GOTHENBURG, Sweden – Looking out over the horizon through the breath-taking Gothenburg archipelago, there is success on the horizon for a club that has been building towards the perfection that they had 11 years ago, when they last tasted invincibility as the Swedish champion.
After 34 games played in the season, it is clear that the team from Gothenburg will be fighting for the coveted title of season regular-season winner, and will be one of the teams to beat heading into playoffs in March. Frolunda Gothenburg currently sits on the top of the SHL standings in a back-and-forth tussle with the ever-consistent Skelleftea AIK, who have won the regular season title the previous three years.
“We play aggressive and want to create a lot of offence and tight defence, which leads us to get those offensive chances and go the other way,” explains Frolunda forward Ryan Lasch. “I think that we have a great game idea of what we want to do with the puck and how we want to play in the offensive zone.”
“That is kind of the reason why we get the chances that we do and score how we do. We have four lines that can score at any moment and any one of those four lines can step up. When you play that kind of system with four lines, it is scary, it is dangerous for the other team.”
Frolunda may not have to wait another 18 regular-season games before they can get their hands on their first silverware for the year. After a dominant 5-0 performance in Davos last week, it would take an absolute disaster for the “Indians” to lose their five-goal advantage at home, where they have been unbeatable in this year’s Champions Hockey League.
If the result goes their way on Tuesday night, they will have a chance to become the European club champion, although, they may have to do so outside of Gothenburg. On the road they have been much less convincing in the CHL, besides their performance in Davos.
“It just so happens that our road games haven’t been as pleasing as we would like, but we are a tough team when we get home and we can take care of business there,” says Lasch, who represented the United States in the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
“It is most important that we get the win to even get the opportunity to play at Frolunda, and we will let Lukko and Karpat decide if they win or not. We will take care of our business and see how that game goes. Hopefully at the end of the day we will have the opportunity to play at home for the championship.”
Winning the CHL would be the first trophy on a list of three for Frolunda this season. After their stellar start to the hockey year they have put themselves in a perfect position to not only take the CHL title, but to also take home the prize of regular-season winner in their home league the SHL and obviously place them well heading into playoffs for the Le Mat Trophy.
“I think that is kind of the goal. At any point when you come in and set goals, that is why you play, you want to win,” says a determined Lasch. “We definitely feel like we have the team that is built up to have the opportunity to win all three. So far we have put ourselves in a great position so we can have that chance.”
As much as depth in the roster has been a key to the success of Frolunda this season, it is hard not to recognize the resurgence of two of the team’s biggest stars, captain Joel Lundqvist and import Ryan Lasch.
Lundqvist is just four points away from having his most offensively productive season and his 18 goals, which lead the SHL in 2015/16, are already more than he has tallied in a single season throughout his career. Lundqvist’s second coming has been a result of his instant chemistry with American Ryan Lasch, who is also having his best season in Sweden. The pair has found a connection that has helped their team win games, giving not only the club success but has given both of their hockey careers a second-wind.
“I think in general it is just our game idea and our communication on how we want to play. We want to play the same way, where we hold on to the puck and protect the puck, and from there we are able to create lots of chances,” explains Lasch on what he thinks is the catalyst between himself and Lundqvist.
“We have spots on the ice where we both like to be and without looking we are able to find each other. We know where we are going to be and that helps a lot, especially with our quick puck movement.”
The pair’s success has also put the spotlight heavily on Lasch, who has also reaped the benefits individually, leading the CHL in points scored, with nine goals and six assists. The 28-year-old has recently taken over the title of the leading point scorer in the SHL also, tallying 38 points (11G+27A) in just 34 games.
Lasch doesn’t just contribute his points haul this season to the spark he has with Lundqvist, but to the depth of his whole team, which makes his job much easier and more importantly more fun.
“It is a collection of how the team is, it really is that. When your team is playing well and you have a top team like that, the individual success is going to come,” says a modest Lasch. “I have always said that whenever you are on a good team and you have a collection of four lines that can produce, it makes your job easier. It puts less stress on you to produce and you can go out there and have fun and just play your game.”
If Frolunda can continue building on what has already been an eye-opening start to their season, it may just be the beginning of a new dynasty of hockey in Sweden.