“So there, Sweden,” said an excited Farjestad coach Per-Erik Johnsson right after his team had beaten HV71 3-2 in Game 5 of the Elitserien final. The rest of the team was in a big huddle at the other end of the rink, wearing traditional golden helmets and celebrating the club’s eighth Swedish championship and third since the turn of the century.
“We were criticized last fall when we were trying to put the pieces together. We knew it was going to take some time, with all the different nationalities on the team. But you can see the result right there,” said Johnsson, pointing at the team.
And what a result it was.
Farjestad lost only one game in the post-season, the first of the final series, while posting an impressive 46-15 goal differential, five shutouts and extending its streak of consecutive home-ice wins to 18.
Farjestad goaltender Jonas ‘The Monster’ Gustavsson finished the post-season with a .961 save percentage, less than a single percentage point behind Henrik Lundqvist’s record from 2005.
Game 5 also marked the end of a storied career in Swedish hockey, as Farjestad’s former captain, current associate captain and future assistant GM Jorgen Jonsson, 36, played his last game.
Jonsson signed with Farjestad in 1995 as a 23-year-old and leaves the rink with two world championships, nine world championship medals, two Olympic gold medals and, most importantly for Farjestad fans, five Swedish championships with the Karlstad club. Jonsson has played the most games with Team Sweden (285) from 1993 to 2007. He’s also the only player in history to win a world championship, Olympic gold and the Swedish championship in the same year (2006).
While Jonsson’s last season was injury-plagued, he and linemate - and a hockey soulmate - Peter Nordström, 34, stepped up in the playoffs. Their line was 1-2-3 in team scoring, with Per Åslund, 22, collecting four goals and 12 points in 13 games. Nordström picked up 11 points and Jonsson 10, half of them in the five final games.
Jonsson and Nordstrom now have the club record for Swedish championships with five.
IS THIS IT?
For HV71 fans - and many of the players - losing an Elitserien final was a new experience. The club has made the final four times, winning in each previous championship in 1995, 2004 and 2008.
Believe it or not, but Farjestad is in the middle of a rebuilding phase - besides Jönsson, both Nordström’s and defenseman Thomas Rhodin’s futures are up in the air. However, the club management knew it didn’t have to worry about its coaching staff being inexperienced.
For Tommy Samuelsson, 49, this year’s final was his 13th. In the first eight, he was on the ice, building a career that would make him one of four Farjestad players to have his number retired. The past five were behind the Farjestad bench. Samuelsson has won the Swedish title three times as a player and twice as a coach.
Johnsson, 50, coached Farjestad to the championship in 2006, after Leif Stromberg was fired, and became head coach in January.
REVENGE OF THE CLONES
JYP Jyväskylä’s coach Risto Dufva has been accused of favoring “robot hockey” where the players truly stick to the game plan to the last detail. Dufva showed another side of himself by bringing a cardboard copy of Star Wars robot C-3PO to the dressing room. It was a reference to C-3PO’s partner, R2-D2, and Dufva’s nickname, RD.
On the ice, the JYP players have proved that whatever Dufva’s style of hockey may be, it works.
The regular season winners beat Oulu Kärpät in the first game of the best-of-seven final series, 2-1, with Harri Pesonen scoring in overtime.
HUNGARY FOR HOCKEY
For a few days, Hungary was one of two correct answers to a Finnish hockey trivia question about which nations Finland has never beat in hockey. Last week, the two nations played an exhibition game in Budapest and the host team pulled an upset by winning the game in a shootout, 4-3.
The game was a part of preparation for the world championship for both teams as Hungary qualified for the Switzerland tournament last spring, after a 70-year absence from the top division.
Before the game, the Hungarian federation celebrated the life and memory of Gabor Ocskay. The Hungarian national team forward and three-time player of the year died recently of a heart attack.
Two days later, Finland beat Hungary 6-0, making the correct answer to the Finnish trivia, again and still, Great Britain. Finland’s record against the U.K. is 0-2.
Espoo Blues center Ben Eaves now holds the Finnish SM-liiga record for most points in a post-season with 24 in 14 games. Eaves, who has struggled with knee problems and took two months off this season, has scored six goals and 25 points in 32 regular season games in two seasons with Finland, as well as 11 goals and 36 points in 25 playoff games.
The best non-Espoo player - and still in the race - is JYP’s Tuomas Pihlman who’s collected 10 points in 12 games and is fifth in post-season scoring.
According to an old hockey adage, winning the last game of the season is the most important thing. Well, in Finland, it may be the second-most important thing. On Thursday, Kuopio KalPa won their last game of the season, a one-off bronze medal game against the Espoo Blues to finish third.
For KalPa, the win meant a return to the medal podium after 18 years. In 1991, the club lost a final series against TPS, Turku, finishing with a silver medal.
Finishing third may just be more fun.
Eye on Europe will be featured on THN.com every Friday throughout the season. Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden who also writes for NHL.com and IIHF.com. When not writing about European hockey on THN, he's probably writing about hockey at ristopakarinen.com/hockey as Puckarinen.
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