The IF Bjorkloven women’s team kicked off our 2018-19 season with the pre-season Damcup Umea August 30th to September 2nd in front of our home town fans. The pre-season tournament featured Japan’s national team, defending SDHL champions Lulea, MODO’s SDHL team, and us. Both Lulea and MODO field Division 1 teams that act as defacto junior teams for their organizations but both brought their top league squads for this event. As a Division 1 team, we knew that on paper we would be out gunned. And it turned out that we were out gunned on the ice as well. Our management and coaches saw it as a learning opportunity and for a team that wants to move up to the SDHL this season, it was a really good chance to test ourselves early.
After a rough first game against Lulea on Friday night, losing 13-2, we re-grouped somewhat and put up more respectable showings against Japan on Saturday, losing 7-0, and falling to MODO 5-0 in our final game on Sunday morning. Lulea ended up as the top team and showed why their game against the defending NWHL champions in New York should be such a great game. Lulea has recruited some of the top Finnish players and also added Swedish national team goalie Sara Grahm in the off-season.
MODO lost to Lulea 4-2, but it was a fairly even game and I thought that at times MODO was the more creative team. A lack of depth was what separated the two teams from my point of view. MODO has a lot of Canadian players and it was interesting to see how they meshed with the Swedish players and how different lines had different styles. Japan was lacking some of their usual national team members and seemed to be using these games as an opportunity to work on their team game. They favored passing but also, at least against us, dumped the puck in a lot more than is usual in the Swedish league, so I tried to put my North American sensibility to use and get out and play the puck and help our defenders turn up the opposite side.
Overall, it was a good weekend for us as a team. Our “best player” hat went to Margaux, our other goalie who played, and myself for all three games, so while I guess that is a good thing for goalies, I have a feeling that in our own league we will be handing it out to some skaters as well—at least hopefully! We knew that we were outmatched, but we stayed positive on the bench, kept working on our game and not just trying to survive, and put together a lot more sustained pressure against Japan and MODO. Our game against MODO proved the importance of staying focused, as we went into the third tied at 0-0, thanks to some great work by Margaux, and then, bam, five lapses in focus on our part, and MODO scored five goals.
Having coached last season and as someone who continues to be a goalie coach, it is great to be back in the net and I am looking forward to working with our team to get us to the SDHL. We’ve got some work to do but if everyone does their job and keeps focused on our goal I think will be successful.
Until next time,
Photo Credits: Johan Lof