Group A Preview: New and old combine
KAC, Tappara Tampere, Biel-Bienne and Frisk Asker make up a very competitive Group A

As we kick off our Group Stage previews with Group A, it’s yet another CHL appearance for Finnish side Tappara Tampere. KAC Klagenfurt make their third appearance in the competition, while there are two teams making their debut in Swiss side EHC Biel-Bienne and Frisk Asker of Norway.

KAC Klagenfurt

  • Qualified as EBEL Champions
  • Third CHL Appearance; Group stage exits in 2015/16 and 2017/18
  • Club Information
     

After an overtime winner by Adam Comrie in Game Six of the EBEL finals, KAC Klagenfurt are gearing up for the third CHL appearance this year, coming in as national champions.

In their 2015/16 campaign, the Austrian side picked up just a single point (shootout loss against HC Košice) as they dropped all four Group Stage games, and in their second appearance in the 2017/18 season they fared much better with three wins and three losses, but couldn’t make the Playoffs.

Coming into this season following their first national title since 2013, Petri Matikainen has kept a similar core group of players together for his second season behind the bench for Klagenfurt. At the heart of this core is Norwegian goalie Lars Haugen, who was exceptional in the EBEL last year with the league’s best save percentage in the Regular Season and Playoffs in his first year in Austria following a summer move from Swedish side Färjestad Karlstad.

Tappara Tampere

  • Qualified as Regular Season Runners-Up
  • Sixth appearance; Round of 16 in 2014/15, 2015/16, 2017/18 and 2018/19
  • Club Information
     

Throughout the club's history, Tappara Tampere have been a dominant force in Finnish hockey, and they’re looking to translate that onto the European stage. That could start if they could finally get past the Round of 16 this year after their tournament has ended at that stage in their five previous attempts.

Despite coming into this year against two debutant teams, there’s still no guarantee the Finns will advance. They will need to be at their best from the first puck drop to get the points early on when their tournament begins against KAC Klagenfurt on Game Day 1.

Following the national team’s success at the recent World Championships, the two representatives from Tappara in Niko Ojamäki and last season’s top scorer Kristian Kuusela will be hoping to help lead Tappara to glory in the CHL.

With the veterans on the squad, Tappara have some solid young talent as well, with Christian Heljanko between the pipes, and NHL Draft eligible prospect Kasper Simontaival set to have a bigger role for the team this year, coming out of a junior system that has produced talents like Patrik Laine and Aleksander Barkov.

What do teams in Group A think of who they'll play against?

EHC Biel-Bienne

Over the years, EHC Biel-Bienne have come close to qualifying for the Champions Hockey League, but haven’t quite been able to get over the line, but after a fourth place finish in the NLA last season, they’re ready for their debut.

With stacks of experience in their roster, from former NHLers like goalie Jonas Hiller, Damien Brunner and Marc-Antoine Pouliot to Swiss veteran Mathieu Tschantré who leads the franchise in all time games played, Biel-Bienne have assembled a solid squad to mount a challenge to move out of the group stage in their first outing.

Read our recent interview with new star defenceman Yannick Rathgeb

What are teams in Group A aiming for this season?

Frisk Asker

After a great season in Norway, the CHL welcomes Frisk Asker for their debut season, coming in after securing their first Playoff title since 2002.

For the past few seasons, Frisk Asker have been on the cusp of glory, but last year finally sealed it and a CHL spot thanks to an overtime winner from Christian Kasastul in game six against Storhamar Hamar.

Now one of the oldest clubs in Norway take the European stage for the first time, led by their experienced captain Anders Bastiansen who at the age of 38 is the third leading scorer in the teams history, with 289-points in 408 games, and with a solid mix of veterans and prospects in their line-up, it’s shaping up to be a good first showing in the CHL for Frisk Asker.

Find out who's in Group A!