good at all. They were more opportunistic on their chances and that’s what hockey’s all about. 

“We congratulate Rogle on the win and wish them good luck in the final.”

Rogle won the first game last week on home ice 5-3, thanks to a hat trick from Ted Brithen. Rogle led 2-1 after two periods and extended that to 4-1 early in the third before Frolunda battled back with a pair of goals to close the difference to one. Given Frolunda’s history of comebacks in the CHL, Brithen’s third of the game made Rogle’s position a bit more comfortable, but not much.

“It was a tight game,” said Frolunda captain Joel Lundqvist, already a four-time champion and the 2016/17 CHL MVP. “We made some mistakes in the second and third periods and they capitalized on that.”
Starting the return game with a two-goal aggregate lead, Anton Bengtsson did his team a huge favour by increasing it to three just 32 seconds in, when he corralled a rolling puck in the high slot and fired a shot that fooled Frolunda goalie Matthew Tomkins. 

Minutes later, however, Bengtsson was knocked out of the game when he collided in the neutral zone with Frolunda’s Johan Sundstrom, in which neither player appeared to see the other before contact was inevitable. Both players went down but while Sundstrom was able to quickly get up, Bengtsson was carried off of the ice on a stretcher and to local hospital. According to the latest information, he was released from hospital in Gothenberg and returned to Angelholm.

“It was very tough when it happened, it looked really scary,” Rogle forward Ludvig Larsson told the club’s website. “We decided that we would play for ‘Bengan’ the rest of the game.”

Dennis Everberg made it a four-goal difference in the second period and halfway through the third, Larsson put it away with an empty-netter. Filip Johnansson broke Christoffer Rifalk’s shutout with 3:50 to play, but it was too little, too late for Frolunda, whose two-season, three-year reign as European club champion came to an end. 

“We made a very good team effort,” continued Larsson, who leads Rogle with 14 points in 12 CHL games and is one of the five MVP finalists. “We stuck to our strategy and what we were going to do, which made it very difficult for Frolunda. The whole team contributed to this victory.”  
Counting the first leg of the CHL semi-finals and SHL play, Rogle has now beaten Frolunda nine straight times.  

“We try to respect their strengths and stay away from that,” explained Abbott. “I think we have an understanding as a team how we want to play them, which comes with a humbleness and a readiness to not only outwork them, but to make smart plays.”

This is Rogle’s first CHL appearance, having qualified by finishing second in the SHL regular season last year before losing to the Vaxjo Lakers in the finals – the best-ever finish for a team that has only recently established itself as a consistent member of Sweden’s top league. 

In addition to Larsson, Bengtsson and Brethen, the team is led by Adam Tambellini – another MVP finalist and also a candidate to play for Canada at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing – Leon Bristedt and offensive defenceman Lucas Ekestahl Jonsson. The club also has nine players on its A-team roster born in 2000 or later, including NHL draftees Samuel Johannesson, Adam Edstrom, Oliver Tarnstrom, William Wallinder, goaltender Calle Clang and 17-year-old Austrian forward Marco Kasper, who is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. 

“We’ve got a lot of young guys in our lineup. We’ve got the youngest team in the league, in fact,” said general manager Chris Abbott, the older brother of head coach Cam. “A lot of the fun is working with these young talented players who want to make it to the next level.”

Besides Larsson and Tambellini, the other three MVP finalists are Frolunda’s Ryan Lasch – already a two-time MVP and the CHL’s all-time scoring leader – as well as Red Bull Munich forward Frederik Tiffels and Alexander Salak, the goalie of Sparta Prague, which was defeated by Rogle in the quarter-finals.

Through the CHL’s first six seasons, Frolunda has been the most successful team by far, reaching the final five times title four times. In the initial 2014/15 season, Frolunda lost the final 4-2 to fellow Swedish team Lulea Hockey. Cam and Chris Abbott both played for that Lulea team.

“We’re not satisfied,” said head coach Chris Abbott. “We’ve got one more game and, as I said to the guys, it’s our time.”

Rogle’s opponent in the final is still to be determined. The other semi-final, between Red Bull Munich of Germany and Tappara Tampere has yet to be played, as the Munich team was put into quarantine according to German health regulations following a COVID outbreak on the team. 

In an official statement, the league “is currently looking into all possible options on how to proceed further. According to the CHL’s Covid-19 Protocol, the CHL’s Covid-19 committee will take the final decision on the consequences and inform of the resolution in due course.” 

Munich is seeking its second CHL final appearance after previously making it that far in 2017/18. This is the farthest Tappara has ever gone in the team’s six CHL appearances.

The CHL final is scheduled to be played after the Olympic break on 1 March.