Lions win Swiss title the hard way

Lions win Swiss title the hard way

​The ZSC Lions from Zurich have won their ninth Swiss title but they didn’t make it easy on themselves. After leading the National League final series 3-1 over HC Lugano, they dropped Games 5 and 6 before winning Game 7 in Lugano by a 2-0 score.

The ZSC Lions from Zurich have won their ninth Swiss title but they didn’t make it easy on themselves. After leading the National League final series 3-1 over HC Lugano, they dropped Games 5 and 6 before winning Game 7 in Lugano by a 2-0 score.

Momentum was definitely on the side of Lugano, with two straight wins and the decisive game in their building, but the Lions got a leg up in the seventh minute when Patrick Geering sent a long wrister through traffic that found the top corner. After that, goalies Elvis Merzlikins and Lukas Flüeler were perfect, and there wasn’t another goal until the game’s final minute, when Ronalds Ķēniņš’s empty-netter sealed the championship title.

The Zürich Lions have long been a Swiss power, but have been especially so in the 21st century, when they have won seven of their nine titles. That doesn’t include their Champions Hockey League title in 2008/09, when they won the European championship by beating Metallurg Magnitogorsk 5-0 in the last game.

This year’s team did not look like a threat to win the title during the regular season, finishing seventh out of 12 teams. That meant they had to do things the hard way in the playoffs, and they did, knocking off second-seeded EV Zug in the quarter-finals in five games and then top-seeded SC Bern in the semis in six.

The Lions went through their playoff run without key players Robert Nilsson and Severin Blindenbacher, which makes their accomplishment so much more impressive. Anchored by Flüeler in goal and captain Geering on defence, the main offensive go-to guys were Swede Fredrik Pettersson and 21-year-old Pius Suter, who had his best season yet.

With that, all of the European domestic leagues have completed their championships. Congratulations to the members of the E.H.C. Alliance that claimed titles this season:

Champions Hockey League JYP Jyväskylä

Deutsche Eishockey Liga (GER) Red Bull München

Elite Ice Hockey League (GBR) Cardiff Devils

GET-ligaen (NOR) Storhamar Hamar

Liiga (FIN) Kärpät Oulu

National League (SUI) Zürich Lions

Svenska HockeyLigan (SWE) Växjö Lakers

Swiss League (SUI2) Rapperswil-Jona Lakers

Tipsport extraliga (CZE) Kometa Brno

Tipsport liga (SVK) HC’05 Banská Bystrica

Ukrayinsʹka Khokeyna Liga (UKR) HC Donbass

Photo: ZSC Lions

Derek O'Brien