Ligue Magnus season review

Ligue Magnus season review

20 May 2023 | Nino Bourge-Maldinez
 

A look back at a season that lived up to its promise.

 
 
 
 

Ligue Magnus’s 100th season has come to a close. France’s top tier division has a new champion as Rouen defeated reigning champions, Grenoble, in a six game series (2-4). Yet, the path leading to Normand's 17th national title was full of pitfalls.
Back in late august, early september, France had two representatives competing in Europe. Reigning champions, Grenoble in the Champions Hockey League and French Cup winner, Angers, in Continental Cup. These two teams'; journeys in Europe encountered different success. Grenoble bottomed its CHL group -other teams were Frölunda Gothenburg, Eisbären Berlin and Mountfield HK - while Angers earned a silver medal, falling short to HK Nitra. Back on home soil, the cerberus composed of the top 3 teams (Grenoble, Rouen and Angers) imposed their pace. The gap between those teams and the rest of the league was quickly extended and the doubt never existed about their playoff appearance. To end 2022 and start 2023, Grenoble won 19 games in a row, only losing to Rouen (5-1) in this twenty game span. In late January, Grenoble won the 2023 French Cup against their neighbors, Gap (3-2). In Ligue Magnus, the drama was served by the lower half of the rankings as four teams were battling for the two remaining playoff spots. Amiens, Anglet, Chamonix and Mulhouse offered the public an epic ending to the season. Amiens ended 7th while Mulhouse, who started the season with a nine point deficit following a financially motivated sanction, clinched the 8th spot.

As playoffs started, the main question was the following : who would be able to challenge Grenoble in their quest for the back to back ? 8th seed Mulhouse was the first grain of sand in the reigning champions machine. If they lost the series 4 games to 1, they showed great resistance against France’s top team : were they showing the way to other teams ? On the other side of the bracket, both Rouen and Angers swept their respective opponents, facing each other in the semi-finals for two consecutive years. Like last year, the same four teams occupied the final four : Grenoble, Rouen, Angers & Cergy-Pontoise. Grenoble swept Cergy in an an offensive display -they scored 28 goals in 4 games- while Rouen and Angers battled for the last spot. After Angers’s loss in game 5 on overtime despite their lead with two minutes left to play, the momentum was fully Normand and Rouen closed the series on game 6 with a 0-3 away win. The final was set : Grenoble would face its regular season dauphin, Rouen.
The final started with an outstanding offensive performance. At home, Grenoble had its foot on the gas pedal, scoring 8 goals to clinch the first win of the series (8-2). The very next day, they shut the door to earn back to back wins (2-0). Game 3 was the turning point.

In Rouen, the game was postponed due to ice related issues with a few minutes left to play in the first period. On Sunday 9th, ice was back in Normandy and game 4 was played -with game 3 yet to be played- and Rouen reduced the gap, winning it in overtime (5-4). France’s Ice Hockey Federation announced that Game 3 had to be replayed in its integrity on Monday 10th. On Easter Monday, Rouen tied the series in another offensive display (6-5) Despite Brent Aubin’s four goal game, Grenoble fell short. Going back to Grenoble for game 5, both teams had won their home games. Before the final, Grenoble was the clear favorite, would Rouen be this season’s surprise ? The atmosphere in Polesud was electric as game 5 went ongoing. For almost 40 minutes, both netminders showed up as the game was tied at neil. Rouen’s powerplay, who might be France’s finest, allowed Normands to take a two goal lead to end the second period. Grenoble’s top scorer Brent Aubin, reduced the gap with ten minutes left to play but Matija Pintaric held and Grenoble conceded their first home loss of the season. After trailing 2-0, Rouen was now leading the series, with the possibility to earn their 17th national title at home in game 6. For the first time in years, Grenoble was back against the wall as the game started. Brent Aubin showed up again and Dylan Fabre scored a brace to force an overtime, but every single epic series has its drama scenes. Rouen’s third goal was scored thanks to a rebound on Kelsey Tessier’s skate. Goal was validated by the referees, and it created a huge drama on social media. Former referees had to intervene in order to justify the on-ice decision. Going to overtime, Grenoble felt cheated as they were battling to force a game 7. As their first line was going all out trying to score, Dylan Yéo tried its chance and found the mouse hole between Jakub Stepanek’s leg and mitt, giving Rouen its 17th Ligue Magnus title.
Rouen’s sacre surprised many observers as Grenoble was destined to dominate on home soil with a CHL’s designed roster. The Normand will compete in CHL’s new format with the objective to equal their 2021 performance as they clinched a quarter final spot. On the other side, Grenoble will compete in the Continental Cup next season as French Cup winners.

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