It's time, gamers!
The pinnacle of the season is here! We've reached the end of the line with only the two best teams in all of Europe remaining. It is the ECL 8 Elite final between Written In The Stars and FILADELPHIA. These are two teams that definitely aren't strangers to each other, in fact what we will be treated to at LanTrek is a rematch of their IS Cup 3: 6vs6 best of 3 final at GameXpo 2018. Only this time, we're back bigger and better than ever before!
Together with Dr Oetker Rustica, we're bringing you the first ever ECL live final and what better way to do that than with a guaranteed thriller of a matchup. SKY and FILA will face off in a best of 7 series, starting Friday, 1st of March, 2019 at 17 CET.
How we find ourselves here
For the first time in Written In The Stars franchise history, they have gained entry to the ECL finals. Thanks to one of, if not the, most dominant regular season displays ever seen, as well as a similarly commanding playoff showing thus far. FILADELPHIA on the other hand, come into this season’s finals as the reigning champions, and with an almost identical record compared to that season to boot. So, as far as finals go, this is no doubt shaping up to be one of the best we have ever seen.
But how exactly does each respective team find themselves at this point? Let’s turn the clock back and find out.
Picture courtesy of SEUL ry, Jääskeläinen. Taken at GameXpo 2018.
Regular season record: 26-3-1
Playoff record: 8-0-0
As Written in the Stars are currently the favourites to take this ECL championship (albeit by a mere 16 votes at the time of writing), what better team to start this segment off with then?
I think though, to properly set the scene we should take a trip (perhaps reluctantly for some) down memory lane. Specifically, all the way back to ECL 2 when SKY was first created. Just as a point of reference, the only player on the roster at this time who is still a feature in the current one was @FlyerKungen. In their first 6v6 competitive season Written posted a fairly decent record of 7-2-1, paving their entry to the playoffs where they were eventually bounced in 5 games by Infinity. A result that I’m sure was no doubt frustrating for those involved, but for an inaugural season you can definitely do worse. For ECL 3, SKY took off and recorded a 39-4-3 season with three players passing the century mark in points. Despite this impressive total, SKY only managed to proceed to the quarters before getting swept by the eventual runners up. Again, probably frustrating as all hell to be a part of, but as a far as trends go, their playoff performances are lasting longer and longer. Where the wheels begin to fall off is with the advent of ECL 4. Once again, SKY put up a fairly impressive season total of 18-6-4, good for 4th in Elite. However, they drastically underperformed and got beat in 5 games to a Dynasty side who eventually ended up being just 2 goals away from the championship title. ECL 5 then rolled around with SKY notching another impressive regular season. This time, they got revenge on Dynasty as they swept them in the first round, but experienced an unfortunate 2nd round exit to end their season. Sure, in hindsight it may have been another potentially wasted season from SKY, although with that said, getting past the first round in Elite is no small feat. Especially as they have been going in as the 4th seed in the past two seasons at this point, effectively guaranteeing that they would run into an extremely tough opponent. In response to these middling results SKY came out and posted the highest regular season point total on record (27-2-1). They then dismantled their first-round opponent in NOS in 5 games, setting up their best chance to make the finals and win a title up to this point, as their semi-finals opponent (NOR) was a team who had struggled massively in their first round appearance against Unlucky Boys, just about winning in 7 games and consequently prompting a positional / personnel change. Written then lost in 5. For ECL 7, they seemed to take a step back and ‘only’ racked up a record of 20-4-4, good for 3rd in Elite, proceeded to show some promise in their first-round matchup by disposing of their opponent in 5 games, then got swept by, you guessed it, the eventual runners up for the 4th consecutive season.
At this point, I doubt few would call into question the idea that Divine Providence surely must be at play, given SKYs playoff opponents. Indeed, one could even go as far to call them the gatekeepers of the finals, guarding entrance to the stage, but never setting foot on it.
So with that, we move into ECL 8 and the possibility of redemption for the much-maligned side. Indeed, starting the season with a blistering pace of 15-0-0 should have made abundantly clear to all onlookers that SKY surely meant business this time around. Not only were they winning games in their usual fashion of effectively sieging teams down, but they were doing it with startling efficiency compared to years past. Couple this with some slight, but noticeable, tweaks in how they set up offensively, as well as defensively, and it’s no wonder SKY have finally got over the hump of never making it to the ECL Elite finals.
That is not to say that SKYs journey has been without fraught. Indeed, they seem to have a tendency for their offense to somewhat dry up from time to time, and thusly rely on their defence to carry a lot of the burden. This can be seen somewhat frequently throughout the regular season, with 2-1 / 1-0 wins over AIK, Bucketeers, Synergy and Deadly Phantoms HC. Sure, the optimist would say that SKY winning these games shows that their defense can be relied on and clearly, they would not be wrong per se, however the teams listed all had fairly disappointing seasons offensively, meaning that against other more offensively gifted teams SKY could easily have been in trouble. This is an admittedly minor issue, but couple this with the fact that FILA managed to snag both wins in their regular season matchup and there's little wonder why SKY do not have an overwhelming majority favouring them to take it all despite having such an obscene regular season and an 8-0 record in the playoffs thus far.
Written In The Stars starting lineup reviewed by FILADELPHIA:
LW @Buantso 8GP, 9+12=21
A great player and an even better guy. Puantso is a tremendously skilled player who has finally started playing up to his full potential in SKY. Is dangerous with the puck all the time, sometimes makes surprising decisions and doesn't force his game too much. Is a bit of a wildcard on the ice, you never know what he'll come up with. Torro's greetings: "Mä tuun pitään sua".
C @Dominointi 8GP, 10+10=20
Dominointi is without a doubt an important piece of any team he is a part of. As his name suggests, a dominant presence at center. Has the desire to control and be the difference maker in games, which sometimes turns to a disadvantage. Needs to trust his teammates more.
RW @FlyerKungen 8GP, 7+13=20
The heart and soul of SKY. He is a 200 foot player, a real workhorse. Made the switch back to RW after playing at center last season, so his style changed a bit with that. Seppo might be more important on the ice, but you can't underestimate this guy. Has improved his game without the puck a lot lately.
LD @Nassustelija 8GP, 1+6=7
A defensive defenseman. Plays well in his own zone and has shown that he can compete at the highest level. The most unexperienced player in Written, @FinKonna will be targeting him especially at the hotel.
RD @willekunq 8GP 1+9=10
Admirably calm with the puck. Is responsible for most of SKY's breakout plays and has done that tremendously well this season. Without a doubt one of their best players in IS Cup 3: 6vs6.
G @Hansulinho 8GP, 8W, 85.71 SV%, 0,75 GAA, 4 SO
The most experienced player of the finals and it shows in his game. Very calm in net and never overplays the puck. He's an OK goalie but not better than ours.
Picture courtesy of SEUL ry, Jääskeläinen. Taken at GameXpo 2018.
Regular season record: 23-6-1
Playoff record: 8-1-1
Moving on to the other half of the finals we find FILADELPHIA. A team that has accomplished a lot in a very short period of time. In their inaugural season FILA was placed in Pro for ECL 6, much to the chagrin of many who felt that they had not earned their place and should have been placed in Lite. Well, FILA went on to post the best regular season record in Pro across both groups, then advanced to post a playoff record of 12-1-1 before being toppled in 7 by Monarchs, solidifying their spot in Elite for the upcoming season. In that season, as I am sure most of you can remember, FILA ended up going all the way and beat Symphony by the combined score of 4 games to 2 in the ECL 7 Elite finals. Since then, FILA have also picked up more hardware in the form of an eSM title where they beat none other than Written in the Stars.
FILAs road to the finals this time around has been anything but easy though. Perhaps the largest transfer that occurred over the past off-season was the loss of their stalwart defender in @vatalisti to military duty, and the subsequent pickup / replacement @jtorro1233. Early on it seemed as the hole left by this change was perhaps a little too big to fill. In fact, as far in as 8 games it looked as though FILA were looking almost decidedly average in a way, ‘only’ managing to pick up 9 points in 8 games with a record of 4-3-1. Granted, they had played a top team in Symphony, on the other hand they had dropped points against teams such as Resurrection who would end up propping up the league table, something which, for a reigning champion at least, was fairly beneath them. The slow start could easily be explained by a somewhat lackluster season preparation by FILA, which goes to show that even the best of teams can't compete without practice. Despite or because of their start, FILA began to find their play, and racked up a combined 19-3-0 to finish the season, a pace somewhat close to that of Written’s. As far as hitches go however, that’s ‘all’ that FILA have had to deal with this season. Sure, thus far in the playoffs they may not have gone the perfect 8-0-0 that Written have, though going 8-2-0 is nothing to scoff at. In fact, despite losing two more games than Written, FILA have the superior goal differential with +30 compared to SKY's +22, showing the raw scoring ability that this roster still harbours. Therefore, it stands to reason then, that if FILA is able to open up the game and get their offensive weapons involved going forward, rather than being shelled for 8min a game, they have a very good chance of being the first team in ECL history to ever win two championships, and naturally the first to do it in back-to-back seasons.
FILADELPHIA starting lineup reviewed by Written In The Stars:
LW @PleeMaker 10GP, 12+15=27
Wouldn't believe it from what you see on the ice, but the youngin in the group. Very slippery on offense, their hardest player to face 1-on-1 and a pain in the ass with occasional cherrypicking.
C @Patzlaf 10GP, 14+11=25
The beating heart of FILA, Mr. Selke, El Capitano - A dear child has many names. Rumour has it that he's a skilled dangler. High hockey IQ.
RW @Eki 10GP, 9+13=22
The world champ. A friendly and pleasant guy to be around. Throws sauce better than everyone else, defends better than everyone else. Lost to Ippe (@Buantso) in Sampi Cup.
LD @Janzuh 10GP, 0+9=9
A true FILA veteran. Janzuh is a hard hitter and a tough defender to face any given night.
RD @jtorro1233 10GP, 1+8=9
Judas Iscariot of FILA. Loves the puck more than his teammates.
G @sibeelius 8GP, 7W, 92.69 SV%, 0,37 GAA, 6 SO
FILA's shortest player. Has proven to be a winning goaltender and handles the pressure well in tough spots. A former SKY player, who's been spotted at the training facility in a snakesuit on weekends.
How to watch the finals?
Preferred option: Show up to the live event at LanTrek on Friday, 1st of March, 2019. Puck drop is at 17CET, so be there early!
Game 1 17:00 CET
Game 2 17:40 CET
Game 3 18:20 CET
BREAK 18:55-19:55 CET
Game 4 20:00 CET
Game 5 20:40 CET
BREAK 21:10-21:20 CET
Game 6 21:25 CET
Game 7 22:05 CET
*ECL Staff withholds the right to alter the schedule if need be.