CHL semi-finals at halftime
by Derek O'Brien|11 JAN 2023
Tappara Tampere players celebrate a goal in their 2-0 semi-final win against EV Zug.
photo: Jooel Hilden / Tappara Tampere / Champions Hockey League
Following the first games of the Champions Hockey League semi-finals played on Tuesday, Tappara Tampere has a two-goal aggregate lead over EV Zug following a 2-0 shutout win on home ice, while Swedish Hockey League rivals Frolunda Gothenburg and Lulea Hockey are on even terms after a 2-2 tie. The return games will be played next week in Zug and Lulea.

Tappara Tampere 2–0 EV Zug

In a matchup between two teams that have qualified for every CHL season, Christian Heljanko made 21 saves for his eighth shutout in 34 career CHL games – fourth this season – while Mikael Seppala and Niko Ojamaki scored the goals for Tappara.

Seppala’s goal came early, just 1:12 in. The Finnish national team defenceman took a pass from Petteri Puhakka in the high slot and beat Leonardo Genoni with a low wrister. Tappara increased the lead on a second-period power play, with Ojamaki one-timing a cross-ice pass from Jori Lehtera. Tappara was 1-for-6 with the man advantage while Zug was 0-for-3.
“We were ready for the game and got off to a good start,” said Tappara head coach Jussi Tapola. “The early goal gave us confidence. Today, the players give all that they could and, overall, this was a good performance. We’ve put ourselves into a good position heading into the second game.” 

For Zug, Genoni is the CHL’s all-time winningest goalie with 31 victories but he couldn’t add to that total today, stopping 24 of 26 Tappara shots. Offensively, Gregory Hofmann had five shots on goal while Justin Abdelkader threw five hits. 

“We had a tough start and, in general, spent too much time in the penalty box,” said Zug head coach Dan Tangnes. “Result-wise, we’d like to be on the board; performance-wise, it wasn’t our best and I hope we can come up with a better performance next week. We need to play better 5-on-5 to earn more power plays and stay out of the penalty box ourselves.”

Looking ahead to the second game, Tapola said: “We can’t go in with the mindset that we’re protecting a lead, but rather play it like it’s still 0-0. In the third period, we got a little passive and started waiting for the end of the game. If we fall into that trap, then a two-goal lead won’t be enough.”

Frolunda Gothenburg 2–2 Lulea Hockey

These two Swedish teams met in the 2014/15 CHL final, which Lulea won, and then in the quarter-finals the next year, which Frolunda won en route to its first of four titles in five years. Lulea remains the CHL’s only unbeaten team this season after 11 games with nine regulation wins, one overtime win and now one tie. 

Frolunda had a wide edge in play in the first period but only managed to score once on a brilliant individual effort by Andreas Borgman, who carried the puck all the way from his own zone before beating Matteus Ward with a high backhander. However, Lulea pushed back in the second period and scored twice, with Brendan Shinnimin tying the score on the power play and then Joonas Rask with the go-ahead goal late in the period. 

“They came out pretty hard and we had to weather it a bit.‘Wardo’ played great – he made some big saves in the first period to keep it 1-0,” Shinnimin said about the start to the Lulea club website. On his power-play marker, he said: “We were moving it pretty good and then there were a couple of nice bank passes behind the net. Then Jack (Connolly) just kinda threw one there and I found the rebound.”

It looked like Lulea might be in a position to take a one-goal lead back home, but with the teams skating 4-on-4, Max Friberg curled into the slot with the puck and fired a shot over Ward’s glove with 3:44 to play. Borgman assisted on the goal for his second point of the game. 
“It would have been nice to be up 2-1 but we would have had to win a game on home ice anyway,” Shinnimin reasoned. “Both teams were pretty solid, we had a really good PK and the power play scored, so good special teams. It was a battle right down to the end, so it’s gonna make for an exciting game at home next Tuesday.”

Both of the return games will be played next Tuesday, with Lulea hosting Frolunda starting at 18:05 CET and Zug hosting Tappara at 20:15 CET. The winners on aggregate score will advance to the one-game final, scheduled for Saturday, 18 February. 

For more on the Champions Hockey League, visit