Defending league champs Färjestad pushed aside HV 71 to advance to the semifinals of the 2011-12 Elitserien playoffs.
In Vegas, so the saying goes, always bet on black.
In Sweden, if it’s hockey season, always bet on Green—Färjestad green.
The defending Elitserien champions made short work of No. 3 seed HV 71 in their best-of-7 quarterfinal series, knocking off the Blue Bulls 2-0 in Game 6 on March 21 to advance to the semifinals. Färjestad entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed and showed signs of age during the regular season. The Wolfpack had no player with more than 15 goals in the regular season but did have more than a dozen with more than 10.
Färjestad also allowed more goals than it scored in the regular season, a problem goaltender Christopher Nihlstorp quickly fixed once the playoffs began.
The 28-year-old netminder had to leave Game 3 after a nasty collision with HV 71 winger Jesper Fasth. When he limped off the ice, Färjestad had the lead. HV 71, however, rallied to win Game 3 in overtime then knocked around the Wolfpack in Game 4 to tie the series.
Nihlstorp returned to the net for Game 5 and his presence lifted Färjestad. After spotting HV 71 a 2-0 lead at the start of Game 5, Färjestad scored five straight goals to take a 3-2 series lead. Nihlstorp, after his shaky start, finished with 32 saves.
Nihlstorp was even better Mach 21 in Game 6. Marcus Paulsson gave the Färjestad goalie all the scoring he would need when he tallied a power-play goal at 11:54 of the first period off feeds from Hannes Hyvönen and Kristofer Berglund. Nihlstorp stopped the six shots he faced in the first period, then made 13 saves in the second and 11 in the third to claim the shut-out win.
Anders Bastiansen added a late goal for the Wolfpack, scoring with 11 seconds left into an empty net.
For Färjestad defenseman Jonas Frögren, the win was extra special. The 32-year-old blue liner played in his Swedish record 127th playoff game when he took the ice in Game 6.
“It’s fun, but you start to feel a little old,” Frögren said with a laugh. “It is obviously a feather in my cap.”
Frögren, whom his teammates call “The Sherriff,” said the series with HV 71 went the way he expected.
“There was a lot of emotion and they fought hard,” Frögren said. “We got a little anxious in the second period, but we kept our heads. There was only a small margin between us.”
Färjestad faces Brynäs in the semifinals, which begin March 26.
The Tigers knocked off Frolunda in six games, clinching their series the same night as Färjestad.
Brynäs leading scorer Jakob Silfverberg had a pair of goals, including the game-winner in overtime to send the Tigers to the semis. Brynäs rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period, with Jonathan Granström scoring the tying goal with just 27 seconds left to play in regulation time. Silfverberg notched the game 4:24 into the extra session.
Brynäs won the season series with Färjestad this season 3-2, but lost to the Wolfpack last year 4-1 in the quarterfinals.
by Chipp Reid