Lots is happening in our look at the international hockey competitions, including one new travelogue city and an update from the quake-shattered Asia League.
The Asia League website has the 3 games of the finals scheduled for yesterday through Thursday marked as Cancelled. The finals were to feature Anyang Halla, who upset regular season champion Oji 5-4 in OT to win the series 4 to 1, and the Tohoku Free Blades, who won consecutive 4-1 games to defeat the Cranes. However, Tohoku plays some of their home games in Koriyama (which is 60 miles south of Sendai) and some at Hachinohe (166 miles north of Sendai). The games were to be played in Koriyama; but a report from Canadian Tohoku player Brad Farynuk said that the Arena was ruined, with concrete falling and other damage. He said that he thought the games would be moved to Korea, but he thought that the Anyang team was stuck on a bullet train somewhere between Tokyo and Koriyama. In the meantime, his wife is stuck at their home in Hachinohe; she says they have no power or water, and that she can see boats that have been washed ashore.
The English EIHL and the German DEL are still playing, with the EIHL going till the 25th and the DEL finishing tomorrow. Sheffield's Steelers (a popular hockey name in Europe) still leads a three team group within 2 points of each other at the top; the DEL is led by Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg by 3 points. Their playoffs, which start with the 7-10 seeds playing a best of three to see who got the final 2 quarterfinal slots, start Wednesday.
In France, Amiens has a 2 to 1 lead on Briancon after winning the last 2; Gap also leads their series with Strasbourg 2 to 1, despite a 9-2 Strasbourg win in game three. Last season's finalists ripped through the round to advance to the semis; Rouen rolled to 6-2, 4-1, and 6-1 wins over Morzine-Avoriaz; Angers was even more dominant in 8-0, 10-1, and 7-5 wins over Villard de Lans. They will await the winners of the other two series.
In Switzerland, EV Zug finally finished off Geneve Servette in a 5-4 win that took over 110 minutes of OT to take that series 4 to 2. Zug will play season champ Davos while SC Bern meets Kloten in the semis which start Wednesday.
In Italy, Val Pusteria put up back to back OT wins to take a 3 to 0 lead on Valpellice in the semis, while Bolzano dominated in 4-2 and 5-2 wins to take the same lead over defending playoff champ Asiago.
In Austria, KAC finished off KHL Zagreb with a 6-5 OT win in game 5; they will play my VSV team, who finished off last year's playoff runner-up Black Wings Linz with a 5-2 win in game 5, in the semis. Also in the semis are defending champ Red Bull Salzburg who eliminated Olympja Ljubljana in 5 games with another OT win (three of 4 quarterfinal series were decided with an OT final); they'll play the Vienna Capitals, who downed the Graz 99ers in a 4 game sweep.
In the Czech Extraliga, Slavia Praha took 5-2 and 4-3 wins over White Tigers Liberec to take a 3-1 lead over the league's#2 team. Vitkovice Steel took a 3-2 shootout win in game five with Mountfield and a 3-2 lead in their series Friday. Litvinov Brezina recovered from 2 opening losses to season champ Ocelari Trinec with 5-3 and 4-2 wins to surprisingly tie the series at 2 games apiece. And Pardubice is at home waiting on the others after mowing down PSG Zlin in four straight.
In Slovakia, Kosice had already won into the second round, as had Poprad. Kosice will play Dukla Trencin, who upset Slovan Bratislava, with 6-3 and 5-2 wins completing a comeback from down 3 games to 0 to win 4 to 3. Poprad will face Banska Bystrika, who won 2 tight games at the end to avoid an upset by HK Zvolen 4 to 3.
In Norway, Sparta Sarpsborg rolled to 6-0 and 4-0 wins over Rosenborg to sweep their first round series. They will face Lillehammer, who downed Storhammer in 5 games. Second place Stavenger routed Frisk Asker 6-1, 8-4, and 5-2 to take their series 4 games to 1 and they will now face Lorenskog, who won three straight to upset defending champ Valerenga 4 to 1.
In Sweden, season champ HV71 is well on the way to an inglorious exit ; AIK has won all three games, including 4-2 and 3-1 wins in Jonkoping, and can sweep them with a home win Tuesday in Stockholm. Farjestad has won the first 2 against Brynas; Skelleftea and Linkoping are at 1 game apiece; and Lulea has notched consecutive 2-1 wins over Djurgardens.
In Denmark, SonderjsykE won their last three to advance out of the round robin. Blue Fox Herning smashed Fredrikshaven 9-4 in the RR finale, so it became SonderjyskE vs Fredrikshaven and Herning vs Rodovre in the semis. SonderjyskE took their opener 2-1 on Mike Grey's power play goal 1:51 into OT; BFH gave up the puck at center ice to Rodovre's Morten Andreassen 2 1/2 minutes into OT and he tallied his 2nd goal of the game to give the Mighty Bulls a 1 game lead in their series, 4-3.
In the KHL, Avangard clocked Neftekhimk 7-3 last Sunday to become the last team into the second round. And here again they are struggling, having lost 4-2 and 4-3 OT matches to Metallurg Magnitogorsk. In the other Eastern series, Salavat Yulaev has took both of the first two games- a 3-2 OT opener, and 3-1 in a match where Ak Bars missed, not one, but 2 empty net chances. In the West, SKA has a 2 to 1 lead over Atlant after a 3-0 win this morning. Lokomotiv blasted Dinamo Riga 8-4 this morning behind three goals by Daniel Tjarnquist to retake a 2-1 lead.
Finally, JYP Jyvaskyla (39-13-8) finished off the S-M Liiga regular season as champs this week. The playoffs start today with a best of 3 round between the 7-10 teams for the last two quarterfinal spots. HPK faces the Ilves of Tampere, while Karpat faces the Blues of Espoo.
JYP was founded in 1977, and play in the 4,628-seat Synergie Areena. They have a championship in 2009 to their credit, and are in a trading partnership with the NHL's Boston Bruins.
Jyvaskyla is located dead center of the big southern "bulb" of Finland. Built between Lakes Paijame and Jyvasjari, it contains 37 lakes in the old town alone. Built by Russian Czar Nicholas I in 1837, it grew dramatically after the end of
the "Continuation War"- the battle fought between Finland and Nazi Germany against Soviet Russia from 1941-44- because of refugees from Karelia who fled the Soviet return. Finland's education center, it is often called "the Athens of Finland". It is the fastest growing city in the nation, with a population aproaching 131,000.
That's it for this round. Be back next week when we take a look at (presumably) the German city of Wolfsburg and (maybe) more info on the situation in Japan.