Chiefs, SAIK battle for Le Mat Trophy
Frölunda and Skellefteå, the top two teams at the end of the 52-game Swedish Hockey League regular season, are now battling for the Le Mat Trophy as they reached the finals of the SHL. The Chiefs used a last-minute surge to vault past SAIK to finish atop the standings. In the finals, Frölunda is again surging as it stole home-ice advantage from Skellefteå with a 3-1 win in Game 3 April 18 at Skellefteå Kraft Arena.
The Chiefs used a relentless forecheck to keep SAIK pinned in its own zone throughout the first period while its North American players Ryan Lasch, Joey Crabbe and Spencer Abbott proved difference makers as Frölunda jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Lasch, the league’s leading scorer during the regular season, notched his eighth assist of the playoffs when he set up Crabbe at 10:58 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. Abbott played a role six minutes later when he screened Skellefteå goalie Erik Hansen, allowing Chiefs captain Joel Lundqvist to score shorthanded at 16:22.
The Chiefs’ forecheck, however, proved problematic as Frölunda picked up nine penalties in the game. Skellefteå gave as good as it took as it had five penalties. Despite the near-constant man advantages in the first period, Chiefs goalie Johan Gustafsson, a 2012 draft pick of the Minnesota Wild, stopped all 10 shots he faced.
In the second period, SAIK finally got its power play clicking. After going 0-for-5 in the first period, Frölunda handed Skellefteå another four chances with the man advantage, and SAIK captain Janne Pesonen finally made the Chiefs pay. Pesonen slipped in from the right point and snapped a shot past Gustafsson at 16:20 of the second period. It was all Gustafsson would allow as he finished with 29 saves.
Skellefteå applied its own forecheck in the third, looking to grab an equalizer but despite throwing another 10 shots on goal, could not find the tying goal. Playoff leading scorer Artur Lehtonen beat Hanses at 17:38 of the third on a power play to cap the scoring for Frölunda. The goal was the Finn’s ninth of the playoffs.
It was the third straight victory by the road team in the finals. Frölunda opened the series with a 4-3 win April at the Kraft Arena. Skellefteå returned the favor the next night with a 4-1 win at the Scandinavium in Göteborg. The series resumed April 21 in Göteborg.

Kings, Dolphins vie for hoops title
A pair of old foes battle for the title in the Swedish Basketball League as the Södertälje Kings face the Norrköping Dolphins. Södertälje, the regular season champs, drew first blood with an 85-74 win April 18 in Södertälje.
The Kings took control from the opening tip behind Southern Missouri grad Skyler Bowlin. The 6-foot-6 small forward scored 10 of his game-high 25 points in the first quarter as Södertälje built a 22-18 lead and held a 51-41 lead at the half. Södertälje was especially deadly from behind the 3-point arc, shooting 61.1 percent from downtown. The Dolphins, behind Duke product Josh Hairston, rallied in the third quarter but could only shave six points off the Kings’ lead. Hairston finished with 17 points and five rebounds while Northern Arizona product Joakim Kjellbom led Norrköping with 23 points and 11 boards.
Södertälje finished atop the league table, going 27-3 in the regular season and swept through the playoffs, dropping just one game in the semi and quarterfinals combined. The Kings barely broke a sweat in knocking off Mallbas in the quarters in three straight before topping Borås in five games.
Norrköping finished third in the standings and finished off Sundsvall in four games in the quarters before facing second-place finisher LF basket in the semis. The Dolphins advanced to the finals after a bruising six-game series.
The Kings are the three-time defending champs of the league while the Dolphins held sway in 2012 and 2010.