Ice hockey: It’s almost the recovery: the Swiss League under the magnifying glass
Ice HockeyIt’s almost the recovery: the Swiss League under the magnifying glass
The antechamber of Swiss hockey resumes its rights this Friday. Two Romands are in the running, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Sierre. Visp and above all Olten are the favourites.
In the space of two seasons, the Swiss League has been orphaned by Ajoie and Kloten, both promoted to the top flight. With only 10 teams registered, the attractiveness of the championship is diminished and the sporting battle promises to be unbalanced.
This exercise is also marked by the return of the traditional promotion/relegation barrage. At the end of the play-offs, the winner of the Swiss League will face the last of the National League in a series of the best of 7 matches, with the authorization to play four foreigners.
Olten seems the number 1 favorite followed by Visp. On the French-speaking side, La Chaux-de-Fonds has everything it takes to aim for the podium and assert itself as the best French-speaking team, while HC Sierre aims to continue to stabilize in the league. Focus on these 4 formations.
La Chaux-de-Fonds: A candidate for the podium
Following a successful exercise, the Neuchâtelois saw their trainer Thierry Paterlini give in to the sirens of Langnau. To replace him, Loïc Burkhalter, the sporting director, has set his sights on Louis Matte. At 50, the ex-assistant of GE Servette will live his first experience as a head coach in professional hockey. Thanks to a quality workforce, which includes the arrivals of goalkeeper Östlund and forwards Kay Schweri and Stefan Ruegsegger, the Bees can and must aim for the top of the rankings.
As far as foreigners are concerned, the excellent Norwegian Sondre Olden is still there but he is expected to miss a good part of the season due to a shoulder injury. To compensate for his absence, the sports management first hired the Swede Sebastian Bengtsson. The latter, injured, has not yet been able to play and the Finnish Olavi Vauhkonen arrived a few days ago. The “real” second mercenary is the young Canadian Kyle Topping. At 22, he arrives at Les Mélèzes for a season from the AHL with the intention of showing up in Europe.
Sierre: A potential surprise
In Valais, the coach has also changed. In place for 4 seasons, Dany Gélinas has not been renewed and will now officiate with the rival Viégois. It is another Quebecer who replaces him, in the person of Yves Sarault. This will be for the first time a team in hand from the start of the championship. In Graben, stability comes first. The few changes were made in defence. Goran Bezina has retired from sport. Accounting, he is replaced by the Valaisan Mathieu Maret.
The main change in the contingent is to be found among foreigners. If the reliable and regular Éric Castonguay begins his 4th exercise in the Cité du Soleil, his compatriot Anthony Beauregard has not been retained. Christophe Fellay, the sports director, remained faithful to the Quebec industry by going to seek Francis Perron in Swedish D2. In 2018-2019, he had a season of 47 points in the AHL before returning to the ranks. Can he repeat such statistics? That’s what the Sierra fans are hoping for.
Visp: A mandatory reaction
Since entering its new ultramodern ice rink, Visp has experienced almost nothing but sporting disappointments. To remedy this, the Hauts-Valaisans have contracted Dany Gélinas, a coach who knows the Swiss League perfectly. They also did well on the transfer market with the arrivals of Gähler, Eigenmann and even Forget. In a weakened league, Visp no longer has the right to make mistakes and must position itself as Olten’s main competitor.
The foreign brigade of the Lions makes your mouth water. The whimsical, but sometimes nonchalant, Linus Klasen is still there and he will be accompanied by the fast and experienced Francis Paré. The Canadian-Belarusian has solid credentials and could do some damage in the Swiss League.
Olten: The No. 1 favorite
Unhappy finalists last year against Kloten, the Solothurns have only one ambition: to win the championship and afford the right to dream against the last of the National League. On the board, Lars Leuenberger, Swiss champion in 2016 with Bern, is successful.
Thanks to the intensive recruitment of 14 new players, including goalkeeper Dominic Nyffeler and defender Victor Oejdemark, sporting director Marc Grieder has carved out a first-class squad. The unknown concerns the position of second foreigner. To accompany Garry Nunn, Olten bet on Sean Collins. At 33, the Canadian has good references but remains on an average season in Liiga (15 points, 5 goals in 53 matches).
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