The eight teams who qualified for the Red Bull Salute in Salzburg and Vienna on December 16-18 have all started their respective domestic seasons.
In Sweden, Frölunda Indians have started with a bang and is top of the table, as is Jokerit in Finland.
Jokerit were off to a flying start in the capital derby against HIFK, winning 5–3 on opening night of the SM-Liiga.
After losing a 3–0 lead away to Pelicans in the second round of the league, finally being defeated on penalties 4–3, goalie Eero Kilpeläinen recorded back to back shutouts against HPK and Tappara, and when Jokerit scored three unanswered goals in the third period at home to SaiPa, turning a 3–1-deficit into a 4–3-win, Jokerit went top of the table.
”Picking up nine points in a one week is good and if you think about the fact that we played our third game this week and were able to stand up like this, the faith and moral of the team is giving us strength” said assistant coach Tom Lämsä after the game against SaiPa.
Frölunda have played six games in the Swedish Elitserien and have – like Jokerit – only one defeat on penalties. And the Swedish frontrunners have also been impressive in defence. The team has – apart from the matchwinning penalty in the defeat away to AIK – only conceded two goals in six games and kept four clean sheets. Both of the teams goalkeepers, Frederik Andersen and Magnus Hellberg, have recorded shutouts. ”It’s great to have two goalkeeper we can rely on” says coach Kent Johansson who is very pleased with the start to the season. ”We continue to play solid in defence and at the same time we have scored goals on offence.” Five goals in the last game against Timrå.
Linköping, the team Frölunda will face in the quarterfinal of the Red Bull Salute, is shadowing Frölunda in second place after bouncing back from two defeats to win against AIK 5–2 at home.
Two of Linköpings players are in the Czech Extraliga at the start of the season. Jan Hlavac is playing for Kladno and Jaroslav Hlinka is playing for Plzen 1929 who is one of the teams in the Red Bull Salute where he might come up against the team he is now playing for.
Hlinka has done well at the start of the Czech league – three points in four games – but Plzen has had a tougher start to their leaguecampaign. They have one win and one loss in regulation time, one win and one loss on penalties.
Plzen is equal on points with HC CSOB Pojistovna Pardubice in the table, but the team from Pardubice has one goal better goaldifference and is positioned ninth, just above Plzen in tenth.
But Pardubice captain Petr Koukal was frutrated after the teams last game, a 6–2-defeat at home to Sparta Prague, the teams second consecutive defeat. \"We could have built on the achievements in the preparation and the beginning of the season, but we did absolutely incomprehensible errors, both individual and from the whole lines\" said Koukal. ”We did things that do not belong at all in hockey.”
Out off the three Czech teams in the Salute, HC Mountfield have done best of the three so far, winning three games on the trot after losing the first away to Litvínov 3–2.
After that initial defeat, Mountfield have defeated Trinec (4–3), Slavia Prague (3–2) and last Sunday Plzen 1929 (4–2), all games at home.
Teamspirit is on a high after a good start to the season. ”After victories we breathe better and it’s easier to work hard in practices when we win. So the mood is good, but there are still plenty of matches left” says centreforward Pavel Kasparík.
He was very pleased with the win over Plzen though. ”We knew that Pilsen has a great team and we were expecting a hard game. It was a hard game and we are very glad we could pick up another win.”
Luleå in the Swedish Leahue defeated the reigning Swedish champions Färjestad in the last round of the league and has started with two wins in regulation time and three defeats, two of them on penalties and the third away to frontrunners Frölunda.
The host of the Salute, Red Bull Salzburg, have recorded four wins, be it the last one a 3–2-win on penalties against Olimpija Ljubljana at home in the Erste Bank Liga. The defeat in the opening game of the season (6–0 to Klagenfurt) mean though that Red Bull have to chase yet undefeated Klagenfurt at the top of the table. ”It\'s like a mental test for us. We climb a mountain just to see the peak, but not yet. In the next few games we should conquer the mountain” said the Canadian coach of the Red Bulls, Pierre Pagé.