It has not quite been the season Västerås forward Jonas Nilsson expected.
The 31-year-old Swedish international bandy star is poised to go to the finals with Västerås for the third-straight year, but despite the team’s success, Nilsson admits his own season has been something of a disappointment.
“I have not felt 100 percent for much of the season,” he said. “I don’t know why. I just know I wasn’t scoring the way I thought should.”
After firing in 42 goals last season as he led Västerås to its 19th Swedish bandy championship, Nilsson had yet to crack 20 goals by February as the regular season entered its final month. That’s when Nilsson not only rediscovered his scoring touch, but found it at just the right time as Västerås made a push to clinch the regular season title. Nilsson scored nine goals in February, including four in a 5-4 win over Hammarby on February 16. The win assured Västerås of the top seed in the playoffs.
Västerås finished with 21 wins and 42 points, barely holding off second-place Villa Lidköping, which finished with 40. Bollnäs finished third with 39 points while Sandvikens AIK was fourth with 38. The top four all progressed through the quarterfinals as Västerås swept aside IFK Vännersborg in three games while Sandvikens swept its series with IF Esdbyns, the team that dominated Swedish bandy in the early 2000s. Nilsson notched seven goals in Västerås’ three-game sweep in the quarterfinals.
“I really didn’t think about the not-scoring,” Nilsson said. “It was easier that way. I just worked hard every day. I skated more and that was a help.”
He points to the Hamarby game as the point when he finally rediscovered his scoring touch.
“Something happened in February. I was finally fit and skating well,” he said. “Everything just feels better.”
It is good news for Västerås and its fans as the club seeks its 20th Swedish championship. Västerås is the most successful of any bandy club in the world. VSK has reached the finals of the Elitserien 34 times, the finals of the Bandy Club World Cup nine times and has won the World Cup six times. It has also lifted the Swedish Cup.
The weather was not a factor March 3 when Västerås and Sandvikens met in the first game of their best-of-five semifinal. Although Sandvikens is the No. 4 seed, it features the top offense in the Elitserien. SAIK team captain Christoffer Edlund led the Elitserien in scoring with 59 goals in 26 games while linemate Erik Pettersson fired in 45 goals in 25 games. VSK’s top scorer was Joakim Andersson, who had 44 goals in 26 games while Nilsson was second on the team with 27 tallies in 23 matches. In the first semifinal, it was Nilsson and not Sandviken’s big two who was in prime form. Nilsson scored four goals as VSK trounced its rival 11-3.
“We were very even in the first half,” Nilsson said. “I think it showed our resolve when we turned them back in the second half when they started to get close to us.”
Västerås held a 5-3 lead early in the second half when head coach Michael Carlsson called a timeout.
“We talked about keeping our cool and thinking more,” Nilsson said. “It was a stressful situation but we found our strength.”
Nilsson scored all four of goals after the timeout as VSK overwhelmed SAIK in the final half hour.
The two teams met in their second semifinal on March 6.
In the other semifinal series, Villa Lidköping walloped Bollnäs 8-1 in the first match March 3. Bollnäs came back March 5 to eke out an 8-7 victory. The two teams meet in Game 3 on March 9.