National League: the fortnight of Romands #6

National League: the fortnight of Romands #6

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Winter holidays made you miss the first matches of the year? Has the return of snow-capped peaks made you want to get back into ice hockey? Then this catch-up is for you. About every 2 weeks, RTSsport.ch offers you a summary of the news from French-speaking National League clubs.

ADD: The improvement continues for the Jura residents. The victories at the end of December took a considerable weight off the shoulders of the Bruntrutains, who rediscovered the thread of their hockey. In 4 games in 2023, however, they alternated hot and cold, with 2 3-2 successes (in Zürich and against Davos) and 2 slaps (8-1 against Zug and 7-2 in Freiburg). These routs have a common explanation: the inefficiency of the box-play ajoulot (6 goals conceded). With another goal scored by Zurich, the effectiveness of the game in numerical inferiority of the HCA barely exceeds 50% since the beginning of the year (53.3%). Under the 2nd era Julien Vauclair (7 matches), Ajoie has so far erased only 63.3% of the penalties conceded, while the Jura coach had made it one of his strengths during his 1st visit ( 85.3% efficiency in 10 encounters).

The club at the wyvern can nevertheless rejoice on one point: with the departure of Filip Pesan, the Swiss players have regained their sense of goal. Of the 13 successes registered since mid-December, 9 have been by Swiss skaters. Special mention to Reto Schmutz who, with 2 goals and 3 assists, is quite simply the HCA’s best scorer over the last month. A reason for satisfaction which could be important at the end of the season in the event of a promotion-relegation barrage since Ajoie could only field 4 foreigners instead of the current 6, thus giving additional responsibilities to the Swiss.

BIEL: Sluggish restart for the Seelanders since they only obtained a small 5-4 success after extra time against Klotenfor 2 losses in Zürich (2-1 for the 1st by Mark Crawford with the Lions) and in Ambri (4-3). Still deprived of Harri Säteri and Joren Van Pottelberghe, the Biel residents have always been behind in 2023, despite a solid performance from Simon Rytz on New Year’s Day (94.6% saves). More worryingly, in the last 2 meetings, they had to recover from a 3-goal deficit thanks to Jesper Olofsson (author of a hat-trick against Kloten), Fabio Hofer (3 goals over the weekend) and Gaëtan Haas (4 assists) .

Since the injury of its Finnish goalkeeper, Biel has been running at a perfectly correct points-per-game average (1.71), or 12 units in 7 games, including 6 played by Simon Rytz, who maintains an honorable record of 90% stops over this period. The 39-year-old veteran has thus evolved as many times in the elite in a month as since the start of the 2016-2017 season. If he will go into the shadows as soon as his 2 colleagues return to play, Simon Rytz will have shown in the meantime that Martin Steinegger was right to trust him by signing him for the season since the Seelanders managed to keep without a hitch their 2nd place in the standings.

If we win five times in a row and lose one, it’s not a problem

David Desharnais

FRIBORG: Watch out, Dragons on Fire! The Fribourgeois began the year as they ended the previous one: by chaining the victories. They now camp on 6 successes in 7 meetings – only Lausanne having made them fall (5-3 defeat at Malley) – and are in 5th place in the National League, or even 4th in points per game (1.73). If the defense remains a safe bet in Friborg with 2.5 goals allowed per game in 2023 (4th best average over this period), the offensive is (finally) running at full speed with 4.75 successes per game (3rd in the league in 2023). A duo alone personifies this revival: Jacob De La Rose, author of a hat-trick during the victory 6-1 against Ambri, and Marcus Sörensen (10 points in 4 outings). The Swedes scored 8 of Friborg’s 19 goals this year (47.4%) while they only had 6 successes in 2022. In their wake, it was the entire foreign legion of the Dragons who came forward in recent meetings (12 goals out of 19 scored). This awakening allows Christian Dubé’s men to (re) become serious candidates for the top-6 this season, if not the top-4.

David Desharnais, who is living his last months as a professional hockey player, was also very optimistic about the potential of the Dragons: “We are starting to play well together as a team. Things are falling into place and the points will come if we continue like this. Our goal is clearly to be in the top-6″. The 36-year-old Quebec center claimed after the defeat in Lausanne that “if we win five times in a row and lose one, it’s not a problem, it’s normal to lose matches at one time or another“. The reaction shown in the following match (7-2 victory against Ajoie) tends to prove him right.

Biel was not far behind, it gave us a little extra motivation

Benjamin Antonietti. [Salvatore Di Nolfi - Keystone]

Benjamin Antonietti

GENEVA: The Eagles started the year 2023 tied on points with Biel. About ten days later, they regained a 4-point lead over the Seelanders and 10 over Zurich. Now practically guaranteed to finish the regular season in the top-4 (Bern, 5th, 15 lengths behind), the Servettians are however experiencing a lively start to the year. Off ice first, with the announcement of several major injuries (Teemu Hartikainen in particular) and movements in the workforce. These defensive absences were temporarily compensated by the arrival of Frenchman Yohann Auvitu, discreet but interesting for his first skating moves. Geneva also had to take the shock of the departure of his master to play Henrik Tömmernes at the end of the season (see box).

Also on the ice, the recovery of the Genevans was not easy with a defeat 4-3 in Davos and an 4-2 win hard fought in the derby against Lausanne. It was above all the trip to Bern the next day that made an impression, with an improbable 7-5 win on the ice of the Bears. For Benjamin Antonietti, “it was no doubt a nice game to watch, but the plan was not to win 7-5. We had to play a solid game defensively and give as little as possible… So we’ll keep the three points.”. On these 3 meetings, Daniel Winnik and Josh Jooris distinguished themselves. With 6 points each since the start of the year, they have largely contributed to the good record of the Genevans (7 units collected out of 9 possible). Benjamin Antonietti, also scorer, explains it by the character of the team: “First place gives us confidence, confidence brings us good results, and good results bring us to first place. We are in a positive circle. Biel was not far behind, it gave us a little extra motivation not to want to let go of this place.”. A strong leader.

LAUSANNE: After an interesting period between mid-November and mid-December, the Lions have been struggling to materialize their potential since the 2nd international break. They started 2023 with 3 losses, bringing their series to 4 losses. The Vaudois, however, brought down Friborg last Saturday (5-3 win) after having seriously wavered the Geneva leader at home the day before (4-2 defeat). Two performances of choice, including a victory which relieved the people of Lausanne, according to Tim Bozon: “It was a good game. Our goalkeeper still makes saves that save us and we managed to score more than 2-3 goals so we had to win it. Against Geneva too, we had a good match, but we have less confidence, so we score less. Mentally, it’s tough for us offensively. We don’t score many goals, everyone underperforms because of the lack of confidence. It’s a match that can do us good because we score 5 times against a big team“. Lausanne is actually only the 11th attack in the league with a meager 2.6 successes per game.

The Lions have also been active off the ice since the start of the year. First of all they have engaged Eetu Laurikainen to support Ivars Punnenovs until the end of the season. The Finnish goalkeeper replaces Tobias Stephan, injured for an indefinite period. Lausanne has above all permanently rid of by Petr Svoboda. Former handyman at Malley, the Czech had lost all influence on operational aspects, but was still a minority shareholder in the club. This is no longer the case, the entrepreneur Grégory Finger, who held the rest of the shares, having bought back his shares in order to be able to restore a more serene climate at all levels of the organization. The traces of the disastrous passage of Svoboda will take time to be erased, but the LHC can now envisage rebuilding itself in a sustainable way. In the current situation, this is already a big step forward.

Bastien Trottet – @BastienTrottet

All quotes come from the program Sport Première (every Saturday from 7 p.m. on RTS La 1ère).

The figures are taken from the website of the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation and nlicedata.com.

#National #League #fortnight #Romands


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