The Rouen Dragons had previously picked up two home points in their last CHL campaign, but finally got that illusive win as they beat Mountfield HK on Game Day 4. French national team forward Anthony Guttig, who has also spent time in Finland and Sweden, talked to us about their results so far and what they're hoping to still achieve.
"To be honest after three games we were actually a bit frustrated, having been close but not getting any points. In the Czech Republic we were leading, and at home to Kärpät we were two up as well. We were frustrated because we weren't that far away, but mistakes cost us the game," commented the 29-year-old. "These teams really capitalise on your mistakes like not clearing the zone or getting the puck deep when you should, maybe some details that in our own league we're not used to needing to focus on. But of course it's always positive to win, especially for a French team!"
Guttig is not so much of a stranger to the higher level however, having spent a year at various levels in Sweden, and then three seasons (two Mestis, one Liiga) in Finland. "Playing in Finland was playing in a tough league, one of the best in Europe. The hockey over there is really hard, strict and disciplined," he explained. "For French players getting to that level is kind of like a 'wow' feeling because we don't have that standard in our own country, so it's great to say I did it and I was part of it. I saw how the hockey culture is over there, and what it takes to be a professional and perform at that level."
"We have a lot of players that have played in World Championships for France. Experience is a big factor at this top level."
Anthony Guttig (Forward, Rouen Dragons)
Rouen strengthened in the summer by bringing in more foreign experience with the likes of Slovak Michel Miklík, and Finns Juha Koivisto and Atte Makinen. How has that helped the team? "It's huge for us, these guys have the experience from the CHL and top European leagues. It's the detail - they know when it's time to play, when to hold on and play more simple and smarter," said Guttig of his new teammates. "But the other thing we have in our team is a lot of players who have played with the French national team in World Championships. We know how to play at this level, what you have to do in certain areas at different times of the game. Experience is a big factor at this top level."
The Dragons have been back in domestic action since Game Day 4 in the CHL, and currently find themselves a point off top spot in the Ligue Magnus with a game in hand. Has the CHL helped them hit the ground running? "Yes and no, because it's not the same hockey in the CHL compared to our own league. It's not the same pace, or the same habits, that you need to have, so you have to adjust and this is the most difficult thing for us," admitted the forward who has over 100 games for his country. "We have to adjust to hockey that's better than we're used to playing, with different styles from three different countries. But we also have to respect the teams in our own league - I wouldn't say we think we are so much better because we played in the CHL, we still have to work hard."
Everyone remembers the amazing post-game celebrations with their fans after Rouen beat Mountfield. Was that something special? "It's every time we win at home that we have this clapping stuff," explained the Dijon native. "Actually when we played Oulu in our building Miska Humaloja who I played with four or five years ago, said to me 'wow, the crowd is amazing and crazy here'. But I told him it was almost quiet compared to how it can be in the playoffs! We have great fans, they're so into it and it's really nice to play here. I think it is really tough for the other team!"
Finally, that win over Mountfield HK means the Dragons still have an outside shot at making the Last 16 (see: Standings) - they need to beat the THOMAS SABO Ice Tigers home and away, and hope other results go in their favour. "Oh yeah, obviously in the team we think we can make it! We really think we have a chance to win both games and want to, so badly," affirmed Guttig. "We know it's going to be tough, especially playing away, but the desire to make the next round is so big. We have to believe we can do it otherwise there's no reason to go out and play! We believe we can."