Luleå Hockey/MSSK overcame a two-game deficit in dramatic fashion on March 21 to clinch the SDHL Final series against Linköping three games to two and keep gold in Norrbotten.
A refreshed and resilient Linköping came to the final buoyed by their semifinal sweep over MODO Hockey. They were dominant in games one and two: Susanna Tapani’s chemistry with her new linemates, scoring from up and down the lineup, and a red-hot Eveliina Suonpää in goal propelled them to an early series lead.
Then, facing elimination in Game 3 on March 17, Luleå woke up.
They took a decisive 5-1 win at Stångebro Ishall in Linköping with goals from Melinda Olsson, Jenni Hiirikoski, Linn Peterson, Petra Nieminen, and Emma Nordin. Goaltender Sara Grahn came through with a clutch 39-save performance.
Game 4 saw a fast-paced relentless match that couldn’t be solved in 60 minutes, leading to sudden-death overtime. Luleå’s Michelle Karvinen scored her fifth goal of the playoffs at 1:28 into the extra period to tie the series 2-2 and force Game 5.
The first twenty minutes of Game 5 was truly a statement period for the defending champions. Luleå burst out of the gate, notched four goals in the first, announcing that they had no intention of relinquishing their title via the scoreboard. Linköping defender Sidney Morin broke Sara Grahn’s shutout 2:39 into the second period, but the damage was already done and Luleå’s Rebecca Stenberg regained her team’s four-goal lead before the second intermission.
There was a scoreless third period, then jubilation.
”It is absolutely wonderful,” Luleå goaltender Sara Grahn told SVT Sport after winning her first SDHL gold. The Best Goaltender award winner continued, “I have longed for this for so long. Doing this with this team cannot be described.”
Captain Jenni Hiirikoski accepted the trophy, then deferred to the outgoing Stenberg:
What a beautiful classy moment that personifies Jenni Hiirikoski as a leader: she gives the trophy and the celebration to Rebecca Stenberg, who scored two goals today in the final game of her career and retires a champion. https://t.co/BNaKfWBOje— Meredith Foster (@fosterwrites) March 21, 2019
All three of Luleå/MSSK’s titles - in 2016, 2018, and 2019 - have come at Linköping’s expense. This feisty championship rivalry is only going to get better as both teams continue to recruit and develop global elite talent.
2018-2019 SDHL Award Winners
- Best Forward: Emma Nordin, Luleå Hockey/MSSK
- Best Defender: Jenni Hiirikoski, Luleå Hockey/MSSK
- Playoff MVP: Jenni Hiirikoski, Luleå Hockey/MSSK
- Best Goaltender: Sara Grahn, Luleå Hockey/MSSK/