With the IIHF’s ice hockey Continental Cup Super Final in Minsk, Belarus, taking place this weekend, we take a look at the four teams who’ve made it this far in the competition…
The current defending champions of the Austrian Hockey League go into the final stages of the competition feeling the weight of expectation from fans who have come to expect only the best. And who can blame them, after a scorching 2009–10 season saw head coach Pierre Pagé’s team picking up no fewer than three championship titles - the invitational Red Bulls Salute, the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga and their third Continental Cup. With team captain Thomas Koch (winner of the 2009 MVP award) leading the way, Salzburg are the team to beat.
Entering into the finals on their own turf, the Belarusian team will be hoping the home field advantage will give them the edge against their competition. That’s not to imply they’ve got nothing else to bring to the party though. Indeed, Junost are the current (and four-times) champions of Belarus and, what’s more, they won the Continental cup in 2007. They’ll no doubt be thinking this year, with the stars aligned in their favour, they’ll be lifting the trophy once again.
Dragons de Rouen
Spectacularly breaking into the 21st century after suffering a late Nineties funk, the French Dragons have won a hugely impressive five French league titles this decade alone (in 2001, 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2010). More impressively, they finished their 2005-2006 season unbeaten and having won all of their regular season matches (except one tie). They’re the third most successful ice hockey team in French history and they come to the Continental Cup with their eyes on the prize and, yes, fire in their bellies.
With all the accolades given to their fellow Continental Cup finalist competitors over the years, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Danish premiership team enter the final stages of the Continental Cup as underdogs. Don’t be fooled. These guys may be left wanting in the international gold department but, the fact that they’re current Danish champions (the fifth time they’ve held the title) and acknowledging their propensity for playing a much tighter game than their rivals (a happy by-product of their smaller than IIHF regulation-sized home rink) means nobody should count them out just yet.