Two and a half years after they got within a hairsbreadth of winning their first-ever championship title, HV71 look primed to make a mighty run at the elusive gold. They currently sit atop the SDHL standings with 55 points, 12 points ahead of current runner-up Djurgården. They’ve lost just twice in regulation all season long and have allowed more than three goals only once in 21 games.
Their dominance is just one facet of a thoroughly intriguing SDHL season, and to get to the bottom of it I decided to dive into the statistics to see just what’s making them tick. Here’s what I learned.
New Arrivals Are Coming Up Big
Strong recruiting over the offseason brought some great talent to Jönköping and it’s paying dividends. Four of the league’s top 10 scorers — forwards Kennedy Marchment, Kaitlyn Tougas and Hanna Olsson, and defender Sidney Morin — are in their first season with the team.
While Tougas had an underwhelming CWHL career, she’s flourished as a playmaker in Sweden. She spent two years with MODO Hockey before heading south this summer. Marchment and Morin were teammates last year in Linköping.
Meanwhile Olsson, 20, is a superstar in the making. Despite her controversial exit from Djurgården and subsequent absence from the latter half of the 2018-2019 SDHL season, she’s returned to the top flight of Swedish hockey with a vengeance. Fleet of foot and quick of hand, Olsson is averaging 4.24 shots per game. She’s one point away from matching last season’s total, in five fewer games played.
Contributions From Throughout the Lineup
This is a fast and dangerous team with plenty of reliable depth. Five of the SDHL’s 11 skaters with 20 points or more play for HV71. The new arrivals up front and in the defense corps kickstarted the offense to another gear: they’ve averaged 4.61 goals per game in 21 games played, up from last year’s 3.25. In addition, they strike quickly, taking the first goal in 17 games so far.
Forward Kennedy Marchment is proving head coach Lucas Frey’s recruiting instincts correct as she looks to build on a stellar SDHL rookie year.
#SDHL Now this is VERY interesting indeed. HV71 head coach Lucas Frey confirms he's met with Linköping forward Kennedy Marchment, trying to get her to join the team next season.— Meredith Foster (@fosterwrites) March 18, 2019
Keep in mind HV71 just lost Fanny Rask, and Marchment is still playing a heated final series. https://t.co/iEoG3jUGeF
While the move raised some eyebrows at the time, Frey’s boldness is paying off big time. Marchment is the club’s top scorer with 17 goals and 18 assists and she’s shown all throughout the season that she’s capable of contributing anywhere along the depth chart. One sign of just how often she has the puck on her stick is the fact that she’s taken just one minor penalty all season long. Instead of sitting in the box she’s been busy setting up plays and creating scoring chances for herself and her teammates.
It goes without saying the offense is there to score goals, but it’s pretty great when the defense can do it too. HV71’s blue line is responsible for 17 of the team’s 97 goals so far this season and they’re shining as playmakers.
The team boasts the league’s highest-scoring defenders, Sidney Morin and captain Jessica Healey. Healey has fewer goals than Ronja Savolainen of Luleå Hockey/MSSK, but she has more assists and a higher point total. Morin, the first American Olympic gold medalist in SDHL history, tops both categories.
Special Teams Live Up To Their Name
HV71’s power play is the best in the SDHL with a 23.29% success rate.
The team’s penalty kill is a ruthless 96.67% with just two power play goals scored against them in 21 games this season. Seriously, HV71 kills penalties so well they may as well be on a true crime show. It helps that they don’t take a lot of penalties; only AIK has fewer penalty minutes. Even at five-on-four they’re dangerous, with eight shorthanded goals so far this season.
Alba Gonzalo Continues To Develop
Barcelona native Gonzalo took on the starting position at the beginning of the 2018-2019 season after a knee injury forced Sabina Eriksson out for the year.
She rose to the occasion and has continued her upward mobility. Gonzalo currently has a solid .914 save percentage and the SDHL’s second-best goals-against average at 1.55, below only Luleå Hockey/MSSK netminder and Damkronorna veteran Sara Grahn. Not bad for 22 years old, not bad at all.
Where’s The Ceiling?
At this point HV71 looks like the real deal. Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Brynäs was bound to happen at some point; every good team has their off day and theirs happened to come against another very good team who they’d also played the day before.
There’s 15 games left in the regular season and HV71 doesn’t play again until December 20, which gives them plenty of time to rest, rehab, and regroup. Once some injured players (like goaltender Anna Amholt, an excellent young keeper in her own right) start to come back into the lineup, they’ll only re-inforce the talent that’s already clicking so well. If they can maintain their pace, the sky might just be the limit this season.