The Brynäs Tigers lived up to their coach’s words.
Tigers head coach Tommy Jonsson predicted his team would win the Swedish hockey title when the season opened in September. On April 19, Brynäs made Jonsson’s prediction a promise as the Tigers shut out Skellefteå AIK 2-0 in Game 6 of the finals to take home the title.
The championship is the club’s thirteenth, and sixth in the Elitserien era. The league was founded in 1975. Only Djurgården has more Swedish championships, 16, and in the modern era, Brynäs is tied with Djurgården, with six, behind Färjestad’s nine titles.
Brynäs rode the red-hot goaltending of Niklas Svedberg and the nearly unstoppable offense of Jakob Silfverberg to the 2011-2012 championship. Most scouts already knew about Silfverberg, a 21-year-old prospect of the Ottawa Senators. Svedberg, however, was a revelation as he started the playoffs as the backup to former Toronto and Atlanta net minder Johan Holmqvist.
Holqvist played the first three games of the quarterfinal series against Frölunda. An illness forced him out of Game 4 of the series and Svedberg stepped in. He completed the win over the Indians and remained in net as Brynäs knocked off defending champions Farjestad in five games and started the first four games of the finals, recording nine wins and three shutouts along the way.
With the Tigers holding a 3-1 series lead, Jonsson benched Svedberg for Holmqvist for Game 5.
“We wanted to give him some rest since he played back-to-back games,” Jonsson said.
Holmqvist played well—making 28 saves—but it was in a losing effort as Skellefteå recorded a 3-2 win to send the series back to Gävle for Game 6. Svedberg was back in the net for Game 6, and recorded his fourth shutout of the postseason. His playoffs save percentage was 94.72.
“Right now, hockey is a lot of fun,” he said. “The NHL’s been my goal all along, but the road there is long, and I need to keep working. Sometimes this goes your way, other times not.”
While Svedberg certainly appeared on some NHL radars, Silfverberg showed why he is arguably the top prospect in Swedish hockey right now.
“He’s already a big athlete and a player, and it was great that he, as the team captain, and the player with all the accolades, got our first goal tonight,” Jonsson said.
In Game 6, the Ottawa Senators draft choice broke open a scoreless contest when he netted his playoff-leading 13th goal. It was all Svedberg would need as he stopped all 29 shots SAIK threw at him. Ryan Gundersson added an insurance goal for Brynäs at 12:09 of the third to ensure the victory.
Silfverberg, who was voted regular season MVP and the MVP of the playoffs, finished second in postseason scoring with 17 points in 17 games, behind Skellefteå’s Bud Holloway who scored ten goals and 23 points in 19 games. Silfverberg was +17 in the playoffs, and was only on the ice for four minus goals.
by Chipp Reid