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Frolunda Gothenburg - Sparta Prague

Frolunda try to repeat, Sparta seek road upset

Frolunda Gothenburg and Sparta Prague are two of the most recognizable names in European hockey right now. While Sparta is the bigger name with respect to history, in recent years Frolunda have dominated European club hockey. This is their third straight trip to the CHL Final – they won last year, and now want a second straight title. Sparta will be out to stop them and win their first European club title, after previously losing in title games in 2000 and 2008.

These teams have met previously in a European championship – in the bronze medal game of the European Hockey League in 1996-97, Frolunda beat Sparta 4-3. The only player on either roster in this game is Sparta captain Jaroslav Hlinka.

Both of these teams have demonstrated that they can play both offensively and defensively – alloing about 1.5 goals against over the course of the competition, and scoring at least 3 (or in Frlunda's case, nearly 4). This game could get decided by special teams, as both teams are dangerous on the power play and will therefore both want to avoid taking penalties.

“I don't know Frolunda specifically, but I expect the Swedish style, which is five players fore-checking and back-checking, playing compact, strong, straightforward hockey,” said Sparta top scorer Lukas Pech. “I'm sure we can expect a tough game. They've been to the Final twice and won it last year. In terms of being the top team in Europe, we want to be one step better.” 

After playing the last two Finals on the road, Frolunda play this one at home, where they are very tough to beat, both in the CHL and SHL. If playing the Final at home makes Frolunda favourites, however, it's only by a slight margin. Sparta have been remarkably successful on the road in the CHL, where they have not lost yet. That includes three wins in Sweden already. Add that to the fact that Sparta have been hot domestically as of late, with Frolunda sputtering somewhat. 

“It’s a big game, a big title, and we’re really excited for the game. We’ll focus on our own game, but they have a little bit more of an experienced team than we do. Sparta are a skilled team and you look at who they’ve beaten to get here and can see that they're are a very tough team,” admitted Frolunda captain and top scorer Joel Lundqvist. “We’re prepared for a very difficult game. When it’s packed in this rink, it’s loud, so it’s going to be a good atmosphere and a good night for hockey, hopefully.”

Domestically, Frolunda started off on fire but have cooled off as of late. They have only won two of their last seven games, including two losses to the Vaxjo Lakers, who have now passed them atop the SHL standings.

Mirroring their CHL season, Sparta started slowly but are now hot. They've won nine of their last 12 games, including wins against the top two teams in the league – Bili Tygri Liberec and Ocelari Trinec. They sit in third place and have their sights on climbing higher.

Right now, however, the domestic leagues take a back seat to the CHL Final.

“We’ve been thoroughly preparing for the Final for about four weeks. We know we have to play better than in some of our recent games. We know Sparta – they have a very strong and experienced team, but we have to be on top of our game first and foremost,” said Frolunda coach Roger Ronnberg. About Sparta he said, “That team is a bit older on average, so more experienced. We enjoy playing in the CHL, it’s an hour and fun at the same time to travel across Europe playing different teams. It’s a very important competition to us.”

Opposite number Jiri Kalous added that he's done some research on his opponents.“I watched Frolunda’s league game last Thursday and they’re a strong skating team. They’re very active with the puck all over the ice, they don’t give up on anything and they’re very fast in transitional play,” said the 52-year old. “It’s no wonder that they’re top of the SHL, but we have to focus on our game and see what they come up with – if they continue to play the way expect, or it becomes more tactical. If our players stick to our game plan, however, there’s always a chance. We’ve proven this against very good teams already in this year’s CHL.”

Find a breakdown of the two teams here.

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Team Comparison

Goals
Goals Against
Shots on Goal
Penalty Minutes
Power Play Goals
Short-handed Goals

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Cramo Top Scorer

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Frolunda Gothenburg - Sparta Prague

Frolunda Gothenburg - Sparta Prague

Frolunda champions again! Lasu the OT hero!

by Derek O'Brien, with contribution from Efraim Larsson

GOTHENBURG – On a historic night for the Champions Hockey League, Frolunda Gothenburg and Sparta Prague played an absolutely unforgettable hockey game and Niklas Lasu was the hero – scoring the title-winning goal just 1:27 into overtime as Frolunda repeated as champions. 

“Of course it's awesome to stand here and have this win and to be a part of it,” Lasu began in the moments following the team's victory, still trying to collect his thoughts. “I got this feeling, like it was going in – before it even went in – so it's nice.”

“I'm so proud,” said smiling Frolunda coach Roger Ronnberg. “We had a really tough game and we played a really tough team. I'm really impressed with Sparta. I must say, they were a really tough team to beat.”

“I have to congratulate Frolunda,” responded Sparta coach Jiri Kalous. “They're a really good team and they play perfectly.”

It was a thrilling game from start to finish.  

With the building abuzz the game got off to a frenetic pace, which didn't let up at all in the opening 20 minutes. It was Sparta that jumped out of the gate quicker, putting early pressure on Johan Gustafsson, and following a flurry of action around the Frolunda net, Lukas Cingel one-timed a rebound from the slot to open the scoring at the 2:30 mark.

It was speculated before the game that Sparta planned to employ a physical style of play, and that special teams would play a factor in this game, and those were definitely factors in the first period. After Brian Ihnacak took the game's first penalty for interference at 7:34, it took Frolunda just 12 seconds of power play time to equalize – Johan Sundstrom with the initial shot and Casey Wellman in the right spot to get the rebound and score his seventh goal of this CHL season.

Things got worse for Sparta at the nine-minute mark when Miroslav Forman, one of the team's clutch performers in the CHL so far this season, was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for slashing, after his stick caught Patrik Carlsson in the neck, injuring the Frolunda forward. However, it was Sparta that scored first while shorthanded, as Jaroslav Hlinka fed Petr Vrana on a 2-on-1, and Vrana made no mistake in putting a low shot past Gustafsson.

Frolunda did finally manage to capitalize late in the five-minute advantage, however, and it was on a deflection, with captain Joel Lundqvist tipping Henrik Tommernes's shot past Tomas Popperle to even the score once more.

Shortly after the goal, Michal Repik delivered a crunching hit in the corner in the Frolunda zone and was assessed a minor penalty and 10-minute misconduct for checking-from-behind, giving the Indians a 5-on-3 for 1:30 and a golden chance to take their first lead of the game. However, not only did Sparta manage to escape the first period tied, but they managed to out-shoot Frolunda 16-15.

The pace of the game settled down considerably in the middle frame, and Frolunda seemed to take control, out-shooting Sparta 16-4. They also scored the only goal of the period in the 28th minute, as Wellman notched his second of the game on a delayed penalty, driving hard to the net with the puck and crashing into Popperle after it went in, which drew a crowd. 

But just when it seemed like the game might be getting away from Sparta, they came back with a huge push in the third period. They got some momentum on the power play after Lundqvist was called for slashing, and kept up the pressure afterwards until Lukas Klimek tied up the game for the final time with 13:45 remaining in regulation time – tipping the shot from Jan Svrcek.

Sparta kept up the pressure for most of the rest of the third period, out-shooting Frolunda 16-3, and forcing Gustafsson to dive across his crease on several occasions and make a great glove save as well to keep it tied.

“Sparta is without doubt one of the most skilled and competent team we’ve faced this year and they really forced us to play our best,” said Gustafsson. “When they came at us in the third, the guys in front of me fought so hard to help me out, and they blocked an incredible amount of shot attempts, so I owe them a lot!”

The horn sounded to end the third period with the score still 3-3, setting up Lasu's heroics. 

It was the only shot of overtime, but with the teams skating 3-on-3, Frolunda held possession in the Sparta end almost the whole time. Finally, with nearly a minute and a half played, Lasu and Mats Roselli-Olsen worked a give-and-go, with Lasu going to the front of the net and finding a spot through a crowd of players to re-direct the puck in.

“My first thought was to give the puck to Rosseli as fast as I could,” Lasu described. “We wanted to use his speed, and I just tried to find an open spot and luckily I found one.”

“I don't think there's a better guy to be the big hero and determine a game like this,” said goaltender Johan Gustafsson, referring to the length of time the 27-year-old Lasu has played with the club. “I mean, he has been here for ages, he fights hard for this team every day and he sets the standard for everyone else how things should be done. He’s just a role model for everyone on this team and it’s just cool that he’s the one that scored the game-winning goal.”

The goal set off a wild celebration inside Frolundaborgs Isstadion – Frolunda and their fans in ecstasy, Sparta and their fans in shock, and Popperle, the team's best player in the game, slumped back in his net with that horrible feeling that only the losing goalie in a big game knows.

For the third time, Sparta are runners up for the European club title, but they'd never been closer than this. And for Frolunda, they have successfully defended their crown and cemented their reputation, in the words of CHL commentator Darren Kilfara, as “the best team between Russia and Canada.”

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35

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Team Comparison

Goals
Shots on Goal
Penalty Minutes
Power Play Goals
Short-handed Goals

Cramo Top Scorer

Points
Goals
Assists