For the second time in three seasons Luleå HF/MSSK are SDHL Champions. The team defeated Linköping 5-1 on Saturday at home to take the best-of-three series two games to one and bring the gold back to Norrbotten.
All season long Luleå showcased the mix of resilience, skill, unity, and power that eventually won them the title. Due to scheduling oddities they started the 2017-2018 campaign with four games in four days and emerged triumphant each time.
“Every player is the reason for this team’s wins,” head coach Fredrik Glader told The Ice Garden at the time.
Season tone? Set.
Game Three Go Time
The series’ first two games were the type of low-scoring, high-energy hockey that sees fingernails bitten and seats edged as both games remained scoreless until deep into the third period. Luleå defender Ronja Savolainen took Game One for her club with a goal at 58:52. Two days later, SDHL rookie Lara Stalder decided Game Two for Linköping at 59:19. Goaltenders Florence Schelling of Linköping and Maria Omberg of Luleå each gave their team fighting chances.
On Saturday, though, the scoring floodgates opened. Luleå captain Jenni Hiirikoski got her team on the board just two minutes and thirty seconds in with a wicked shot that beat Schelling blocker-side.
Forwards Michelle Karvinen and Emma Nordin put Luleå up 3-0 before Linköping defender Emilia Ramboldt got her team’s only goal at 18:31 of the first period. Ronja Savolainen widened Luleå’s lead to 4-1 at 3:33 in the second with a beautiful give-and-go play from Josefine Hoegh Persson.
Karvinen, the playoffs’ leading scorer with 15 points in seven games, tacked on the dagger for Luleå with under a minute to go in the second. After the game she was named SDHL Forward of the Year and finished top in league scoring with 68 points on the season.
It’s only fitting that the SDHL’s top two teams came together for the final. All year long they’ve competed for the league’s number one spot and players from each team can be found at the top of almost every stat category. Linköping head coach Madeleine Östling took her club all the way to a silver medal in her first year behind the bench, while Luleå head coach Fredrik Glader has now guided his club to two championships in three seasons.
Both Luleå and Linköping played at the top of their games all season long and have much to be proud of. Congratulations to both sides on great years and a hard-fought match.