Group C Preview: CHL experience vs. excited first-timers
Luleå Hockey, Bílí Tygři Liberec, Augsburger Panther & Belfast Giants will contest Group C

Group C of this season’s Champions Hockey League is another that could potentially be very open indeed. While Luleå are former winners, and Liberec reached the Semi-Final stage, Augsburg and Belfast are debut teams from nations that have upset the odds in recent years.

Luleå Hockey

2015 Champions Luleå return to the CHL after two seasons out – their first appearance since the rules requiring qualification through on-ice performance. While they lifted the trophy on home ice in that 2014/15 season, and reached the Quarter-Finals a year later, their last European adventure ended in disaster with just one point from four group games.

That past is now behind them however, and they come off the back of last season where they finished Runners-Up in the SHL. While a few players have moved on, the likes of Arttu Ilomäki and Juhani Tyrväinen (both World Champions with Team Finland and hit over 40 points last season in the Liiga) will no doubt be expected to lead the charge. Having 2018 #58 overall NHL Dradt Pick Filip Hållander on loan from the Pittsburgh Penguins is no bad thing either! The 19-year-old scored 21 points in the SHL last season.

Interestingly, while they’ve faced teams from the EIHL and DEL before, Luleå have yet to face Czech opposition in the CHL.

 

Bílí Tygři Liberec

Another return to the Champions Hockey League, but for the ‘White Tigers’ this season offers them the chance to go one better than their Semi-Final appearance in 2017. Despite reaching that stage, Liberec missed out on last season’s tournament after a disappointing league campaign, but are back with a bang after securing the President’s Trophy as the top Regular Season side in the Extraliga in 2019.

For their standards, the White Tigers have had quite a high turnover of players this offseason, with seven new faces coming in so far. Forward Adam Musil and defeseman Daniel Bukač both return to their homeland after some time in North America, while netminder Justin Peters has moved in from Chomutov.

Liberec ended comfortable winners over Cardiff in both of their meetings two seasons ago, but were given a scare from the Elite League side in those games. Against SHL opposition they don’t have a great record, but did famously knock out Frölunda two seasons ago in the Round of 16.

Augsburger Panther

  • Qualified as Third-place Regular Season finishers
  • Debut CHL appearance
  • Club information
     

A CHL debut for the Panthers from Augsburg came after a one of the team’s best ever seasons in the DEL. A historic third-place finish in the Regular Season earned them their place, before they went on to reach the Playoff Semi-Finals – their furthest post-season run in nine years.

The Panthers have managed to keep the majority of that team together with the addition of a few new faces. Goalie Olivier Roy will lead the team from the back, if if he can get anywhere near his 94.0% save percentage from the DEL playoffs the Panthers could be in for some debut. While top scorer Matt White has headed to the KHL, Drew LeBlanc, who was only four points behind, is returning for his fifth season with the team. Youngster Jakob Mayenschein played every game for Munich last season in their run to the final, and has joined the team on loan. The biggest change however is probably off ice, as Head Coach Michael Stewart left for Cologne – his former assistant Tray Tuomie takes over duties for this season.

Belfast Giants

  • Qualified as Elite League Regular Season champions / Continental Cup Runners-Up
  • Debut CHL appearance
  • Club information
     

The Giants qualified for the CHL via the Continental Cup, but despite heartbreak in the final of that had a tremendous season domestically winning three out of the four major trophies on offer – including the Elite League regular season title, which earned the UK another place in the CHL.

After retaining their Challenge Cup title, and securing their Conference, the Giants won the league on the last day of the Regular Season, and went on to reach the Playoff final where they lost out by a goal. This offseason has however seen a lot of change for head Coach Adam Keefe, who is the brother of Toronto Marlies’ Sheldon. No less than nine of the title-winning side left or retired, leaving the Giants with some big shoes to fill. However, new arrivals like talented Polish youngster Patryk Wronka, one of the EIHL’s leading points scorers Ben Lake, and top-scoring British forward from last season Ciaran Long have all boosted the team. Brian Ward and Matt Pelech both bring experience of other European leagues, while the late arrival of former Växjö captain Liam Reddox sees a wealth of CHL experience brought to the team.

What the Giants do have on their side is history – no DEL team has ever won an away game against Elite League opposition, and their march to the Continental Cup finals last season has already given the club and its fans a taste of what is to come.