The log of the champions of major European hockey leagues is now complete. Read below to find out about the winners.
29 April: Třinec nets 4th straight title
Oceláří Třinec has done something remarkable, winning the Czech Tipsport extraliga for the fourth consecutive time. It was also quite improbable, as the team finished sixth in the regular season and didn’t appear to be a strong contender heading into the playoffs. Martin Růžička and Marko Daňo were the league’s top two regular-season scorers with 52 and 51 points, respectively, but the normally high-scoring team didn’t have much depth behind them.
Třinec swept Verva Litvínov three straight in the preliminary round before upsetting Sparta Prague 4-2 in the quarter-finals. In the semi-finals, Třinec won the first three games against first-place Dynamo Pardubice before Pardubice came back to win three straight and forced a seventh game on home ice. Třinec recovered and won the decisive game on the road 2-1. In the finals against Hradec Králové, Třinec again won the first three games and things got interesting again as they lost the next two. In Game 6 at home, the score was tied 1-1 late in the third period but Slovak international Libor Hudáček scored the Cup-winner with 3:17 to play. A pair of empty-net goals made it a 4-1 final.
28 April: Tappara wins Finnish “treble”
With 18 previous Finnish titles, Tappara Tampere has had a lot of successful seasons but for the first time they pulled off the “treble” this year. Back in February they won the Champions Hockey League with a 3-2 win over Lulea Hockey of Sweden. Then they topped the domestic Liiga regular season with 116 points – two ahead of local rival Ilves Tampere. And finally, they won the national championship, defeating Pelicans Lahti 4-1 in the Liiga finals.
Although Tappara was in control of the final series, Game 5 before 12,700 at Tampere’s Nokia Arena was a dramatic seesaw affair, in which the home side took a 3-0 lead only to see the Pelicans answer with four straight goals. It took a buzzer-beater by Velimatti Savinainen at 59:59 to force overtime, where Marcus Davidsson was the hero at 68:57.
Jori Lehterä led Tappara with 57 points in the regular season and 14 in the playoffs, and their main man in net all season long was Christian Heljanko, appearing in 66 of the 87 games in all three competitions that the team won this season.
28 April: 1st title in Genève-Servette’s 118-year history
For the first time in the club’s history, Genève-Servette HC is the national champion of Swiss hockey. That was achieved on Thursday night following Game 7 of the National League finals at the historic Patinore des Vernets, where GSHC defeated EHC Biel-Bienne 4-1.
???? ???????? ???????????? ???????????? ???????????????????????????????????? ???? pic.twitter.com/02JPYMQlhk— Genève-Servette HC (@officialGSHC) April 27, 2023
It was appropriate that Genève and Biel went down to the last game of the finals, as they also finished tied for first in the National League regular season with 101 points each. In the playoffs, Genève eliminated HC Lugano in six games and EV Zug in five. Biel beat SC Bern in six before sweeping ZSC Lions Zurich.
Genève was led all season by Finn Valtteri Filppula and Swedes Linus Omark and Henrik Tömmernes but their top playoff scorer was Swiss centre Tanner Richard. Robert Mayer and Gauthier Desclaux mainly split goaltending duties during the season but it was mostly Mayer in the playoffs.
GSHC had come close before, reaching the National League finals three times this century in 2008, 2010, and most recently in 2021 when they lost to Zug.
24 April: Växjö Lakers return to top in Sweden
In their fourth SHL finals appearance in the last eight completed seasons, the Växjö Lakers are Swedish champions for the fourth time, defeating Skellefteå AIK 4 games to 1 in the finals. It is also the third time that the Lakers have pulled off “the double” by winning both the regular season and playoffs, previously doing so in 2021 and 2018.
After finishing first in the regular-season standings with 102 points. Although they were not one of the league’s higher-scoring teams and had nobody among the top 10 scorers, they led the league in defence with Finnish goalie Emil Larmi leading the league in multiple goaltending categories – among them 8 shutouts in 31 games.
In the playoffs, the Lakers got a tough challenge from Luleå HF in the quarter-finals, winning Game 7 by a narrow 2-1 score. In the semi-finals it was Frölunda Gothenburg extending them to six games where Robert Rosén scored the overtime winner. Although the finals lasted only five games, two went into double-overtime and the series ended, appropriately, with a Larmi shutout, 3-0.
23 April: Košice champs in Slovakia after 8 years
For the first time since 2015 and for the ninth time overall, HC Košice is the champion of Slovakia after defeating HKM Zvolen 3-0 in Game 5 of the Tipos extraliga finals. The team from eastern Slovakia was also twice champion of Czechoslovakia in the 1980s.
Košice finished first in the regular-season standings with 96 points, three ahead of longtime rival Slovan Bratislava. In the playoffs, they defeated HK Poprad in five games before being extended to seven by Dukla Michalovice, with Košice needing to win the last two games to prevail. In the finals, Košice won the first three games before Zvolen fought off one match point with a home-ice victory in Game 4, giving Košice the chance to do it at home.
Finnish winger Joona Jääskeläinen was the team’s top scorer in the regular season, Canadian Brett Pollock put up 14 points in 17 playoff games, and Slovak goaltender Jaroslav Janus was their last line of defence all season long.
23 April: Munich wins 4th DEL title
Red Bull Munich has won the championship of Germany’s Penny DEL for the fourth time overall but for the first time since 2018 after defeating ERC Ingolstadt in five games in the finals. Munich won three straight titles between 2016 and 2018 and then finished first in the 2019/20 regular season before the playoffs were cancelled by the pandemic.
Munich was dominant in the regular season, winning 42 of 56 games to easily finish first. Yasin Ehliz finished tied for the league scoring lead with 60 points and won the MVP, while Austin Ortega finished tied for sixth with 55 points. The team also had German national team mainstays Frederik Tiffels and Daryl Boyle, not to mention goaltenders Mathias Niederberger and Danny aus den Birken.
The playoffs were a bit more of a challenge, however, with Fischtown Bremerhaven taking Munich to six games in the quarter-finals and then Grizzlys Wolfsburg to seven in the semis. The team’s experience, however, shone through, and Ben Street caught fire with 17 points in 18 playoff games.
21 April: Salzburg repeats dramatically
Red Bull Salzburg won the ICE Hockey League championship in dramatic fashion on Friday night. Trailing Game 7 of the final series on the road to HC Bolzano 1-0 halfway through the third period, Tomas Raffl scored the equalizer and then Nicolai Meyer scored the winner with 1:48 to play, firing a wrister from the slot through a crowd that found the net.
“It's just incredible, but we believed in ourselves until the end. Every single one of us,” said forward Mario Huber, who led the team with 15 points in 16 playoff games. “We tried to stay in the moment, not thinking about the score. No matter what happens, stick together as a team. And that paid off in the end.”
“I don't know how that happened,” said head coach Matt McIlvane. “I'm so proud of the guys who worked so hard all season and got through tough times. And of course, it was incredibly impressive how the boys turned the game around today.”
Prior to the late comeback, Salzburg was on the verge of a terrible collapse. They had led the series 3 games to 1 but regular-season winner Bolzano battled back with a pair of 4-3 wins to force the decisive game in Südtirol.
Salzburg had already clinched the Austrian national championship after beating KAC Klagenfurt in the semi-finals, as their opponent in the finals is based in Italy. As it is, Salzburg has now won back-to-back league and national titles. Since its founding in 1977, the Salzburg hockey club has now won 10 Austrian championships and eight league titles.
17 April: Oilers repeat in Norway
The Stavanger Oilers rallied back from a 3-3 deficit in the Norwegian Fjordkraft-ligaen finals against Storhamar Hamar to repeat as champions. Henrik Holm recorded shutouts in each of the last two games – both 3-0 – with Bryce Gervais scoring twice in Game Six and Colton Beck doing likewise in Game Seven.
It was the second straight year that Stavanger pulled the double, finishing first in the regular season and then winning the playoffs. Canadian defenceman Martin Lefebvre led the team’s offence with 52 points in the regular season and 18 more in the playoffs.
This is the Oilers’ ninth title overall. They had a previous run of success between 2009 and 2017 when they won seven titles in eight years, including six in a row. With this latest title, they will return to the Champions Hockey League next season.
16 April: Rouen regains French title
For the 17th time in the club’s history, the Dragons de Rouen are the French champions following their six-game win over the Bruleurs de Loup de Grenoble in the Synerglace Ligue Magnus finals. The same two teams topped the regular season as well – Grenoble finishing on top with 115 points followed by Rouen’s 102. They continued their dominance through the first two rounds of the playoffs, with Grenoble taking out Mulhouse and Cergy and Rouen beating Amiens and Angers.
Grenoble opened the finals at home and looked strong by winning the first two games 8-2 and 2-0 before Rouen stormed back with four straight one-goal victories, including two in overtime. In the decisive sixth game, Niclas Lucenius was the hero with the winning goal 4:45 into extra time, bringing victory to the Dragons on home ice.
1 April: Giant three-peat in Belfast
The Stena Line Belfast Giants clinched the Elite Ice Hockey League title and the national championship of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the third straight year on Saturday night with a 6-1 victory over the Guildford Flames. It was the second-last game on the schedule for both teams and Belfast went in with a two-point lead in the standings, meaning Belfast needed just a single point to secure the title but a Guildford win in regulation time would have had the two teams even on points heading into the last day.
It didn’t come to that, however, as the Giants scored a pair of goals by Ben Lake and Jeff Baum late in the first period to open up a 2-0 lead. Peter Crinella’s power-play goal midway through the second brought Guildford close, but the Giants broke it open with three more goals in the second half of the middle frame.
“As a coach, you go into these games and you know your team is going to be good, but we were up against a very good Guildford team which deserved to be here,” said Belfast head coach Adam Keefe. “That being said, our guys were not to be denied tonight. Probably since just before Christmas, our guys really turned it on. It’s a credit to that group in that room and the players that came in and fit right in. It’s just fantastic and it’s been a real joy and privilege to stand behind that bench.”
With the title in hand, Belfast lost 9-2 to the Dundee Stars on the last day while Guildford shut out the Fife Flyers 5-0. They are the top two seeded teams heading into the EIHL’s play-offs, which begin on Friday. As is the British tradition, the regular-season winner is considered the league and national champion and, as such, the Giants will also return to the Champions Hockey League next season.
The Giants would go on to accomplish the rare "treble" of British ice hockey, winning the Challenge Cup, regular season and playoffs.
31 March: Gyergyói win 1st Erste Liga title
After finishing second in the regular season of the Hungarian-Romanian league, Gyergyói won the quarter-finals relatively easily by sweeping Dunaujvarosi 4-0, but the semi-finals were more difficult. The eventual champions needed overtime of a seventh game to defeat Corona Brasov, with Canadian Sebastien Sylvestre scoring the 2-1 goal 13:53 into extra time. The finals against Ferencvaros Budapest were also a thriller, with Gyergyói trailing 2-0 and 3-1 in games. Behind 3-1 in Game 6, the team from Gheorgheni scored three unanswered goals in the third period and the 4-3 win set up Game 7 at home, where Finnish defenceman Matias Haaranen scored the championship winner with seven minutes left, 2-1.
30 March: Katowice repeats as Polish champion
On home ice, GKS Katowice defeated suburban rival GKS Tychy to sweep their best-of-seven final series in four games. Katowice took control of the game early with three straight goals and cruised from there. It was the eighth Polish hockey title for the Silesian club and the second in a row.
Katowice had finished fourth in the regular season but beat first-place Crakovia Krakow in the semi-finals, winning game seven on enemy ice and then not losing another game the rest of the way. Polish national team goaltender John Murray was the team's rock, playing in 36 of 40 regular-season games and all 18 games in the playoffs, where he posted a 2.19 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.
Photo: Lukáš Filipec