For just the second time in history, the same nation has captured both the Euro Hockey Tour and Euro Hockey Challenge titles, with Finland today eking out Sweden to lock up the 2017-18 Tour, becoming the second team after Czechia in 2012 to achieve the double.
Dating back to November’s Karjala Tournament, the Leijonat clinched their Euro Hockey Tour victory by virtue of a perfect record at this weekend’s Sweden Hockey Games, going 8-2-1-1 to finish seven points ahead of Czechia’s 20, while Russia finished with 19 and Sweden in last with 18; points garnered by Canada, Switzerland and Korea from 2017’s Karjala Tournament and Channel One Cup did not count towards the final standings. The victory is Finland’s ninth Euro Hockey Tour title in history, and is their first since 2014.
And as for the Euro Hockey Challenge, that title came down to the final game, the latest chapter of Sweden vs. Finland to close out the Sweden Hockey Games in Stockholm, that gave the Leijonat their second Challenge victory in history, and first since 2016. The Finns finished with a 7-1 record that saw them sweep sets against Belarus, Latvia, Russia and Sweden, with their only loss coming against the Czechs on April 21 in Prague. Sweden finished second with a 6-2 record, while Slovakia and Switzerland were the highest non-Tour ranked nations, finishing tied for third with the Czechs at matching 5-3 records.
Speaking of Slovakia, it was their final Euro Hockey Challenge loss to France that gives the International Hockey Lineal Championship to Les Bleus, who start the 2018 IIHF World Championships next week with the title in Group A, meaning that the Leijonat cannot contend for the IHLC until the medal rounds. The other three Tour nations (Russia, Sweden and Czechia) and the top ranked Challenge nations (Slovakia and Switzerland), round out the group with Belarus and Austria, and will all be gunning for the IHLC in Copenhagen!