West Region club wins Sweden national tournament for first time in 51 years
An extensive history of coming up just short in the Sweden U16 SM-Playoffs finally came to an end on Friday. Brynäs IF defeated heavily favored Täby HC 7-2 to claim its first ever Sweden national championship.
A tournament that dates all the way back to the 1971-72 season, Brynäs had never taken home gold. In the past 10 tournaments, the club qualified for the Final Four on six occasions. Four times, suffering defeat in the championship game. They had been unable to get over the hump, until twin brothers Theo Östberg and Hugo Östberg combined to score five points in a dominant championship performance.
Hugo scored just 1:09 into the second period to make it a 2-0 game. Theo closed out the period with his own goal that pushed the lead to 4-1. Both would factor in on goals in the waning stages of the game to close out the 7-2 final.
The duo led Brynäs throughout the tournament, combining to score six goals and 14 points. Linemate Leo Sundqvist added six goals and 10 points of his own, to make Brynäs’ top line one of best at nationals.
From Unranked to U16 National Champion
Despite being unranked throughout the entirety of the 2022-23 season, the win brings Brynäs its first ever U16 national championship. They went 19-5-4 in West Region action, finishing as the No. 1 team. None of the seven other teams in their region had been ranked this season either. Additionally, they were absent from many of the major 2007-born tournaments during ‘22-23, like Sweden Hockey Trophy.
Entering the tournament as a relative unknown, Brynäs made its presence felt in first-round group play. They swept Örebro HK, Frölunda HC and HV 71 in consecutive games to earn the No. 1 seed and advance to the second round. None of the teams in Group D had been ranked this season either.
On the second weekend, Brynäs again swept its way through group play. There, they defeated Malmö Redhawks, Växjö Lakers and a second victory over HV 71. Again, none of the opponents in this group had reached the Top 10 in the country.
It wasn’t until a semifinal matchup with No. 3 MoDo Hockey that Brynäs crossed paths with a Top-10 team. Aron Dahlqvist and Melwin Larsson opened up the scoring in the first period. That gave Brynäs a lead that it would not relinquish, as four more goals from four different scorers would eliminate MoDo 6-2.
The championship game would present Brynäs with just its second game of the season against ranked opponents. Täby, a club that peaked at No. 1 and held the top spot for 20 weeks this season, stood in the way.
Gustav Hillström would open the scoring 12 minutes into the championship. Then, 1:09 into the second period, Hugo Östberg would score his 21st goal of the season to put Brynäs in a familiar spot; playing with the lead. Michal Svrcek would add a third goal before Täby’s offense was able to respond. But by the time top-ranked Täby got on the board, it would be too little too late. Theo Östberg would score his 16th goal of the season, and Brynäs would add three more goals late to pull away with a 7-2 final.
Leading scorers, top performers from Sweden U16 SM-Playoffs
Brynäs making history as champions for the first time was certainly the highlight of the Sweden U16 national championship. There were plenty of other noteworthy performances as well, like Täby’s Theo Stockselius, who led the tournament in scoring. He scored eight goals and 19 points in eight games. Forward Albin Laksonen from the Växjö Lakers led all skaters with 10 goals. He was a proven goal scorer all season with 29 goals in 26 games. HV 71’s Karl Annborn and Malmö Redhawks’ Justus Ehrnström tied for the lead with nine points to top all defensemen.
No goaltender in the tournament played more minutes than Brynäs’ William Forsberg. The 6-foot-2 netminder started all eight games for the eventual champion, with the second-best goals-against average (2.50) and third-best save percentage (91.60) in the tournament. He made 31 saves in the championship game, including 13 in the third period alone.