HC Sparta Prague vying for European title
Champions Hockey League pits HC Sparta Prague against Frölunda Gothenburg
Frölunda Gothenburg will be hosting HC Sparta Prague in the Champions Hockey League Final on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017 at Frölundaborgs Isstadion.
HC Sparta Prague takes on defending champions Frölunda Gothenburg in European hockey’s showpiece event. The Czech side may be more familiar to hockey fans due to the history of the club but they head to Sweden looking to claim their first European title. Frölunda is in its third straight CHL final. It lost two years ago but claimed the crown last year.
Sparta Prague will be competing in its third European club final and looking to banish the memories of 2000 and 2008, when it lost to Metallurg Magnitogorsk on both occasions. The last time these sides met in a European championship was the third place play-off match at the 1996-97 European Hockey League championships. Sparta will be hoping history will not repeat itself as Frölunda came out 4-3 winners. The only player in either team’s current squad to feature in that game was HC Sparta Prague forward Jaroslav Hlinka, now 40 years old.
Both sides have been in fine form offensively throughout the tournament. Sparta managed 16 goals in their four group matches as they finished in second behind Färjestad BK. After battling their way out of the group they have gone on to beat Oulun Kärpät, HV71, SC Bern and most recently Växjö Lakers, scoring a further 20 goals in that time.
However it isn’t just offensively that Sparta have impressed. With an average of 1.5 goals conceded throughout the tournament, the Czech side will head into the final knowing their danger on the power play could cause Frölunda some issues in their home stadium. Furthermore, HC Sparta Prague has been unstoppable away from home in the CHL as they are yet to lose on the road, a period which includes three away wins in Sweden already.
Since qualifying from their group as leaders, Frölunda have gone on to score 35 goals in the four matches leading up the final. Most recently they demolished Fribourg-Gottéron 9-1 in the semifinal. They too are conceding an average of just 1.5 goals per game.
The Swedish team is marginally favored going into the match with the home advantage meaning they will be well-supported in Gothenburg. However, based on domestic results, the odds would lean towards the away side, with Frölunda’s recent league form evading them. They have only won two of their last seven games.
On the other hand, HC Sparta Prague has been in fine form. Going into the match they have won nine of their last 12 games, a run that has seen them climb to third in the Czech Extraliga. They will be looking to continue their hot streak in Gothenburg in front of what is expected to be a packed Frölundaborgs Isstadion.
A key man offensively for HC Sparta Prague will be top scorer Lukáš Pech. He is a finalist for the NordicBet MVP Trophy and one of many talented forwards the team has in their roster, led by the top line of Petr Vrána and captain Jaroslav Hlinka. Defensively, Slovak Juraj Mikuš is another important player whose fine performances recently have seen HC Sparta Prague only concede eight goals in their last eight matches, with four of those coming in one match. Goaltender Tomáš Pöpperle has been outstanding in recent weeks and has needed to be as he battles Filip Novotný for the first choice spot. However his excellent performances recently mean Popperle will be the man in the final.
There a few Frölunda players worth mentioning. Top scorer Joel Lundqvist, also a finalist for the CHL’s NordicBet MVP Trophy, led Frölunda to CHL and SHL titles last season and will be a menace to the HC Sparta Prague defense. Henrik Tömmernes along with Jacob Larsson, John Nyberg and new recruit Jonathan Sigalet are players to watch on the back end. In between the sticks, goaltender Johan Gustafsson has established himself as one of Europe’s best since wrestling the first-choice spot from teammate Lars Johansson last year.
You will be able to watch the match live on Sport1, starting at 18:45 CET on Feb. 7.
Champions Hockey League www.championshockeyleague.net
HC Sparta Prague www.hcsparta.cz (ENG)
Frölunda Gothenburg www.frolundaindians.com (SWE)
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