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The Nordic News: Sabbatical Over, Season On

It’s back, baby.

Copenhagen, Denmark
varsbergsrolands

After taking an extended wellness holiday to rest, recharge, and really find itself, The Nordic News is back. Since it’s been *indiscriminate muttering* since the last time, a little refresher course is in order. This is The Ice Garden’s weekly (-ish) look the happenings in Nordic women’s hockey, including leagues, national teams, and players abroad.

Finland

Last season’s Naisten Liiga champions Kiekko-Espoo are right on top of the standings with 21 points and seven wins in eight games. They raised their most recent banner on September 23.

Riku Laukkanen / Leijonat.fi

It’s tight at the top, though; KalPa and Kärpät are next with 19 points. Ilves is regrouping after losing veteran forwards Linda Välimäki and Riikka Noronen. The team sits at fifth place currently with 13 points, but they’re never a team to be discounted.

KalPa forward Matilda Nilsson was selected as the Naisten Liiga Player of the Month for September. In the league’s opening eight-game stretch she already has 22 points: 10 goals and 12 assists. She and teammate Elisa Holopainen (20 points) currently lead the league in scoring.

Sweden

The national team strike continues. After almost days, the Four Nations Cup tournament on home ice cancelled, and offers rejected, the deadlock between the Swedish Ice Hockey Association and the Damkronorna carries on.

Meanwhile, the SDHL standings are delightfully weird after six games for most teams. All conventional wisdom is out the window; as a result of retirements, new homes, and new international acquisitions the field is wide open. Personally, I love the oddball standings. It’s too early to make a definitive call, but this could very well point to increased league parity. We’ll know more as the season carries on.

Brynäs had arguably the most notable offseason of all 10 teams, picking up big names like Lara Stalder, Maja Nylén-Persson, Michela Cava, and most recently Team USA World Champion Melissa Samoskevich. So far it’s paying off, as they’re second in the league as of Oct. 2. Time will tell if they can keep it up.

Perhaps the biggest surprise so far comes in the form of SDE, currently in third place with 12 points. While this may not seem remarkable, keep in mind that SDE has battled relegation for their SDHL tenure. Only six games into the 2019-2020 season and they already have two-thirds as many points as they finished with last year.

SDE’s roster isn’t without controversy, though. They have the most foreign-born players in the league with 14. Only eight Swedes are currently rostered, fuel to the fires of those who oppose imported talent in the SDHL. All of this year’s leadership positions are occupied by foreigners: Captain Leanne Ganney is from the United Kingdom, Julia Zwarthoed is from the Netherlands, and rookies Kelly Murray and Kelty Apperson are from Canada.

Any team’s leadership group extends far beyond letters stitched on a sweater and there are no doubt Swedish leaders in the SDE locker room. If the team’s place in the standings manages to hang on and their fortunes aren’t a flash in the pan, then it’ll get easier to entice Swedish talent to Enebyberg.

Denmark

Something is awesome in the state of Denmark.

(No, I won’t apologize for that joke. Deal with it.)

Legendary Swedish coach Peter Elander took over national team head coaching duties in mid-September after Fredrik Glader departed.

This is an excellent get for the Danish program. Elander is experienced, well-spoken, well-liked, and knows how to get results. A coaching change going into a historic first year of top-level IIHF competition is never ideal, but this really is as good as it gets and bodes well for Denmark.