- Big night for special teams with four powerplay goals
- Frölunda lift the trophy for the third time in their fourth trip to the Finals
- Munich unable to complete late comeback after goal by Yasin Ehliz
We started with 32 teams but there could only be one winner. After 125 Champions Hockey League games since 30 August 30, we’ve finally crowned a winner as the Frölunda Indians lifted their third CHL trophy in the last four seasons, emerging as champions of Europe over Red Bull Munich.
After once again topping their group to qualify for the knockout rounds once again, Frölunda survived a scare from HC Lugano in the Round of 16, but since then have cruised their way to the Final, where they met a resilient side in from Munich, who put up a fight for the entire 60 minutes but couldn’t overcome the challenge of their Swedish opponents, who also hosted the Final.
It was a tentative start as the two sides got to grips with their opponents, feeling each other out in the process while shooting chances were scarce, but then the first break came as the Red Bulls were awarded the first powerplay of the game just shy of three minutes into the contest, but they couldn’t get any real effort on net to test Johan Gustafsson, keeping it scoreless as Chay Genoway returned to the ice after serving his penalty.
With Frölunda back to full strength they started to use their speed more to generate chances, but Munich responded well with an aggressive forecheck to make it difficult for the hosts to get anything on net to trouble Danny aus den Birken, who entered the Final with a tournament-leading three shutouts.
Just as the game reached the midway point of the opening period, Frölunda found themselves with a man advantage. As the physical forecheck of Munich had started to cause issues for the hosts, Mark Voakes found himself on the wrong end of a tripping call, giving the tournament's fourth-best powerplay unit a chance at breaking the deadlock.
Genoway made a great move at the blue line to keep the puck in the zone despite the efforts of Frank Mauer who was trying to close him down, and then youngster Samuel Fagemo jumped on the loose puck before firing a heavy slap shot through a bit of traffic, past aus den Birken to open the scoring just over a minute into the powerplay.
After going a goal behind, Munich didn’t deviate from their game plan, continuing with their physical play on the forecheck but couldn’t find the back of the net, with their best chance coming after a turnover behind the Frölunda net but Maximilian Daubner couldn’t sneak one past Gustafsson after causing the turnover. But with the visitors ending the first period strong and with a powerplay overlapping into the second, they would have been proud of their effort despite trailing after 20 minutes.
With a fresh sheet of ice and a short powerplay, Munich started strong but couldn’t pull one back, despite a great pass setting up Yannic Seidenberg with a near empty net to shoot at, but the long legs of Gustafsson got across in time to deny the forward from grabbing his second goal of the tournament.
Another penalty and another powerplay for Frölunda spelled danger. A defensive miscue left Ryan Lasch wide open on the left-hand side, and the tournaments leading scorer made no mistake out in front, sliding his effort under the pads of aus den Birken for a 2-0 lead with his fifth goal of the campaign.
With two powerplay goals already on the night, Frölunda found themselves back on the powerplay as Yannic Seidenberg was sent to the box on a double minor for checking to the head on Rhett Rakshani, allowing for some more pretty passing to set up Ponthus Westerholm to redirect the puck into the back of the net to go 3-0 up. That left a huge mountain to climb for the visitors from Munich, who couldn't find a quick response when they went on the powerplay just minutes later. That sent the teams into the second break still at a 3-0 scoreline, with Frölunda just 20 minutes away from lifting their third trophy.
Munich started the third period strong, searching for an early strike but the closest they could get was ringing one off the crossbar, despite a much-improved effort on the powerplay.
With time winding down, tempers began to flare as both sides had players in the penalty box, giving Munich a 4-on-3 powerplay, and they wasted no time in striking to make it an interesting final 10 minutes. Coach Don Jackson rolled the dice and pulled aus den Birken to give his team a two-man advantage, and almost right off the faceoff, a great snipe from Yasin Ehliz whistled past Gustafsson to end his shutout bid, which cut it down to just a two-goal lead with plenty of time remaining.
The seconds were ticking away on the chance for Munich to mount any late comeback despite a much-improved performance overall in the third period, but as the 60 minutes of regulation came to an end, the score remained at 3-1 and the Frölunda Indians celebrated in front of a sold out home crowd, winning their third title in their fourth trip to the Finals, leaving the ice as the 2018/19 Champions Hockey League winners.