16 become 8 in the CHL
by Derek O'Brien|21 NOV 2018
Red Bull Munich (in white with defenceman Derek Joslin and sensational goaltending from Danny aus den Birken) came back from a deficit after the first game to beat EV Zug (pictured: Dominik Schlumpf) and became the first German team to make the Champions Hockey League quarter-finals.
photo: Philipp Hegglin / EV Zug / Champions Hockey League
There was plenty of drama in the return games of the Champions Hockey League’s round of 16 of Tuesday night. While none of the eight two-game series needed overtime to be decided, four were decided by one goal, and a couple of the others were in doubt in the last period before being put away in the late going. 

As a result, a record five countries are represented among Europe’s “Elite Eight”, with three teams from Sweden, two from the Czech Republic, and one each from Austria, Finland and Germany. While all four remaining Swiss clubs were eliminated on Tuesday night, this marks the first time that a club from Austria or Germany has advanced to the quarter-finals.

Red Bull Munich def. EV Zug 4-3 (2-3, 2-0)

This was the only series of the eight where the team leading after 60 minutes eventually lost. Additionally, each team won away from home, with Zug winning 3-2 in Munich and then Munich coming back to win 2-0 in Zug, thanks to a 36-save shutout by German national team goaltender Danny aus den Birken. Munich got a power-play goal early in the second period to level the aggregate score, and then Frank Mauer potted the winner with 5:08 to play in regulation time. Zug’s Garrett Roe had a golden chance to tie it again in the last minute, but fired wide from point-blank range with aus den Birken at his mercy. 

Munich, the three-time reigning German champion, becomes the first German team to advance to the CHL quarter-finals.

Malmo Redhawks def. SC Bern 5-1 (4-1, 1-0)

Father bested son in this matchup as Malmo coach Peter Andersson came out on the winning side against Bern, which features his son, defenceman Calle Andersson.

The Redhawks did themselves a huge favour by winning 4-1 on home ice, which gave them a three-goal lead to work with in the Swiss capital. The double shutout in the return game by Bern’s Leonardo Genoni and Malmo’s Oscar Alsenfelt lasted 58:18, when Stefan Warg’s empty-netter finished off Bern’s chances.

Karpat Oulu def. ZSC Lions Zurich 7-6 (4-4, 3-2)

After a 4-4 tie in Zurich in the first game, these teams started on even terms in northern Finland. Zurich took a one-goal lead into the last period but two goals from 21-year-old Czech Radek Koblizek, the second with just 1:13 remaining in regulation time, won it for Karpat.

“We didn’t start well tonight but after the first period, we spoke in the locker room,” Koblizek told the media after the game. “We started to skate a lot and just shoot the puck; to play our game. Luckily, we won and we’ll go to the next round. It was a nice feeling to score some goals.”

Nicklas Lasu assisted on both of Koblizek’s goals after scoring twice in the first game, giving him four points in the two-game set.

Red Bull Salzburg def. Rouen Dragons 8-4 (3-3, 5-1)

The French champion Rouen Dragons has been the surprise of the tournament and they continued to play well by earning a tie at home in the round of 16. Their string of magic came to an end in Salzburg, but they didn’t go down without a fight. The score was 3-1 in the final period before a pair of late goals put it away, with Ryan Duncan scoring twice and John Hughes adding three assists.

With the win, Salzburg exorcizes some demons, as they’ve been unable to get past this point in the tournament before, including famously squandering a five-goal aggregate lead to Lulea four years ago. The Red Bulls become the first Austrian team to reach the CHL quarter-finals.

Kometa Brno def. Tappara Tampere 10-6 (5-1, 5-5)

Tappara faced an uphill climb after falling 5-1 in Brno in the first leg, but they showed signs of seriously threatening to come back on home ice, leading 2-0 in the first period and then 4-2 early in the third. However, three straight Kometa goals put an end to that threat. The teams ultimately tied 5-5 in the game, which was enough to see the two-time Czech champs through.

Former NHLer Peter Mueller had four points in the two games for Kometa, while Tappara once again failed to advance past this stage of the tournament, despite strong teams and success in the group stages.

Frolunda Gothenburg def. HC Lugano 6-5 (1-1, 5-4)

Lugano was hoping for more magic from Latvian goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, who had been scored on only once in his last three games, and for a while it looked like they might pull off the upset. Thanks to two goals by Alessio Bertaggia, Lugano had a two-goal aggregate lead halfway through the second game in Gothenburg but Frolunda’s vaunted offence showed itself and came back on home ice. 

Ryan Lasch, the CHL’s all-time scoring leader, had four points in the game, including the winning goal on a wild scramble on the power play with 2:47 to play.

Skelleftea AIK def. Storhamar Hamar 7-6 (4-4, 3-2)

Another surprise at this year’s CHL was Storhamar, the Norwegian champion, who not only made the round of 16 but played powerful Skelleftea to a 4-4 tie in the first game. They continued to battle in the return game in northern Sweden, getting first-period leads of 1-0 and 2-1. A pair of second-period goals by Bud Holloway put Skelleftea in front by a goal, and they managed to protect that until the end despite a frantic push by Storhamar, with Patrick Thoresen just missing the equalizing goal in the dying seconds.

HC Plzen def. HC Bolzano 12-3 (6-1, 6-2)

This was the least dramatic of the round of 16 matchups, with Plzen winning 6-1 in northern Italy thanks to a Miroslav Indrak hat trick and then 6-2 back on home ice, thanks to four goals from Milan Gulas. Plzen remains the CHL’s only unbeaten team through eight games this season, with seven wins in regulation time and one in overtime. 

While that ends EBEL-champion HC Bolzano’s CHL run, the team did make history by becoming the first Italian-based club to advance to the round of 16.

Quarter-finals in two weeks

The quarter-finals are scheduled for early December, with first games to be played on the 4th or 5th and return games on the 11th. The exact schedule will be announced in the coming days. Here are the match-ups:
  • Malmo Redhawks (SWE) vs Red Bull Munich (GER)
  • Karpat Oulu (FIN) vs Red Bull Salzburg (AUT)
  • Frolunda Gothenburg (SWE) vs Kometa Brno (CZE)
  • HC Plzen (CZE) vs Skelleftea AIK (SWE)
The winners will advance to the semi-finals, which are scheduled for 8 and 15 January. The one-game final is scheduled for Tuesday, 5 February 2019 with home-ice advantage for the team with the better record.

For more information, visit championshockeyleague.com.