So now we are down to one league still playing its season, and one more city for our travelogue. Some of these leagues might be into their finals by next week.
One that won't is the Asia League, which officially cancelled their finals because of the earthquake/tsunami. One of the contestants, last year's champs Anyang Halla of Korea, is going to have a split-squad charity game to raise money for Japan relief on Tuesday. It will be a no-cost for admission/donations accepted game. The other, Tohoku's Free Blades, are still awaiting word on several missing relatives of the players.
England's EIHL finishes next Friday, and it's going to be a photo finish. Sheffield (41-11), Cardiff (40-12), and defending playoff champ Belfast (39-13) are within 2 points of each other for the regular season championship. The playoff teams, however, are decided, and the above-mentioned three will be joined by Nottingham, Braehead, last year's regular season champ Coventry, Hull, and Dundee. One team that won't be joining them is Edinburgh, who with China Dragons and the Czech Orange u-20 teams done, assumes the title of worst team still playing. With a record of 6-46 and a 28 game (including one shootout) losing streak, Edinburgh averages losing 7.7 to 2.5 per game. In fact, their last 4 games they lost 7-1 to Braehead (outshot 68-21), 12-2 to Belfast (outshot 67-14 and outscored 7-2 just in the second period), 16-3 to Dundee (gave up 10 goals in the third and outshot 64-22), and an 8-0 loss to Hull (at least they were only outshot 44-23 in that one).
In France, Amiens and Strasbourg finished off quarterfinal victories and advanced to the semis. Amiens drew top-ranked Rouen, who won the first game 3-1. Strasbourg , who lost the first 2 to Gap before sweeping the last 3,got second place Angers and actually topped them 2-1 OT in their opener.
In Italy, Val Pusteria finished off Valpellice 4 games to 0 and is awaiting the Asiago/Bolzano series. Bolzano looked to win that one, up 3 to one before Asiago woke up and took 4-2 and 2-1 wins to knot the series at 3 each. That series' finale is playing as I type.
In Switzerland, the #1 and 2 teams have won the first 2 games of their semis. Kloten has topped defending champ SC Bern 4-1 and 3-2 OT; EV Zug has lost 3-1 and 5-2 to Davos.
In Austria, the semis are ongoing, and both tied at a game apiece. KAC Klagenfurt and VSV Villacher traded 5-2 road wins, and Red Bull Salzburg downed Vienna Capitals 6-2 in Salzburg and lost 6-5 OT in Vienna.
In the Czech Extraliga, Slavia Praha won a pair of OT games to take out the White Tigers of Liberec 4 to 3 and advance to play Ocelari Trinec, who wrapped up a 4 to 2 series win over Litvinov Benzina with a 4-1 win Monday. Vitkovice took 2 tight games from Mountfield to win that series 4 to 2; They draw Pardubice Eaton, who had previously swept Zlin. That match starts today, the other on Monday.
In Slovakia, Kosice blew through Dukla Trencin 9-1, 5-0, 4-3, and 5-1 to sweep into the finals. They'll have a wait, as Poprad and Banska Bystrika just play their third game today. Poprad won a 7-5 home game and lost a 3-1 road game.
In Denmark, SonderjyskE continues to struggle, caught in a 2-2 tie with Frederikshaven. Blue Fox Herning lost their opener in OT to Rodovre, but have since taken 5-1, 4-0, and 1-0 OT games to stand to win into the finals on Tuesday.
In Norway, Both semis between Sarpsborg/Lillehammer and Stavenger/Lorenskog are tied at 1-1.
In Sweden, two series are done- Farjestadt taking out Brynas 4 games to 1, and AIK capping a stunning sweep of season champ HV71 with a 4-1 win. Djurgardins posted back to back to back wins over Lulea to take a 3-2 lead in their series which could finish tomorrow. Skelleftea has likewise gone on a 3 win streak to pull ahead of Linkoping and can finish off tomorrow.
In Finland, The Ilves of Tampere and the Blues of Espoo won their play in rounds and the quarterfinals have started. Season champ JYP Jyvaskyla pounded the Ilves 7-3 in their opener; the Blues edged Assat 4-3; in the battle of Helsinki teams, Jokerit topped HIFK 1-0; and KalPa of Kuopio downed Lukko 3-2.
In the KHL, Lokomotiv steamrollered Dinamo Riga, winning 6-2 Monday to complete a 4 to 1 series win. They await the outcome of Sunday's game 7 between Atlant and SKA. Atlant has won 3-1 and 2-1 games this week to knot that series. Salavat Yulaev rolled to a 4 to 1 victory over Ak Bars, and awaits tomorrow's Avangard/Metallurg Magnitogorsk game 7. Avangard had pulled out to a 3-2 lead after two OT games- one decided at 9:11 of the third OT (the longest KHL game ever), and the next at 6 minutes of the second OT- but lost this morning 2-1 to send the series to a final game.
Finally, we go to Germany's DEL where Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg (31-21) wins the regular season title. This is another league that has a 7-8-9-10 play in round, in which the last two spots were won by Adler Mannheim and Kolner Hale. The quarterfinals start Wednesday, with Wolfsburg drawing Kolner Hale, second place DEG Metrostars from Dusseldorf taking on Adler Mannheim, 3-seed Eisbaren Berlin facing ERC Ingolstadt, and Krefeld Pinguine versus defending champ Hanover Scorpions.
Like much about Wolfsburg, the Grizzly Adams team is relatively new, founded in 1975. They play in the Eisarena, cap. 4,660, and this is their closest sniff to the DEL or Bundesliga championship.
Wolfsburg itself is not much older, founded in 1937 as Stadt des KdF Wagens
(city of the KdF cars), a factory town housing the workers of the Volkswagen plant. In fact, the team's main sponsor is Skoda, a Czech automaker owned by VW. (and the team in turn sponsors a bear park in the area.) After 1945, the city returned to auto building and in 1972 was renamed Wolfsburg after a nearby castle built in the 1600s. Population 121,000 and change, Wolfsburg is home to the Autostadt, an open-air auto history museum run by VW, as well as the Phaeno Science Center, which I believe is a larger, more adult version of Science Central. Wolfsburg is centrally located in northern Germany, in what was once Lower Saxony.
Next week, we'll have one last city to see (as far as season champs go; we already know we'll have at least one more championship city), plus I'm thinking we'll be into more than one set of finals.