The Five Nations tournament in Finland and the Christmas break means that December was not such an intensive month in the SDHL with the table remaining in a similar shape to the previous month.
A tight race for the top
The top five clubs remained tightly packed with only 7 points between them, whilst Djurgården IF and Brynäs IF in sixth and seven continues to close the gap by lag behind because bad starts to the season. Brynäs IF have been buoyed by the return from concussion of Canadian superstar, Jennifer Wakefield. The team have not lost any of the four games they have played 2018 Olympic Silver medalist has scored 10 points (6G+4A) herself.
The bottom three clubs remains the same with only eighth placed AIK in a chance for the final playoff place and SDE Hockey and Gothenburg HC rooted to ninth and tenth respectively.
The top 5:
1. MODO Hockey
Canadian duo Michela Cava and Kaitlyn Tougas keep putting up points for MODO and lie first and sixth in Total Points in the SDHL. Both gained three points in the 9-1 drubbing of bottom of the table Gothenburg HC, Cava with 1G-2A and Tougas with 2G-1A.
However, the duo continue to lose teammates around them. Injured Marion Allemoz and Breanne Wilson-Bennett have not returned to the team and now defender Lauren Wildfang has left the club due to serious illness of a friend back in Canada.
The team has brought in 16 year old Amanda Ahlm from the juniors to replace 29 year old Allemoz and already have a number of young players in the team alongside their gifted import players. Wildfang's back partner, Swede, Mina Waxin, for example, is only 17 but is having a breakout season and played her first international games for the seniors this November.
2. Luleå/ MSSK
Luleå have also had a quiet month with their only matches being the back to back away games at Leksand IF. The team's top four scorers Jenni Hiirikoski, Emma Nordin, Michelle Karvinen and Noora Tulus all got points during the games. At the back, Sara Grahn took the net in both matches and still holds the league's top save percentage with 94,77 SVS%.
But the double header was also an occasion for some of the team's less well known players to shine. For example, Japanese captain and Olympian, Chiho Osawa got a rare point with an assist on Nathalie Ferno's goal, the opening score of the first match. Meanwhile Danish international, Josefine Høegh Persson was the only player to get a goal in each game as well as one assist on Emma Nordin's 4-1 goal which put the second game out of Leksand's grasp with 16:33 to play. Luleå would go on to win the game 4-2 to add to their 2-1 victory in the first match.
Luleå still have 4/5 games in hand on their rivals but this will mean a frenetic last month in the regular season to catch up. The current champions will play 11 matches in 23 days, including two weekends in a row with matches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, before a tough final match against last year's runners up, Linköping HC, to end the season on 2 February.
3. Linköping HC
Linköping sit in third place after three victories in three matches in December. American Kennedy Marchment continued her point winning ways scoring points on every goal (3G+1A) in the 4-3 win over Djurgården IF and gaining 3 assists in the 7-0 rout over Gothenburg HC. Denise Altmann was also back in a Linköping jersey and on the score sheet as she came out of retirement to cover for the injured Swiss talent, Lara Stalder. The Austrian managed three assists to add to her totals as the SDHL highest ever scorer in all categories.
The Jönköping club have won 4 out of 5 matches and racked up an impressive 21 goals to 7 in December. The dominance of the Finnish line mates, Riikka Välilä and Sanni Hakala cannot be understated - they either scored or assisted in 15 of the team's goals. These top two scorers for the team are currently in fifth and eighth in the league's Total Points competition. With the other six goals, American Claudia Kepler was on the ice for five of them highlighting the importance of import players in the SDHL this year. To further that, at the other end of the ice, Spanish keeper, Alba Gonzalo holds a 92.79% SVS to take second place in the netminder's competition.
5. Leksand IF
Leksand have had mixed results in the run up to the Christmas period, losing the two matches against Luleå but winning both in a double header against struggling SDE Hockey.
The club's American defenders, Samantha Hanson (25 yrs) and Gracen Hirschy (23 yrs) have had a productive month in front of goal. Hirschy gained 3 goals whilst Hanson accumulated 5 points (1G + 4A) includes two assists on Hirschy's goals.
Both players came to Sweden last year making the same journey from the NCAA at University of North Dakota to bit parts at Djurgården IF. This season they both chose to move to Leksand and are the team's top scoring defenders with 33 points between them in 27 games.
*Statistics correct as of 26 December