Top Five Moments from 2018

Top Five Moments from 2018

18 Dec 2018Adrian J»
 

Writing from Sweden, there's no doubt it’s been another great year for hockey. Here are my Top Five Memories from 2018.

 
 
 
 

1. Elias Pettersson

The SHL was dominated by one team in 2017/8 season - Växjö Lakers. They won the regular season by 21 points and made light work of a talented Skellefteå AIK smashing them 4-0 in the best of seven series.

An outstanding team effort can only occur when all the individuals in the squad are playing at their best. And more than any other player that can be said of young forward, Elias Pettersson. Then 19-years-old, he finished top of the Total Points with 56, including 24 goals and a 1.27 Points Per Game average. He was also part of the World Junior Championship team that won Silver in Buffalo and the team that won World Championship Gold in Denmark. He was already drafted in the first round in 2017 by Vancouver Canucks and his career seems to go from strength to strength as he has already established himself as a regular points scorer in the NHL.


2. Denise Altmann

In May 2018 Austrian national captain and Linköping HC forward Denise Altmann decided to hang up her skates after 11 years at the club playing in every season of the Swedish Women's Hockey League (SDHL). She has set the records that everyone else behind must try to beat.

She finishes her career as the SDHL's highest ever scorer in Goals, Assists and Total Points. In all, she an incredible 539 Points in the regular season over 200 points (!) more than her nearest rivals.

To give a comparison, hockey legend and superstar Wayne Gretzky, is the person in the NHL history who has the same position as Altmann, as the League's top Goals scorer, Assist getter and Total Points holder. The Austrian's Points Per Game of 1.77 would put her third in NHL history behind Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. She has every right to be considered the best player to have ever played in the SDHL and the best European woman to have played the game.


3. USA Women’s Olympic Gold

Canada and the USA have been the top two nations in women's hockey since it has been an Olympic sport for the first time in 1998 and the two nations have contested the majority of Olympic and World Championships finals. So, it was no surprise when the two teams met in PyeongChang on 22 February 2018.

The match was worth of the occasion with best players playing at the top of their game. Canada went into the match with the psychological advantage as they had won the team's meeting in the preliminary round, 2-1. Not only that, but Canada had won everyone of the last four Olympic final meetings.

But it was the USA who scored first at the end of the first period. Then Canada took over in the second to take the game to 2-1 after 40 minutes. But USA equalised in the third taking the game into 4 on 4 Sudden Death. But even that could not separate the two rivals, nor one round of penalties.

The match was played on the 38th anniversary to the day of the American "Miracle On Ice" so it was the perfect Hollywood ending that 28 year old double Olympic silver medallist, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson finally broke the deadlock to take the Gold Medal back to America for the first time in 20 years.


4. Germany's Men’s Olympic Silver

This year’s tournament was billed as one of the most open ever, with the NHL refusing to release its’ players for the Games.

But no one expected that would favour the Germans, a team that had not won an Olympic match since 2002.

The group stages saw them only win one game - against Norway in a penalty shootout. But in the knockout stages they developed the habit of beating teams late, being Switzerland and Sweden in Overtime.

The only game the won in regulation was the Semi-Final over Canada, possibly one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history. Amazingly, the football playing nation were 4-1 up with just under half the game to go against the nation that created ice hockey. And whilst Canada fought back, heroics from Red Bull Munich's netminder, Danny aus den Birken, and blocked shots aplenty meant the Germans went through to the final, 4-3.

And to think, they were only 57 seconds away from beating Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and the OA Russia team and taking Olympic Gold. But they were denied by an equalizer Nikita Gusev with 56 seconds of regulation and then the golden goal from Kirill Kaprizov in overtime.


5. Washington Capitals win Stanley Cup

One of the great things about watching NHL hockey is simply the enormous skill level of many of the players. So one of highlights for the year is the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup victory over surprise team of the year, Vegas Golden Knights. Or more specifically, Russian super forward and Washington's captain, Alex Ovechkin's Stanley Cup win. It has taken 13 seasons, but one of the best players in the NHL has finally won the top prize hockey can honour.

Ovechkin is the ultimate red machine – if he gets the puck delivered to him in the face-off circle left of the goal, he is going to one time it in the back of the net 99 times out of 100. His club is like a clock pendulum – up, down, BANG!, siren as reliable as clockwork.

Take Ovechkin’s goal in the series winning Game 5, where he scores on the powerplay with a pass from Niklas Bäckström. All the time the Swede holds up the puck, he is giving time for the Russian to get free and get ready for the perfect shot. A classic Ovechkin goal, that meant all the more as the Capitals went on to win the game and take the Series 4-1.

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