Genève-Servette wins the 2024 Champions Hockey League
by Champions Hockey League|20 FEB 2024
photo: © Nabil Kacem - GSHC
Less than a year after winning their first domestic title in their 118-year history, Genève-Servette are now champions of Europe following a nail-biting 3-2 home-ice victory over Swedish club Skellefteå AIK in Champions Hockey League finals. They become the first Swiss club to win the modern iteration of the Champions Hockey League and just the second-ever European club champion from Switzerland.
In anticipation of the historic moment, the sold-out crowd of 7,135 at Les Vernets was loud before the game started and had plenty to cheer about in the first period, when the home team scored all of its goals.
The home team opened the scoring five and a half minutes in when Eliot Berthon beat Linus Söderström on a backhand deke after Arnaud Jacquemet found him with a pass from the point. Although the net came off its moorings before the puck crossed the goal line, the goal was allowed to stand because it was the right skate of the goalie that kicked post out of place.
photo: © Nabil Kacem - GSHC
Skellefteå tied it off the rush six minutes later when Pär Lindholm fed Martins Dzierkals, and the Latvian beat Jussi Olkinuora high to the short side from the left wing.
But late in the opening frame, Genève scored twice on the same powerplay to take a two-goal lead.
First it was Sakari Manninen one-timing a cross-ice pass from fellow countryman Teemu Hartikainen before the goalie could slide across to make it 2-1. Skellefteå challenged the play for offside on the zone-entry, but the goal was upheld. Then 59 seconds later, veteran Daniel Winnik put a very nice deflection on Tim Berni’s knee-high shot from the point to make it 3-1.
There wasn’t a lot of offence in the second period, in which Skellefteå held a 13-8 edge in shots and received the period’s only two powerplays. The visitors from northern Sweden put on probably their best pressure of the first 40 minutes in the late going after a Genève bench-minor for too many players on the ice.
photo: © Nabil Kacem - GSHC
That Skellefteå pressure carried over into the third period and they eventually drew closer. With just under 11 minutes to play, they scored their second of the game off the rush. Anton Heikkinen took a drop pass from Oscar Lindberg in the neutral zone, carried the puck to the high slot and scored on a high wrister.
Against the run of play with under eight minutes left, Manninen had a chance to regain Genève’s two-goal cushion on a partial breakaway but made a curious behind-the-back pass that failed to reach its intended recipient.
With 3:12 to play, Triple Gold Club member Valtteri Filppula was called for tripping but Genève got a golden shorthanded chance to put the game away when goalie Söderström lost his stick pursuing the puck in the corner. With 2:01 to play, Skellefteå called their timeout and pulled Söderström for a 6-on-4 advantage, but although they were able to generate a couple of shots on Olkinuora, the equalizing goal never came.
Genève made a couple of long-distance bids at the empty net which failed to connect, but managed to kill the remaining seconds and preserve the European Trophy.