The Jyvaskyla-based team were in Group K with Swedish side Linkopings HC and Rapaces de Gap of France. JYP secured two wins against the French team to book their place in the next round but lost to Linkopings in both games.
Fri, Aug 19 Rapaces de Gap (a) 4-1
The Gap Rapaces showed last season that Alp Arena isn't an easy place for a visiting team to play, and JYP Jyvaskyla found that out on Friday. Still, they persevered and got the offence they needed in a short period of time.
Les Rapaces employed a physical, tight checking system and nearly got out of the first period without any damage, but Robert Rooba converted a rebound in the 17th minute to get JYP on the board. In the second period, they broke it open with three goals in the first three minutes. Defenceman Juuso Pulli and forwards Anssi Lofman and Rooba each recorded two points for the victors. Cedric Di dio Balsamo closed the gap to three goals on a breakaway in the third period, but that's as close as the birds of prey would come.
Di dio Balsamo said afterward, “It was a good game, but there was a lack of concentration at the beginning of the second period and JYP scored three goals in two minutes. After that, though, we got ourselves back in the game, and we can be proud of that.”
“We worked hard. JYP is a good team, and we had a good reaction after being behind 4-0," agreed Gap head coach Luciano Basile. "Maybe we were too shy and at this level of play is diffcult. The second half of the game was much better. I hope Sunday we go to ice like this. Even if we're less technical, we're able to compete. We need to be more agressive and use our speed more.”
JYP coach Marko Virtanen thought, “Our game went a bit too up and down today. We were nervous at the start, and although they played well we came into it in the middle period. By the end of the game the ice was so bad it made the game very difficult.”
Sun, Aug 28 Linkopings (h) 1-4
The game started at a torrid pace with an edge in play to JYP, whose pressure forced Gustav Forsling into the game's first penalty at 6:24. It took 47 seconds for JYP to cash in – Antti Suomela on a one-timer. On the line of Suomela with Jani Tuppurainen and Joonas Nattinen, JYP coach Marko Virtanen said, "The guys have played a few games together and have been able create a bunch of scoring chances like tonight – and one goal tonight. They still have a lot to improve as everybody else has too."
After the goal, though, the tide of momentum seemed to turn in favour of Linkoping. They got the next two power plays and capitalized on both – in the 16th minute Henrik Tornqvist took a nice feed from Niklas Persson and flicked a shot from in close over Veini Vehvilainen's glove and in the first minute of the second period it was Broc Little deflecting Forsling's shot, which JYP argued was a high stick, but the goal stood.
For the rest of the second period, Linkoping continued to carry the play but Vehvilainen was solid, as was Jacob Johansson at the other end in the Linkoping net.
JYP had a chance to equalize on a power play early in the third period, but for the first time in the game the penalty-killing was successful, and Linkoping seemed to get a boost from that. Little scored his second of the game to give his team a two goal lead with 13:24 left to play. With Linkoping playing solid team defence, that cushion was more than enough.
Former JYP defenceman Kristian Nakyva salted the game away with an empty-netter in the final minute, which was another power-play goal to make Linkoping a perfect 3-for-3 in the game.
"The first period was our best period," Virtanen said afterwards. "Then the second period wasn't so good – they got too many chances. Our game routine wasn't too good and they did that too us – they put on hard pressure. We let them control the game and we were trying to keep up. The pace was too quick for us today."
"I think JYP came out really strong and were all over us for the first 10 minutes, we had a tough time keeping up and were glad to be down by only one," thought Linkoping coach Dan Tangnes. "But then we got the power play going and we tied it. The second period is how we wanted to play – we looked really good. Then we got the break in the third and controlled the game pretty well."
The win gives Linkoping a three-point lead atop Group K, with the return game coming this Friday in Linkoping.
On the opposition, Tangues said, "We had great respect coming into this game playing JYP – we know they're a high-end team in Finland and we watched a couple of their pre-season games, so I'm really glad how we grew into the game after the first 10 minutes. The last 50 minutes were really good from our side.”
Fri, Sep 02 Linkopings (a) 3-4
After winning in Jonkoping on Sunday, Linkoping HC essentinally controlled their own destiny in Group K. By winning 4-3 against JYP on home ice, they have now secured top spot in the group. A fast start from Linkoping, and in particular from Broc Little, staked the home team to a 2-0 lead after 15 minutes. First he pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone and scored on a breakaway in the eighth minute, then on the power play he parked himself at the side of the net and one-timed Niclas Bergfors's pass in.
"Obviously, Broc Little was really good today," said Linkoping coach Dan Tanges. "Not only scoring two goals, but creating a whole lot of chances besides that. Otherwise, Niclas Bergfors and Emil Sylvegard were good today as well, and even if it's difficult to point any specific player out right now I would say that these three were the ones who stood out a bit today."
To their credit, however, JYP fought back. Just two minutes after the 2-0 goal, Mikko Kalteva drove to the net and directed Henri Kanninen's pass past Marcus Hogberg. Then early in the second period they tied it when Antti Suomela capitalized on a turnover in the Linkoping zone and fired it home. The second period ended 2-2, but Linkoping regained the lead early in the third, Emil Sylvegard scored a beautiful goal on a spin-o-rama play, scoring on his backhand. They then defended their lead well the rest of the way, with Niklas Persson scoring what turned out to be an important insurance goal into the open JYP net with 46 seconds to play. That's because, right after the faceoff, Robert Rooba made a great individual play and scored to once again close the gap to one. That's as close as they would come, however.
"You have to go all in, even in the last minute, you fight to the end," Rooba said when questioned about his goal afterwards. "It was a tight game with good speed and good battling. Two similar teams that have good speed and move the puck really well. I think that both teams had chances to win this game, but today wasn't our day."
"I think that we started the game really well and played structured with a lot of good details,” Tanges summarized. “In the second period they fore-checked extremely hard and we couldn't handle it at all, and we started to give away the puck and lose structure, but I think we came back huge in the third and managed to win the game. I think we all can see that it's an early stage of the season where it's difficult to play solid for 60 minutes and we have a lot to work with even though we makes a lot of things that are really good. And after all, we have three straight wins in the CHL, so we're satisfied."
Sat, Sep 10 Rapaces de Gap (h) 4-0
The Gap Rapaces could have overtaken JYP Jyvaskyla and qualified for the Round of 32 with a four-goal win, but instead it was JYP who won by four, and they'll be going on. As favourites in the game, JYP took care of business in the first period with two goals. Midway through the period on the power play, Joonas Naatinen teed up a huge slapper off the crossbar and in that Clement Fourquerel couldn't react to quickly enough. Then six minutes later, Ossi Louhivaara showed a great burst of speed to beat a defender to the outside, then cut into the middle and scored on the backhand. Knowing that Gap doesn't have the offensive guns to come back from a huge deficit, JYP did a good job of protecting their lead the rest of the way, adding a goal in each of the last two periods along the way. Ansi Lofman scored on a great wrist shot in the 35th minute to make it 3-0, and Aurelien Bertrand entered the Gap net in the third period to replace Fourquerel, who was shaken up in a collision early in the second period but finished it out. Bertrand stopped 11 of the 12 shots he faced in the third period, allowing only Mikko Talveta to score on a rebound. At the other end of the ice, Veini Vehvilainen played all 60 minutes and stopped all 16 shots he faced.
“Well, I don’t know about the game but I’m happy with our effort,” Gap coach Luciano Basile said afterwards. “We decided to be a little bit more aggressive on our forecheck than in the game in Linkoping on Thursday. I thought we had a little bit more presence in the offensive zone through our forecheck. 5-on-5, the game only ended 2-0.
“Unfortunately, it’s hard for us to play at this speed and that’s why we took penalties – it wasn’t the lack of discipline, it’s the difficulty of playing at this speed, and I would say JYP gained control of the game through their power plays. They scored two goals but they also pushed us back and gained momentum through their power play, but I’m very happy with our effort.”
JYP coach Marko Virtanen countered, “The start was a little difficult – maybe we were playing with a little too fast of a rhythm. Our players kind of rushed into making plays and we made mistakes and poor passes. But slowly we got back on track and especially the third period was a stellar performance from us and it looked like what it should look like.”
When asked to compare Finnish and French hockey, Basile answered, “It’s like the difference between basketball and hockey. Finland is one of the great hockey nations in the world with Russia, Canada, the US and Sweden. France is a developing country. It’s a country that has been progressing consistently. The national team has been in the A-pool for I think 10 years now, with all home-grown players for the first time. Finland is one of the established countries. France is still a country that needs to progress a lot before arriving to the higher level.”