KLOTEN, Switzerland – After one year in Zurich, the trophy for the Swiss champion returns to the Alps, to HC Davos. It is the club's record 29th Swiss championship.
The Kloten Flyers had the chance to keep the trophy in the Zurich region as the top-seeded team after Bern and Zurich surprisingly lost their quarterfinal series.
That left the Flyers as the favourites. But in a year of upsets in the Swiss playoffs, it was not meant to be for Kloten. They reached the final in only eight games, going with 4-0 sweeps in the quarters and semis. Meanwhile, Davos needed the full 14 matches to make it to the finals. But Davos made use of its playoff experience to win the final series, again in seven games.
Kloten won the first game at home but Davos took revenge, winning Game Two at home and then taking Game Three in Kloten. But Kloten came back top tie the series with a 4-0 win in Davos.
The momentum swung again to Davos in Game Five. In a close game, Kloten’s Marcel Jenni hit the post after 52 minutes and Andres Ambühl scored the game-winner few seconds later with a counter-attack.
Davos could have won the series at home in Game Six, but it was Kloten’s Michael Liniger, who scored the only goal 93 seconds into overtime.
The new champion was crowned on Easter Monday in front of a sell-out crowd in Kloten. After a scoreless first period, Davos scored twice midway through the game. Dino Wieser opened the scoring with a rebound and Reto von Arx scored what became the championship-winning goal five minutes later.
Kloten played almost one-way hockey in the last period, but only defenceman Félicien Du Bois was able to score during one of the power plays as Davos hung on for the 2-1 win. Captain Marc Gianola was the first player to hoist the trophy.
“I think we were less tense because we've had this seventh game situation so often,” Andres Ambühl said. “We have our best games when we are under pressure. Now I’m looking forward to the World Championship.”
A core group of players brought experience to the roster. Seven players won their fourth title with Davos. That was the common explanation for the triumph.
“We’re out of gas and we’re not as fresh as at the beginning, but if it works in the head, it usually also works with the body somehow,” Reto von Arx said.
“I’m extremely proud of this team,” head coach Arno Del Curto said. “It’s unbelievable how they performed. For me it’s the most beautiful of all championships. We had to work like maniacs.”Notebook:
- Davos and Kloten won just one game each at home in the series.
- Davos set a new league record for most post-season games, with 21.
- Davos has won eight straight series that went seven games, including the 2007 and 2009 final.
- Arno Del Curto is the most successful coach in modern Swiss hockey history. He’s been behind the Davos bench since 1996. Since 2002, HCD won the Swiss title four times.
- Marc Gianola, Andres Ambühl, Michel Riesen, Sandro Rizzi, Jan and Reto von Arx, and Josef Marha were part of all four title teams.
- Reto von Arx won the championship, scored the game-winning goal, was the post-season top scorer (7 goals, 8 assists) and played his 700th National League A game – all of them for HC Davos.
- Michel Riesen was, with nine goals, the best goal scorer of the Swiss playoffs, same as two years ago. He signed with Rapperswil next year for personal reasons. Riesen is hoping for release to play for Davos at the Spengler Cup.
- Even though Davos is known for having some of the most skilled Swiss players, Del Curto also counted on a second line with a Czech offence: Josef Marha, Petr Sykora and Petr Taticek.
- Davos is also busy on the international stage. Besides hosting the Spengler Cup, the club also played in the European Champions Cup twice and once in the Continental Cup in the last years. The best result was a 6-2 win over Sweden’s Frölunda Gothenburg in the 2006 ECC.
- It was the first time Kloten lost the final series since 1988. Yet it was still the best finish for the Flayers after four straight titles from 1993-1996.
- The NLA will have the same 12 teams next season. Newly promoted Biel finished in last place but defeated NLB champion Lausanne in a seven-game series which also ended on Easter Monday.