The expectations were high both in the stands and on the ice as two Swedish top-tier teams clashed in a round 1 playoff series in IS Cup 4. On one side we have Växjö Lakers, a newly established team stacked with unrealized potential, full with youth and energy - on the other we have Synergy, who are now the juggernauts of Swedish virtual hockey. These teams competed in the same division in the group stage, where Växjö was the challenger and Synergy managed to win both games 4-1 and 3-0. That and the fact that we saw two outstanding Swedish teams go up against each other created a good hype for the matchup.
Head-to-head (Regular season stats)
F_Normark (8GP, 10+21=31) vs EDHOLMINHO (12GP, 16+27=43)
Hullued (12GP, 8W, 76.52 SV%, 2.25 GAA) vs Rundqviiist (10GP, 9W, 90.90 SV%, 0.8 GAA)
Game 1 was quite the traditional affair in the sense that both teams started off with a tight set defensive scheme. The first period was scoreless but in the second Växjö took the lead only to see Synergy level the score minutes later. Växjö brought their young gun energy into game one and showed that they will be a force to be reckoned with. Both teams had their chances but at the 60-minute mark no additional goals had been scored. In overtime we saw a similar pattern continue, but eventually Växjö and @EDHOLMINHO managed to net a decisive goal.
Synergy Hockey - Växjö Lakers HC 1-2 OT
The second game seemed to follow a very familiar agenda as both teams came out with a defense first mindset. In playoff hockey things change fast, however. Växjö seemed to be able to relax a bit more and find their stride offensively, which rather quickly led to them opening the scoring. Five goals for and a solid defense often wins you games as was the case with this one. Växjö puts a stranglehold on the series 2-0. Synergy is desperate to find new angles with their gameplan.
Växjö Lakers HC - Synergy Hockey 5-1
With Växjö being ahead 2-0 this third game was truly a do or die-situation for Synergy. A quite typical one at that too. This game was all about very disciplined and tactical play, few shots and even fewer scoring chances. Synergy managed to take the drivers seat with a goal late in the first. The meticulous trap game and solid team defense prevailed for what seemed to be an eternity until Växjö managed to break through and equalize. The goal came to start the third period and it was what you'd expect from these types of games - point shot with traffic at the net. Disciplined defensive battle ensued. It seemed the game was heading to overtime - like we saw in the first game - but Vaxjö executed a great playing pattern with quick passing and finished off a one-timer to score the decisive 2-1 goal with just 25 seconds to spare. The minor upset was reality.
Synergy was a mild favorite to go through, but Vaxjö came to play and ultimately swept their opponents. With youthful energy, discipline and commitment to their gameplan they were clearly the better team in this series. Game two and the 5-1 win was surely the last straw that gave them the edge to take the whole series. Växjö also showed that they were the better team in the tight games. Good luck in the second round, boys!
Which series should we follow closer in the next round?