Elitserien: Skellefteå fire opening statement as Brynäs falter

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – The 2012/13 Elitserien season got underway on Thursday with a full slate of games. Playoff champions Brynäs outlasted Växjö in Gävle, five-star Skellefteå thumped Modo, and a controversial rule implementation caused an opening day headache in Karlstad.
 
WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY?
 
Will the Elitserien perform a U-turn on their decision to ban short-term deals for locked-out NHL’ers? That seems to be one of the key topics of debate within Swedish hockey at the moment.
 
Swedish hockey’s second division, Allsvenskan, recently reneged on a similar decision, and many expect the Elite League to soon follow suit and open the door to star players from North America.
 
The initial decision seemed to displease many supporters, but it’s merits can be understood. Sure, the star power would undoubtedly do the league a power of good financially, but should NHL’ers be taking jobs from European skaters and disrupting established rosters? In fact, Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan tweeted last week: “I’m an NHL player, I’m not going to take somebody else’s job overseas”. Hard to argue really.
 
Thoughts/comments? Do let me know at the email address below.
 
WINDS OF CHANGE
 
It’s been a Summer of change for many Elitserien sides.
 
Jakob Silfverberg and Viktor Fasth, the Elitserien’s league MVP and Honken Trophy winner, both departed for North America leaving star-sized holes in Brynäs and AIK. The latter moved swiftly to sign 26-year old former HV71 goalie Daniel Larsson as Fasth’s successor.
 
2011/12 league top-scorer Robert Rosen also left AIK for a move back home to Växjö. Pro Hockey News will have more on Rosen’s much-talked-about move and his hopes for the current season in an exclusive interview to be posted in the coming weeks.
 
On the ice, perhaps the biggest change last season was the relegation of Djurgården after 35 years in the Swedish top flight.  Timrå and Rögle topped Djurgården in the Elite League’s Kvalserien qualifiers, relegating the storied side to Allsvenskan.
 
There were rule changes too, with the Elitserien opting to allow goals off skates this season – even with a distinct kicking motion. HV71’s New York Rangers prospect Jesper Fasth would be the first to benefit from this rulebook change.
 
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
 
The puck dropped on six games Thursday night.
 
Defending champions Brynäs were made to sweat against Växjö in Gävle before edging a 2-1 win courtesy of the shootout. Andreas Thuresson proved the skills competition hero for Brynäs after Tomi Kallo’s late equaliser had cancelled out Jorgen Sundqvist’s opener in regulation.
 
Last season‘s losing playoff finalists Skellefteå made comparatively short work of Modo. Oscar Moller’s hat-trick and 32 saves from Joacim Eriksson led the hosts to a convincing 5-1 win. Oscar Lindberg, Tomas Forest and Richie Regehr also scored.
 
HV71 and Färjestad played out another close game in Karlstad. Joakim Hill Ding, Rhett Rakhshani, Patrik Lundh and Johan Lindstrom netted in regulation, before Jesper Fasth’s overtime goal earned HV71 the extra point. Fasth, who kicked the puck in, spoke to Sportbladet after the game: “I think it’s OK. Last year the goal was questionable“.
 
Goals from Carl Soderberg and Par Arlbrandt were enough to secure a 2-1 win and three impressive points for Linköping away to Frölunda. Magnus Kahnberg’s third-period tally gave Frölunda hope of a late recovery, but goalie Christian Engstrand stood firm to deny a flurry of late attempts on the Linkoping net.
 
Newly-promoted Rögle pushed last season’s table-toppers Luleå all the way in Angelholm. Martin Gerber’s 34 saves kept hopes of an upset alive for the hosts, though Kim Hirschovits’ empty-netter finally sealed the points for visiting Luleå.
 
Niklas Nordgren’s overtime goal secured two points for Timrå against gun-shy AIK. Fredrick Hynning’s tally midway through the third period earned the visitors a crucial point.
 
SUPER SATURDAY
 
Four sides looked to rebound from midweek disappointment while another four clashed in the season’s first heavyweight match-ups.
 
In Jönköping, Jorgen Sundqvist’s second goal of the season gave visiting Brynäs a second-period lead over HV71. Mattias Karlsson’s quick release tied the scores, before Canadian Jason Krog sealed the home team’s comeback with an overtime blast from the right circle.
 
Jens Jacob’s backhander ensured home side Luleå took all three points from Skellefteå in another see-saw clash atop the table. Erik Forsell, Johan Forsberg, Anton Hedman and Cam Abbott traded goals as Luleå twice clawed back a one-goal deficit before Jacob‘s late winner.
 
Simon Onerud’s overtime goal sealed the extra point for Timrå against Modo in Örnsköldsvik, Frölunda responded to their opening night defeat in Linköping with a 3-1 win over Växjö, and AIK fell to their second overtime loss of the season at home to Färjestad on Sunday.
 
Contact the author – alex.nunn@prohockeynews.com
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