Thanks to Russia’s dethroning of Finland in the finals of the 2014 IIHF World Championships this past May, the IHLC is guaranteed to join the Euro Hockey Tour circuit, with the first stop being the Karjala Tournament in Helsinki, Finland.
The IHLC returns to the tournament following Sweden leaving Helsinki following an overtime victory to close out the 2013 tournament, but the tournament format and schedule has undergone a major change this season. Out are the Oddset and Czech Hockey Games, replaced with a series of individual games in 2015 to round out the tournament, with Karjala and the Channel One Cup being the only EHT tournaments that remain.
Russia, hot off a convincing Gold Medal win in the 2014 World Championships, seeks to extend its dominance over the field, starting with Sweden, at the tournament. And with a contingent of KHL stars, including the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov, anchoring their offense, it will be hard for other teams to keep up with the speed and finesse of The Red Machine. However, multiple games over two-day periods, combined with travel schedules and oft-changing rosters, always mean these tournaments are a virtual crap-shoot in terms of guessing victors.
Will the Russians be able to hold on to their title until December’s Channel One Cup, which they can proudly defend on home ice in Sochi? Will the hosts, Finland, be able to wrench away the IHLC and play spoiler in the process? Or will Tre Kronor knock off Russia in the opening game on home ice and defend in hostile Finnish territory? Whatever goes down, it should certainly be a great tournament – for a complete schedule of the Karjala Tournament, click here.