With their fourth-place finish in the 2018/19 National League regular season, EHC Biel-Bienne will be one of the new faces to appear in the Champions Hockey League next season. CHL qualification represents the culmination of years of hard work and development the following the team’s return to the top tier of Swiss hockey in 2008.
A legend of Swiss goaltending, Jonas Hiller has been a crucial part of Biel-Bienne’s success over the last two seasons, guiding the team to the semi-finals in 2017/18, and leading their charge for playoff glory this year. Hiller, a veteran of eight NHL seasons and three Olympic Games, returned to his native Switzerland in 2016 after signing a three-year contract with Biel-Bienne.
Now in his third year with the club, Hiller has backstopped the team to three consecutive playoff appearances, with confidence running high as at the time of writing, Biel-Bienne currently hold a 2-0 lead in their playoff quarter-final series with HC Ambrì-Piotta.
Hiller has watched Biel-Bienne develop into one of the powerhouses of Swiss hockey, noting that “I think we have set our goals higher and higher each year. You could feel that in the dressing room, the players’ expectations were higher, and we were no longer satisfied with just making the playoffs.”
The battle for CHL qualification in Switzerland went down to the wire, with four teams separated by just two points. A late-season surge of four consecutive wins helped Biel-Bienne hold on to fourth place, securing their place in the Champions Hockey League for 2019/20.
Hiller noted, “Early in the season we had a great run. Luckily, we found an extra gear just at the end of the regular season, after not playing so well during January and February.”
Commenting on the team achieving CHL qualification for the first time, Hiller said, “It is definitely nice to be a part of the CHL for the coming season, especially after we thought that last season we would have a good chance of making it, but eventually third place in the regular season was not enough.”
The Felben-Wellhausen native inked a new contract with Biel-Bienne in August 2018 and looks set to be the team’s starting goaltender for the 2019/20 CHL season. Speaking of his excitement to lead his club in Europe’s premier ice hockey competition, Hiller emphasised “the challenge to play against some of the best teams in Europe” as crucial motivation leading up to the team’s debut campaign.