Spengler Cup 2014 started on 26 December 2014 and has by now reached its semifinals phase. Five teams arrived to the Swiss mountain town of Davos last week to participate in the competition with long lasting traditions: Team Canada, HC Genève-Servette, Jokerit (Helsinki), HC Salavat Yulaev (Ufa, Russia), Medvescak (Zagreb, Croatia). The hosts, HC Davos, were waiting for the arriving teams and did not have to adapt to the ice of their home Vaillant Arena (lying one mile above sea level).
The semi-finals to be played today on Tuesday, 30 December 2014, will determine winners in the pairs of HC Davos vs. HC Salavat Yulaev and HC Genève-Servette vs Team Canada. The other two teams, Jokerit and Medvescak, failed to qualify themselves due to losing each and every of the three qualifying games of the weekend and Monday evening.
The Swiss teams, HC Genève-Servette and HC Davos, have a theoretical chance of playing against each other in the finals on Wednesday, 31 December 2014. Shall this be so, it will be a celebration of the well-developed Swiss hockey management system. But can one really expect this to happen?
First, let us have a look at the two Swiss teams and their prior performance as well as the current season achievements. Then we will be able compare them to the historical and current performance of their competitors from Russia and Canada. The latter are “ambassadors for the Canadian game in North America and Europe, and … they will represent their country with pride and honour,” said Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations and national teams with Hockey Canada.
HC Davos is not only the team with most title wins in the Swiss hockey history, but is also doing very well in the current Swiss National League A (NLA) championships. It has collected 69 points so far and goes second in the league after SC Bern (70 points). These days HC Davos is plagued by the “Brothers von Arx” case. The team’s veterans Reto and Jan von Arx, who have played in Davos for 20 years, want the club to resign them both. HC Davos, on the contrary, is willing to offer a contract to only one of them, which in turn is unacceptable for the well-knit Reto and Jan.
Lyrics and economics aside, HC Davos can play and win hard matches like the one against the current NLA outsider Rapperswil-Jona Lakers (4:3) earlier this year:
HC Genève-Servette is the incumbent Spengler Cup holder and this shall give the team the benefit of recent success and a can do attitude on the ice. The same fact, however, gives all the other teams a reason to play more fiercely against Servette than against any other competitors. In the current season the results of HC Genève-Servette have been moderate. Thus, it occupies place 6 in the Swiss NLA with 52 points, whereas the league leaders, SC Bern, have already collected 70 points. However, Chris McSorley’s team showed that it can score and win matches. Thus, the day before yesterday, on Sunday, 28 December 2014, HC Genève-Servette won against Jokerit 3:1. The Finnish team is having a great season in the KHL, where they currently keep place 3 in the KHL’s Conference “WEST.”
Although Servette has lost its last match in the NLA to EHC Biel, it did manage to score 5 goals against 6 they let into their own net: http://bcove.me/xaptae5o
Thus, the Canadian-coached Servette, which also has five Canadians on its roster, will be able to challenge Team Canada and even play for a win, once they put a smart strategy and a lot of effort into their game today.
Team Canada is always a contender when it plays in Davos. It has constantly been on board of the competition since 1984 and won the cup 12 times since then, while playing in 19 final fixtures. This year, the majority of the players come from the European clubs, plus there are 5 players from the AHL. Team Canada has won two (against Medvescak and Jokerit) and lost one (against HC Davos) game during this tournament. Thus, this group of players has managed to form itself into a functioning team and will definitely compete for the 13th Spengler title.
Speaking of Salavat Yulaev from the Russian city of Ufa, the team is going on place 5 of the KHL’s Conference “EAST” and has good chance of getting into the finals of the Gagarin Cup. The team has very good playing practice in the KHL where it successfully competes with the Russian and Eastern European crème de la crème. Salavat is coached by Vladimir Yurzinov, one of the Russia’s top coaches, who also has experience of winning Spengler Cup. In 2010 Yurzinov won the cup while coaching SKA St.Petersburg, which won against Team Canada in the finals.
During the ongoing Spengler Cup the team showed that its forwards have tremendous speeds and nerves of steel. The match against Medvescak has been a good proof of that:
The two last days of the year 2014 will be a real treat for all those following the Spengler Cup in Davos. The Hockey Writers will be happy to inform you on its decisive three games to take place today and tomorrow.