The Champions Hockey League’s 32 teams were drawn into eight groups for the 2021/22 Group Stage. Continuing our series of draw reactions, we’re taking a look at one of this season’s toughest groups – Group E.
Two veteran CHL teams who have only missed a single CHL season between them, Skellefteå AIK and Tappara Tampere, will have to fight off returning sides Eisbären Berlin and HC Lugano. Who will come out on top and make the Playoffs?
The only way you survive in the CHL is if you play your very best
Eisbären Berlin Head Coach Serge Aubin
Eisbären Berlin return to the CHL off the back of a very successful domestic season. Head Coach Serge Aubin, who is currently in his second season at the club, led the Eisbären all the way to their eighth DEL championship and first title since 2013.
“It is a very strong group,” he started. “It won’t be easy for anyone. Our plan is to win games, it will be a one game at a time process. Let’s see what happens!”
“I think our style of hockey is we want to be on our toes. We want to attack and to forecheck. To transition quickly. We don’t want to change our identity,” said the 46-year-old Canadian coach.
Aubin sees competing in the CHL as a great challenge that you have to make sure you are ready for.
“It’s a little bit of unknown. You face top opponents from different countries with styles of play that you haven’t seen before. You have to make sure you are ready,” he added.
The Eisbären Head Coach has already coached in the CHL – back in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons he gave orders from the Vienna Capitals’ bench. Over the two seasons Aubin won four CHL games, including two memorable wins against Skellefteå.
“I played Skellefteå in the CHL when I coached in Vienna,” remembered Aubin, “Skellefteå are a team with lots of skill. I also spent time in Switzerland as a player and as a coach (2018/19 as the Head Coach of the ZSC Lions) – Lugano are a great club with lots of history there.”
“Tappara Tampere are also a very good club,” he added.
HC Lugano have a long history as an elite team in Switzerland
HC Lugano General Manager Hnat Domenichelli
HC Lugano General Manager Hnat Domenichelli is very excited about Lugano’s return to the CHL.
“We are excited to return and once again compete against the best teams in Europe,” he started.
HC Lugano last participated in the CHL two years ago, back in the 2018/19 season, when they made it to the Round of 16.
Domenichelli expects a “competitive group stage” and "great test" for his side.
“Each team that we will play in the group stage are all very established clubs in their countries,” he added.
According to Domenichelli, their goal for this year is to make it to the Playoffs, which Lugano have done in both of their two prior appearances in the CHL.
“HC Lugano have a long history as an elite team in Switzerland. Our new Head Coach Chris McSorley will play an aggressive and exciting style of hockey,” he concluded.
Skellefteå’s Head Coach Robert Ohlsson also sees Group E as a “tough draw”. The SHL side finished fourth in the regular season and made it to the SHL playoff semi-finals last season, qualifying for their seventh CHL season in the process. What does CHL participation mean to them?
“It means that we as a club get to compete against some of the best teams in Europe. It will be interesting to see how we stand against that level of competition,” said the ex-Djurgården Stockholm coach.
“We’re excited to go head-to-head against many skillful players from Finland, Switzerland and Germany,” he added.
Skellefteå have qualified for the Playoffs each season and made it all the way to the CHL Semi-Finals in 2014/15. Ohlsson has laid out the club’s goals for 2021/22 into two steps: “Step 1 is to advance from the group stage. Step 2 is to win the Champions Hockey League,” he said.
Our goal is to make the Playoffs
Tappara Tampere Head Coach Jussi Taapola
The same can be said for their Finnish counterparts – Tappara Tampere.
Tappara are one of only a select few teams that have qualified for every CHL season since 2014.
“Taking part and being successful in the CHL is a big part of our pre-season goals,” said Head Coach Jussi Taapola, “the CHL gives our players the chance to show their level against top teams in Europe.”
Tappara finished fourth in Liiga last season, their worst result since missing the Liiga playoffs altogether in 2011/12. Is this even more motivation to have a good CHL season?
“We want to play fast hockey with good structure where our players can use their individual talent and skills. We also want to play a physical game and try to win,” said Taapola.
Tappara are the most experienced team in Group E and have made it out of the Group Stage each season, yet they have never made it past the Round of 16.
“Our goal is to make the Playoffs and then go on to win the CHL,” said Taapola, hoping that this year they will finally break their Round of 16 curse.
The 46-year-old has been Head Coach at Tappara since 2019 when he returned from a brief coaching spell in the KHL.
Unlike his group counterparts, Taapola sees his opponents as “great teams to play against” adding “they are all top teams in Europe and have great arenas that we are looking forward to seeing.”
Be sure to follow the Champions Hockey League’s social media channels to stay up to date on all the news, previews and reactions ahead of the 2021/22 season!
Also, take our quiz to test your Group E knowledge with a chance to win three CHL European Trophy keychains!