In a dramatic final game of the Champions Hockey League, fans were given a true spectacle as the Luleå Hockey took on Frölunda Gothenburg at the Coop Norbotten Arena.
With Luleå playing at home, the fans were expectant but given reason to panic with just 17 seconds played in the first period, Joel Lundqvist jumped on a rebound from an Artturi Lehkonen shot, beating Joel Lassinanti to open the score at 1 – 0.
Midway through the period, Gothenburg doubled their advantage, the tournaments leading scorer Mathis Olimb registering his 26th point to make it 2 – 0 to the away team.
For the rest of the period and all of the second it looked like Gothenburg were in control, but with Lassinanti standing firm in the net, he gave his Luleå side a fighting chance with 20 minutes to play and only a two-goal deficit to erase.
After Luleå went scoreless on three powerplay opportunities, it took just six seconds into their fourth for Captain Cam Abbot to win the faceoff, play the puck back to Kristian Nakyva who fooled Gothenburg goalie Linus Fernstrom to pull a goal back with 13 minutes to play.
Just over a minute later, Luleå were back on the powerplay, Gothenburgs’ Oscar Fatenburg was thrown from the game after a check to the head of Luleå’s Karl Fabricius, giving Luleå a five minute powerplay.
Again it didn’t take long for the home-team to strike, Peter Cehlarik was the scorer this time as his shot just trickled through Fernstroms five-hole and across the line, tying the game at 2 – 2 with plenty of time remaining.
Still up a man with the major penalty, Luleå converted a third powerplay strike, this time Johan Forsberg deflected a shot from Jan Sandstrom to give them a 3 – 2 lead, sending the home fans crazy as time was ticking away.
Desperate to get some momentum back, Gothenburg pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, but as Luleå’s Dean Kukan gathered the puck in his own zone, he fired it the length of the ice into the empty net, sealing the win for Luleå with a 4 – 2 scoreline, making Luleå Hockey the European champions.
After the game, Captain Cam Abbot spoke about the dramatic turn-around “I think everybody to a man was pissed off, but we knew we were still in it and had 20 minutes to turn it around, We never doubted ourselves for a minute.”
With the loss stinging the egos of Frölunda Gothenburg, one player did have reason to celebrate, Mathis Olimb was named the NordicBet MVP after his 26 point performance through the tournament, with the 29-year old Norwegian scoring 8 goals and adding 18 helpers, while enjoying similar success in the SHL season where he has 38 points in 40 games, sitting fourth overall in the statistic table in the league.
With the new trophy given to Luleå, they’ll now look ahead to the rest of the SHL season, currently 8th in the league, the new confidence will give them a boost as they look to close out the 2014/15 season with a bang.
After a fantastic opening campaign to the Champions Hockey League, the next installment promises to bring more of the same as the league expands from 44 teams to 48, with Europe’s finest coming to play on a grand stage.