Skellefteå crushes Luleå for ice hockey gold

Skellefteå crushes Luleå for ice hockey gold
Skellefteå dominates to win Swedish hockey gold
Skellefteå AIK capitalized on its third straight trip to the finals of Sweden's top hockey league, the Elitserien, overpowering northern Sweden rivals Luleå to capture its first championship trophy in 35 years.

“This is awesome, we really fought for this,” Skellefteå goaltender Joacim Eriksson told Kanal 5 after Thursday night’s 4-0 shutout, his second of the best-of-seven series which saw his team sweep Luleå with four straight victories.

“The whole team has been fantastic the whole time and they give a little extra all the time.”

IN PICTURES: 2013 Elitserien finals: Skellefteå vs Luleå

Heading into the playoffs, Skellefteå was the team to beat after finishing first in 2012-2013 regular season play with 38 wins and 17 loses, while Luleå finished in third place with 34 wins and 21 losses.

But defeating Skellefteä, which clawed its way back to Sweden’s top league in 2006 after 16 years in the second-tier Allsvenskan, proved difficult in the post-season.

Throughout its 13-match playoff march to gold in 2013, Skellefteå lost just once, a 2-3 overtime loss in game one of the semi-finals against Linköping.

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On Thursday night, Skellefteå once again asserted its dominance, jumping out to an early first period lead at Luleå’s Coop Arena on a goal by winger Oscar Möller three and a half minutes into the match.

Skellefteå extended its lead to 2-0 at the 15 minute mark of the first period following a spectacular individual effort by centre Erik Forssel, who powered his way past three Luleå players before jamming the puck past goalie Johan Gustafsson.

From then on, Skellefteå never looked back, with their relentless attack and impenetrable defence keeping Luleå on their heels the entire night.

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In a last desperate effort to make something happen, Luleå pulled their goalie with four minutes remaining in the game. The move backfired, however, with Forssel flicking a puck into the empty net from centre ice less than 30 seconds later, extinguishing any remaining doubts that Skellefteå would end the night as the best team in Swedish professional hockey.

Skellefteå’s 4-0 sweep was the first in an Elitserien final series since 2003.

“You have to admit that we lost to a much, much better team,” a dejected Luleå head coach Jonas Rönnqvist told Sveriges Television (SVT) following the match.

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Meanwhile, Skellefteå assistant coach Bert Robertsson could hardly contain his joy as players and coaches stormed the ice and donned the customary gold helmets to celebrate their victory.

“It’s magical,” he told Kanal 5.

“This is what it’s all about. We’ve fought and fought and fought. So many have worked so hard behind the scenes. It seems fair that we’re being rewarded for all the work we’ve put in.”

Victor Arvidsson, Skellefteå’s up and coming winger who turned 20 earlier in the month and notched five goals during the playoffs summed things up with a smile.

“We played as well as we could. We had nothing to lose,” he told Kanal 5.

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