This last weekend the first round of the European Women Champion’s Cup (EWCC) was played at various locations across the continent. A competition where each national league champion are invited to play for the title as Europe’s best club. So in this first round, 16 teams divided in four groups played for 7 spots in the next round where they will face the champions from Russia, Sweden, Finland, Germany and Switzerland who gets seeded.
Since the first round has teams from countries of all World Championship divisions there was a fair share of lopsided games, a least one or two double digit games per group. Some tight games though that decided which teams would advance.
Group A featured the to be group final in the first game between Slovakian HK Poprad and Kazahkstan’s Aisulu Almaty and they had a even game that ended with Poprad winning the game and by that the group, both teams moving on to the next round over the Turkish and Romanian champions. Some notable imports in this group were especially former U-18 Team Canada member Rayna Cruickshank playing for Almaty with fellow Mount Royal defenseman Jesslyn Legasse and Saint Mary’s goalie Jillian MacIsaac, and the Turkish team had Guelph graduates Tamara Bell and Sarah McClinchey.
In group B the Vienna Sabres blasted the opposition 15-3, 8-1 and 7-1 in the three games, most impressive in the last game against the Czech champions SK Karvina who easily snatched second place and will have another go against the Sabres as the play in the same group again next round. Karolina Pozniewska of the Polish champs finished the tournament with 10 points in 3 games for a shared scoring title, unfortunately they didn’t have the depth to beat the top teams and advance, impressive performance nontheless. The Sabres is one of these teams combining forces of the world to rally for the title, with a good base of Austrian players they also feature former Quinnipiac Bobcats Victoria Vigilanti and Regan Boulton, Harvard graduate Kaitlin Spurling, Finnish Venla Hovi, Slovenian star forward Pia Pren and Valentina Bettarini from Italy. Also playing in this group was Canadian Veronique Laramee-Paquette formerly with Wayne State (NCAA) and Concordia (CIS), now representing the British champions Bracknell Queen Bees who had a last place finish in this group.
The C group was to be a battle of northern Europe, host team Laima Riga (Latvia) was basically out of the race after not managing to beat Norwegian Jordal in full time. So the fight for the title was between Jordal and Danish Herlev the last day, and Herlev totally routed Jordal winning 8-0. And I will say I was pleased, because even if I love Norway and their players, I’m not very fond of the way Jordal qualified for this years EWCC, as they brought in former Swedish olympians Maria Rooth, Erika Holst and Gunilla Andersson for the play-offs and won the national championship thanks to that. Since this was the only group where the second place team didn’t get 6 points, Herlev was the only team to advance to the next round.
And in the last group I was hoping to see the Croatians KHL Gric, you could say that was a long shot but hey miracles happens sometimes, however not this time. The Bolzano Eagles from Italy got three straight wins with at least 5 goals each, led by excellent captain Chelsea Furlani a graduate from the University of Vermont and she has a heavy load to bear in the next round against a bunch of real tough teams. The French champions of Neuilly sur Marne took the second slot from the group. So how about Gric? Well, they were tremendous underdogs, but still had some nice plays from the games I managed to see, especially Ela Filipec was brilliant, nowhere close to the other teams though.
The second round will be played in December (7-9th) and the groups are arranged as follows:
E: SKIF Nizhni Novgorod (RUS), Karvina (CZE), Poprad (SVK), Vienna Sabres (AUT)
F: Lugano (SUI), Planegg (GER), Neuilly sur Marne (FRA), Herlev (DEN)
G: Linköping (SWE), Espoo Blues (FIN), Almaty (KAZ), Bolzano (ITA)
The winner of each group and the best second placed team moves on to the final round.
Since I live in Linköping it will be a special treat in December as they host the second round and we really have a team of the world to conquer the world or Europe at least. Three norwegians at the moment, Austrias star player Denise Altmann who has won the scoring title in Sweden 4 of the last 5 years, Swiss Stefanie Marty is to return in November, Finnish Christa Alanko and Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Wakefield among a number of Swedish national team players and lots of talent, I do believe this team has the potential to make it all the way. Linköping is right now commanding the Swedish league with 7 wins and a 45-5 goal difference, never before has a team had that kind of start of the league.
The next step I would like to see is a invitational tournament against some of the college clubs from United States. I thought it was great the Quinnipiac was over in Europe playing some pre-season games and I wouldn’t mind seeing some teams coming to Sweden to do the same next year, North Dakota and Duluth if I got to choose since they have a lot of European’s on their teams. Linköpings has grown strong over the years and I would see a challenge series against these top notch college teams as a great feather in their cap, why not add a CWHL team as well and make a week out of it?
Can’t wait until the day I become a gazillionaire, then I will take this great sport to the top!
That’s all for now, keep skating hard and shoot from the hip!