EC Red Bull Salzburg - News

Red Bulls head to far north for start of European Trophy 2012

Oulun Kärpät (l) & Lulea Hockey

EC Red Bull Salzburg will be flying to Scandinavia in the third week in August, and it's a journey they know very well. The European Trophy, Europe's most prestigious club-level ice hockey tournament, is taking place for the third time and the number of competing teams has increased yet again. The most exciting aspect this year, though, is that Salzburg will for the first time have to qualify on merit, since it will be the first time that they have not hosted the final tournament, the Red Bulls Salute (it will be staged in Vienna and Bratislava). Anyone familiar with Salzburg's head coach, Pierre Pagé, will know that the team's automatic qualification in previous years was never a reason not to give one hundred percent in the European Trophy, but it always provided a nice safety net nevertheless.   

Now they will have to focus on collecting as many points as possible during the Regulation Round of the European Trophy, with only the first two teams from each of the four divisions going through to the quarter-final of the Red Bulls Salute. In the event that the host teams the UPC Vienna Capitals and/or HC Slovan Bratislava fail to qualify on merit, there would be only seven or six places for the European Trophy Finals in December 2012 up for grabs. So Salzburg will have to give it everything they've got from the very start of the Regulation Round. The Red Bulls' first two games once again take place in the far north, in Oulu (FIN) and Luleå (SWE). A preview:

Once again the Red Bulls will kick off their European Trophy campaign in Oulu. Two years ago, when the inaugural European Trophy took place, Salzburg began the group phase in the town - population 130,000 - and lost 2-3. In the same season they were defeated a second time by the Finns at the Red Bulls Salute 2010, when the Red Bulls were forced to admit an even more bitter 3-6 defeat in Salzburg, which saw them finish the tournament in eighth place while the Finns finished sixth. 

Oulun Kärpät   
Location: Oulu, Finnland   
Founded: 1946
League: SM-liiga
Rink: Oulun Energia Areena, capacity: 6.614
Season 2011/12: Quarter final
Track record: 5 times Finnish Champion, 2005 and 2006 Final IIHF European Champions Cup
ET / RB Salute: 6th place Red Bulls Salute 2010

In the second year of the European Trophy (2011), the club whose emblem features a stoat (Kärpät in Finnish) failed to qualify for the final round, having finished last but one in the group phase and been forced into a penalty shootout in no less than five out of eight games. The five-time Finnish champions also suffered a poor championship campaign; they finished seventh in the Finnish SM-liiga regular season and were then knocked out in the quarter-final after seven games against the subsequent finalists from Lahti, the Pelicans.  

The "Kanada-malja" (Canada Cup), the SM-liiga winner's trophy, last went to Oulu in 2008. On the international scene, the northern Finnish club have done their country proud with two impressive second place finishes in the IIHF European Champions Cup. In 2005 Oulun Kärpät lost to Avangard Omsk in the final and in 2006 to Dynamo Moscow.

Luleå Hockey
Location: Luleå, Schweden
Founded: 1977
League: Elitserien
Rink: COOP Arena, capacity: 6.300
Season 2011/12: Quarter final
Track record: Swedish Champion 1996
ET / RB Salute: 3rd place Red Bulls Salute 2011

Swedish club Luleå Hockey is once again the European Trophy's northernmost participant this year. On their debut last year the Swedes made it through to the final after finishing second in the Northern Division and after a 3-2 overtime victory over Linköpings HC in Vienna they finished third in the Red Bulls Salute. At the time 19-year-old forward Konstantin Komarek, who has joined the Red Bulls this year, was one of the players. The Vienna-born forward spent four years with Luleå Hockey and last year finished top of the Swedish Elite League regular season. The northern Swedish team were then knocked out in the quarter-final after losing 1-4 in the head-to-head to AIK Stockholm. 

Luleå Hockey is also the most northerly club to compete in the Swedish championship and has been a consistent contender in the Elite League since the 1984-1985 season. They lifted the Swedish championship trophy the one and only time in 1996. One of the players involved in their successful campaign was Johan Strömwall, who went on to play three seasons with KAC before becoming coach of VSV and head coach of the Austrian national team. KAC forward Thomas Koch, who was a key player in Salzburg for five years, also gained international experience with the Swedish club over two seasons. The Red Bulls will face Luleå Hockey for the first time on August 19, 2012.

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