Champions Hockey League - Group D

Champions Hockey League - Group D

13 Aug 2014 | Dennis Mende
 

Today we present to you the teams of Group D: Eisbären Berlin, PSG Zlin, Djurgardens IF and HC Fribourg-Gottéron. We also share our predictions with you.

 
 
 
 

 Eisbären Berlin

If there is one team that can be described as flagship of German ice hockey in the 21st century, then it's Eisbären Berlin. The team from the capital won a total of 7 championships in Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) starting with the 2004-2005 season. They also claimed the first ever edition of the European Trophy in 2010 and the German DEB-Pokal, the national cup competition in 2008. Their success is even more impressive as they are one of only a handful of teams from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) or East Germany since the reunion with Western Germany in 1990. The team is owned 100% by American Anschutz Entertaintment Group.

After losing several experienced veterans over the last couple of years (Sven Felski, Richie Regehr, Alexander Weiß, Stefan Ustorf, Tyson Mulock etc) who all were key parts in winning titles with the Polar Bears, the team suffered greatly in the 2013-14 season and was thrown out in the first round of the DEL playoffs already by ERC Ingolstadt who went on to become the new German champions. They also lost the final tournament of the last European Trophy edition in December as hosts.  

The Polar Bears added many youngsters into their lineup in the last two seasons who are promising already like Alex Trivellato, Vincent Schlenker and Henry Haase. They also added some experience by signing former KHL goalie Petri Vehanen (Lev Prague) as a substitute for Rob Zepp who left this summer to play for NHL franchise Philadelphia Flyers and former longtime NHL defender Mark Bell who already joined them last season from Iserlohn.

Berlin will go into this CHL tournament without any pressure and expectations.   

PSG Zlin


There could be no better time to earn some European prestige for Czech side Zlin after winning the Czech national championship by beating Komete Brno in five games of their best of seven series in the 2013-14 Extraliga finals and finishing second the year before. This was only their second league title after their 2004 success. Unlike Eisbären Berlin the Czech side was not a founding member of the newly created Champions Hockey League but earned their spot on the ice.

Zlins star players include 38 year old veteran center Petr Leska who was his team's topscorer in the regular season in 2013-14 and who spent the majority of his two decades of professional ice hockey with Zlin. Other notable players are former NHL and KHL forward Petr Cajanek and former St. Louis Blues Jaroslav Balastik who are also both well into their mid to late 30s as is Ondrej Vesely, number 4 in the points department. In the net veteran Lubos Horcicka shared the job with 22 year old youngster Libor Kasik who had his breakthrough season and played almost all playoff games for his side, being a cornerstone for the recently won league title. Although highly depending on veterans to this date, Zlin also have a promising future with 15 players in their roster of age 25 and younger. The team was most recently strengthened by the additions of forwards Roman Vlach - 32 points with Karlovy Vary last season - and former Los Angeles Kings player Tomas Zizka who joins the veteran department with his soon 35 years of age.

With a good mixture of young talents and strong veterans, Zlin have everything a contender for the first CHL title needs if they can stay injury free.   

Djurgardens IF


The 2013-14 season was extremly successful for Swedish record champions (16 Swedish championships between 1926 and 2001) Djurgardens IF from Stockholm. Not only did they reach the final round of the last European Trophy edition as winners of a group with notable teams like TPS Turku, Tappara Tampere, Brynäs IF and SC Bern despite playing themselves only in second tier HockeyAllsvenskan but also they managed to return to the Swedish elite league after two years by sending city rivals AIK Stokholm into the second league in the Kvalsieren. Djurgardens had good experiences in the European Cup at the begin of the 90s when they won the competition in 1990 and 1991. Since then, it's been relatively quiet for them in this department.

After their return to the Swedish Hockey League, Djurgardens were able to add several international top players, including goalie Mikael Tellqvist who had an impressive record with KHL's Dinamo Riga, Finish defender Markus Nordlund who most recently played in Swiss NLA, 2006 Olympic Gold Medal winners Mika Hannula (Kölner Haie, DEL) and Mikael Samuelsson (800+ NHL games for Detroit Red Wings), just to name a few.

With great additions in the summer transfer windows, Djurgarden are definately a contender for the first spot in group D and maybe even for the tournament title.  

HC Fribourg-Gottéron


Five-time Swiss vice champions Fribourg-Gotterón (last in 2013 after winning the regular season), ended the 2013-14 season as second after the regular season before being beaten by Kloten Flyers in the semifinals. In an even European Trophy group - the one that Djurgarden won - they were 6th in 2013, just two points behind the second placed TPS Turku. Still this was Fribourg-Gotteróns best ET performance in their second participation. As Berlin and Djurgarden they are also founding member of the Champions Hockey League and thus were automatically qualified for the first edition of the tournament.

Fribourg's key players are young national team goalie Benjamin Conz along with fellow national team colleagues Benjamin Plüss and Julien Sprunger who also led the points department in the last year. They are supported by former longtime NHL player Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Swiss international Thibaut Monnet.

They lost a veteran NHL player in Niklas Hagman who joined Jokerit of the KHL this summer but were able to find a good substitution in former New York Islanders Jeff Tambellini who played for MODO in Sweden last year.

It will be tough for Fribourg but they are defintely capable of winning this group aswell.

My predictions for this group:

With DEL record champions Eisbären Berlin, Swedish record champions Djurgardens IF, current Czech champions PSG Zlin and Swiss top side Fribourg-Gottéron, group D is one of the strongest in the whole Champions Hockey League group stage. Having top sides of four of the top five participating nations play against each other makes it extremly attractive for fans and the teams themselves. Due to their recent success and the ability to keep almost all top players, Zlin are slightly the favourites in this group followed by Djurgarden and their strong additions and Fribourg-Gottéron with a team filled with international experience. Eisbären Berlin are rather the underdogs after many changes in the team but dangerous underdogs.

Schedule

21.08.2014 Djurgården Stockholm - Fribourg-Gottéron      
22.08.2014 Eisbären Berlin - PSG Zlín      
23.08.2014 Fribourg-Gottéron - Eisbären Berlin      
24.08.2014 PSG Zlín - Djurgården Stockholm      
04.09.2014 PSG Zlín - Fribourg-Gottéron      
05.09.2014 Djurgården Stockholm - Eisbären Berlin      
06.09.2014 Fribourg-Gottéron - PSG Zlín      
07.09.2014 Eisbären Berlin - Djurgården Stockholm      
23.09.2014 Eisbären Berlin - Fribourg-Gottéron      
23.09.2014 Djurgården Stockholm - PSG Zlín      
07.10.2014 PSG Zlín - Eisbären Berlin      
07.10.2014 Fribourg-Gottéron - Djurgården Stockholm

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