It's been a week since the IS Cup 4 finals action kicked off at GameXpo in Messukeskus of Helsinki. We had a blast and hope you had too! Looking back at it, we're happy to have provided another successful event and are extremely grateful for having the possibility to do so in cooperation with our great partners at Ilta-Sanomat, Prisma Gaming, Alpro and PlayStation. Now the medals have been dealt and we're looking on to the next one, but in the meantime let's enjoy this look back at what this iteration of IS Cup entailed.
We started off in mid October with a strict schedule which we are extremely happy that all teams managed to follow. With a total of 73 teams signed up this year, we're excited to have doubled the amount of signups from IS Cup 3, thank you for that! Although the IS Cup as a tournament holds some world class talent it is surely a great playing field also for new players to match up against the very best at the game. We're also very happy about the fact that we were able to make the tournament available for teams of other than Finnish nationality this year, and with that being said we had a great turnout of other European teams too with the Swedes leading the way.
These were the groups that we went into the intensive group stage of IS Cup 4 with:
Out of the 7-8 teams in each group, three teams and an additional top two based on PPG out of all groups were advancing to the playoffs. This made for a battle of 32 teams in the playoffs, where we were left with a bunch of highly motivated players looking for a spot in the bright lights of GameXpo and the IS Cup 4 Final event.
These were the matchups for our playoffs round 1 in IS Cup 4:
Round one ended up being a formality for several teams as juggernauts such as HAVU Gaming, FILADELPHIA or Symphony plowed through their opposing teams in fashionable manner, showcasing their overwhelming offensive prowess and Elite level experience. On the other hand, we had a few tight battles, mainly the one between POGGERS and BRAYCE Phantoms, where a well performing and seemingly rejuvenated POGGERS managed to outplay the usually very convingin and methodical german team in the maximum five games of the series. A bit of a surprise was also caused by Reality Check as they put the last nail into Dynastys coffin and sent them on a hiatus of undetermined duration. The biggest upset of the first round was seen by Växjö Lakers HC, as they beat Swedish rival Synergy in three straight games. Synergy had managed to win their group and also won both group stage games against Växjö. Oh well, moving on!
Round 2 was played between Thursday, October 31st and Sunday, November 3rd. These were the matchups:
The second round continued in a rather similar manner than the first one, where the favourites seemed to prevail and doing so in a convincing way. Between all series, the advancing teams only gave up a total of five games, and these wins were seen by Raccoon Rampage (2), Unlucky Boys HC (1) and Bucketeers (2). The matchup to watch in this round was definitely Bucketeers going up against Roots. We saw two tremendously skilled teams going head to head. the Swedes going into the battle with a better seed and therefore the home ice advantage. In advance, these teams are of similar caliber and looked very well matched on paper, the games were unconventional in the way that the usually defensive Bucketeers often dominated in possession, but couldn't seem to utilize their chances whereas Roots didn't run into similar scoring trouble.
The games determining who was going to GameXpo were the quarterfinals, the matchups being as follows:
At this point of the tournament, there are no heavy favourites going into matchups and all teams should be capable of advancing. However, we still witnessed a great deal of separation in some matchups. HAVU Gaming, Delusion and FILADELPHIA saw no match in their opponents and managed to punch their GameXpo tickets rather quickly by stringing together three victories in no time. The games to watch here were between Symphony and Butterfly Effect who actually are old acquaintances from the FCL 6vs6 final event at Assembly Summer. That time, these two were seen going head-to-head in a bronze game which ended 1-3 in favour of FLY. Maybe they had a mental advantage going into these quarterfinals too? We ended up seeing a rather low scoring series in which the turning point was the only exception as both teams put up four markers in regulation of game three. The series was tied at this point and Symphony had a great flow going into overtime after equalizing just four seconds before the final buzzer. The battle went on for around 15 minutes in OT before @Vilupoika finally found the twine and pushed his Butterly Effect to being the fourth team going to GameXpo.
With the finals starting, we could offer standing room only as a great amount of people showed up to watch.
With that, we have arrived at GameXpo and were left with four teams going into the weekend, all aspiring to be the ones hoisting our beautiful IS Cup 4 trophy late on Saturday evening.
(1) HAVU Gaming vs Butterfly Effect (6)
By having the highest seed going into the finals, HAVU Gaming got to start their games in a later matchup against Butterly Effect. These two teams are very familiar with each other by now, having matched up in the FCL Semifinals at Assembly Summer in August and our Spring League Finals just a few weeks prior to that. In each of these prior games, HAVU had managed to keep FLY away from winning even one, so that surely set up an interesting scenario going into this matchup. This time around, Butterfly Effect came out swinging as it frankly seemed like HAVU wasn't ready to play to start off game one of the series. FLY scored three straight and it looked like they were to run away with game one before it even started, but HAVU did HAVU things and mounted a comeback to eventually win a high scoring first game 6-4. After this, we went back to some more traditional games and HAVU started looking way better by winning the second game. This is where it got tricky as there was a longer break in the schedule and the teams had to wait around for a while. The break seemed to work wonders for FLY as they were once again rejuvenated and ready to play, whereas HAVU's play didn't look familiar at all in the evening. Goaltender @Hansulinho speculated that the team dinner at Hesburger prior to the evening games was their near fatal mistake. Despite not reaching up to their fabled level of play and losing game 3 to put them in a chokehold, HAVU managed to grind out two more victories against Butterfly Effect and go through to the finals once again!
Series score: 3-2 HAVU Gaming
Possibly the biggest goal of the series was when HAVU Gaming tied game 4 at 2 late in the 2nd period. By winning, FLY would have advanced.
(2) Delusion vs FILADELPHIA (5)
Delusion and FILADELPHIA kicked off our Friday at around 13:00 CET. @ICappeI had flown in from his native Sweden and made it on time despite some rumoured troubles and the opposing FILA squad showed up all smiles after some successful team bonding the night before. The very decisive factor of this matchup was going to be if the experience of FILA would prevail against a less experienced but undoubtedly very hungry Delusion squad. A bit of nervosity was perhaps showing with Delusion as the series started and left winger @Joukki almost immediately found himself in the sin bin as the result of a questionable hit on a player outside the play. FILADELPHIA didn't wait around and instantly took advantage of the mistake, this being the only marker and the last mentionable event in the first game of our IS Cup 4 final event. Delusion showed up big in the second game, though. We saw a totally new squad that had found their flow and gotten comfortable in their seats at the big stage. About midway through the second game, @loimmu of FILADELPHIA found himself being assigned a five-minute major for boarding during which Delusion scored twice to take a decisive advantage in the second game. After two games, the teams were scheduled for a bread which could have benefitted FILA, as Delusion was just finding their stride on the live stage. After the break it seems like Delusion had only ramped up the heat as their comms were loud and clear even so that the front row was hearing callouts and the positive attitude of the players was visible to everyone around. Their flow seemed unstoppable and that's what we got to witness as Delusion managed to win two more and punch their ticket to the finals.
Series score: 3-2 Delusion
Delusion LW @Joukki definitely found his stride after the break and as a result put up some incredible individual efforts, one of them looked like this:
BRONZE GAMES: (5) FILADELPHIA vs Butterfly Effect (6)
To start off Saturday we saw the bronze battle between FILADELPHIA and Butterly Effect. It was truly a pleasure to see that both teams had came to play and din't give an inch even though they were playing for bronze. FLY managed to win the first game, but eventually FILADELPHIA turned things around just in time and prevailed by winning games two and three.
Butterfly Effect wasn't far from a final spot, but this time ended up finishing 4th.
FILADELPHIA showed up to play last weekend, but this time they ran into very strong competition.
Oh boy, what a treat we were in for with this one. HAVU captain @FlyerKungen mentioned that it's refreshing to see new teams pushing deep in the playoffs and making these final appearances as we can all agree that although seeing HAVU and FILA go at each other for extended periods of time was fun, Delusion was a very welcomed acquaintance in this matchup. The finals were played in a best of 7 manner in contrast to the rest of the playoffs, which was only best of 5. In big games like this, it's only right to have the maximum amount of hockey being played. That was exactly what HAVU and Delusion were thinking too. HAVU seemed to have learned from their mistakes on Friday and were back to playing their own, fast offense and stringing together some beautiful passing plays whereas Delusion hadn't forgotten about what got them to this place in the first place, we could still see the joy on the players faces and how excited the boys were about this opportunity. What we were treated to in the finals was a rather traditional best of 7 showcase in the sense that neither team scored too much and both goaltenders stood tall in net. Our goaltender expert @TheCreasePolice noted the correlation between goaltender success and heavy facial hair growth as both @Hansulinho and @ICappeI have a certain resemblance to Chewbacca.
We mentioned a low scoring series but there were two exceptions, though. HAVU Gaming really came out strong in the first one and managed to get Delusion on their heels when captain @FlyerKungen scored a natural hat trick and @willekunq added an insurance maker at the end. All this while keeping Delusion off the board entirely. A seemingly weak start didn't phase Delusion though, as from there on out both teams traded victories in 1-3 goal games. The next explosion was again seen by HAVU in game 5 as they scored five consecutive goals while again shutting down Delusion entirely but once again, Delusion wasn't phased and won the next one sending us to a game seven.
Last year, FILADELPHIA and the former Written In The Stars started the game seven tradition in the IS Cup finals, and this year it was continued by HAVU and Delusion. It's always a pleasure to see two teams going all the way into a decisive final game for all the marbles. There's usually a certain format that these games follow and it was partially the case this time around too, only the scoreboard looked unconventional as a total of 6 goals were put up in a battle that was mainly fought on center ice. In the end, @Dominointi, who manages to open the scoring and close it off for his HAVU Gaming ends up being the difference maker and pushes his team to an IS Cup 4 Championship.
Delusion was on a roll all weekend and you could really see how pumped up the guys were to be in the finals.
The boys are back in their winning ways!
Pictures by Kirsty Meek 📷
Find the full album here.
Once again, congratulations to our champions HAVU Gaming and all other participants. Thank you all for making this yet another great experience and stay tuned for more to come!