Premier Sweden and Russian teams face off as season winds down
Each week, World Hockey Hub highlights a few of the most exciting upcoming games in youth hockey. Nacka HK and Djurgårdens IF kick things off with an ‘08 Top-10 tilt on Wednesday. Boo HC and AIK Hockey tangle in a premier matchup between 2008s as well. The week concludes with CSKA Moscow dropping the puck in an ‘09 meeting with Mikhailov Academy on Sunday.
Sundberg, Travergård lead clubs into Top-10 clash
As the games remaining in the regular season dwindle into the single digits, there are still some big matchups on the board. No. 8 Nacka HK (29-5-6) and No. 12 Djurgårdens IF (30-14-10) will throw down in a meeting of the top two teams among Sweden 08’s.
|Wednesday, March 15|
Last time out on Jan. 18th, these clubs played to a 4-4 tie in a spirited back-and-forth affair. Djurgårdens clawed its way back from a 3-1 deficit only to have Nacka take the lead late in the second period. Less than two minutes later, Sebastian Von Berens salvaged the tie with his second goal of the game. Since that tie, Nacka has been on a roll, going 8-1-0 in its last nine. Djurgårdens, meanwhile, has gone 4-2-1.
What gave Djurgårdens a chance to even things up in its last matchup was preventing Nacka’s leading scorer from doing any major damage. Oliver Sundberg not only leads Nacka in points (15G, 15A) but is tied for first in scoring of the entire group. Djurgårdens’ defensive unit held him to just one assist. It will take another strong effort like that to come out on top this time with a win.
It will be interesting to see who Djurgårdens goes with in net. In the 4-4 tie, Gustav Stengård manned the crease, making 16 saves on 20 shots. Statistically, however, the club’s other goaltender, Justin Emretzon Duckmark is among the top three among all teams. He has compiled a 1.55 goals-against average, .933 save percentage and three shutouts over a 7-2-2 record.
Pete’s Pick: I truly believe this one will come down to whoever Djurgårdens goes with between the pipes. They have the confidence they can shut down Nacka’s top performer. So do they roll with the goalie who aided that effort last time they met or with the goalie with the better numbers? Stengård has started the last three games, so my gut says they stick with him. As a result, I think Djurgårdens pulls out a close 3-2 win here.
Craig’s Pick: Djurgårdens recent struggles are a concern for me. Sure, 4-2-1 is a decent run, but those wins are against the 12th, 11th, 10th and sixth place teams. For reference, there’s 12 teams in the group. Nacka’s schedule hasn’t been much more challenging, but its taken care of business in a much more impressive manner. I don’t expect Sundberg to be silenced a second time, I like Nacka in a 4-1 win.
Boo, AIK prepare for ‘08 goaltending duel
Viggo Fors notched a goal and assist in the last meeting between No. 4 Boo HC (29-7-6) and No. 9 AIK Hockey (21-11-4) on Jan. 18. His team hopes he can produce those numbers again as they battle in a mid-week rematch this Wednesday.
|Wednesday, March 15|
Ulriksdals IP Hall 3
The main point-getter for Boo though is Lukas Svensson, who has tallied 13 goals and 21 points in 17 games. Just behind him is Alexander Engman (10G, 6A). Held off the scoresheet in their last encounter, Filip Nyberg will try to add to his impressive season stat line of 13 goals and 26 points. The other two thirds of AIK’s power trio consists of Viggo Låhdö (7G, 15A) and Max Balk (10G, 9A).
While those will be the players trying to fill the net, the two trying to keep pucks out are some of the best on any ‘08 Sweden team. Leon De La Gardie and Leon Andersson went save-for-save in the last game between the two sides. Andersson has backstopped Boo to 10 wins, with a 1.30 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and four shutouts. De La Gardie has recorded 1.54 goals-against average, .906 save percentage and three shutouts. When both of these goaltenders are on, offense is hard to come by.
Pete’s Pick: Like I said, this will be another low-scoring game. Despite players on both ends being able to put up points, there’s something when these two goalies play the other that makes them that much better. With Boo getting the slight edge, offensively, I favor them over AIK in a close 3-2 game.
Craig’s Pick: It’s hard to imagine an even lower scoring game than their 2-1 meeting last time out. However, I’m anticipating just that. Boo is buzzing at the rink time, and I think it gets its fifth team shutout of group play. Viggo Fors factors in offensively, again, and Boo wins a low-scoring game, again, this time it’s 2-0.
Lokomotiv looks to avoid season sweep by Spartak
No. 3 Spartak Moscow (30-7-3) has had No. 10 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s (22-10-1) number this season. Victorious in three previous games, they have outscored their opponent 11-4. On Sunday, Yaroslavl will attempt to finally best its fellow ‘09 Russian club.
|Sunday, March 19|
In order to do so, they will have to handle the explosive production from Daniil Savin (21G, 27A) and Vsevolod Kokorin (27G, 13A), two of Spartak’s most consistent forwards. To counter, Yaroslavl will rely on Ivan Rubstov (9G, 22A) and Mikhail Bulgakov (11G, 14A).
Pete’s Pick: Lokomotiv had been on a bit of a roll lately winning their last three before a loss to No. 3 CSKA last weekend. However, Spartak’s talent is too much for them to overcome, much less many other ‘08 teams. They have kept things relatively close in the last three meetings, so I don’t expect Spartak to break open the score. Spartak will take a 4-1 final.
Craig’s Pick: In the two previous matchups, Spartak has never trailed. Despite their best efforts, Lokomotiv’s Bulgakov and Rubstov just haven’t been able to get the offense going in this matchup. That’s a tough ask for anyone at any level to produce offense on cue. Because of Lokomotiv’s struggles, I have to go with Spartak, 4-1, as they’ve seemed to crack the code on how to shut down this top-10 offense.
Mikhailov Academy prepares to even ‘08 season series vs. CSKA
No. 24 Mikhailov Academy (22-10-3) will have the chance to even its regular season series versus No. 9 CSKA Moscow (26-8-2) when the two ‘08 Russian teams collide on Sunday.
|Sunday, March 19|
CSKA was victorious in the first game between the two back on Sept. 25th. Mikhailov took the next one before dropping the third. Since that loss, they have been winners in their last six. Matvey Cheranev (21G, 24A) and Boris Borin (13G, 30A) have propelled Mikhailov during their recent hot stretch. Goal-scoring dynamo Nikita Gromakov (28G, 6A) will be eager to add to his total. He has scored three goals against Mikhailov in their matchups thus far. Ilya Morozov’s (10G, 24A) play-making ability will look to assist Gromakov in offensive production.
Pete’s Pick: While Mikhailov impressively shut out CSKA in the second game, the true power of CSKA was on display in the other two meetings with wins of 5-3 and 7-3. Mikhailov also played last weekend, giving CSKA more time to rest its top players. A third win for them is in the cards and they will take the season series, three games to one.
Craig’s Pick: Ugh, I’d like to give Mikhailov Academy a shot in this one, especially given Ivan Buydov’s 3-0 shutout on November 13th. However, he was quickly pulled in Game 3, after giving up three goals in the first period. I just don’t think they have an answer for CSKA’s offense, so I’m going CSKA 5-2 convincingly.