International Ice Hockey Federation

Back from the brink

Back from the brink

Continental Cup for revived Danish hosts

Published 17.11.2017 11:29 GMT+1 | Author Henrik Manninen
Back from the brink
Joachim Moller, who represents his family in the club in the third generation, hopes home advantage can carry Rungsted to the Final Round of the Continental Cup. Photo: Jan Korsgaard
Following a tumultuous decade, the Continental Cup welcomes one of the heavyweights of the Danish game as a resurgent Rungsted Ishockey returns to winning ways.

Hoisting the Danish Cup in front of a boisterous home crowd in February last year marked a sign of intent from Rungsted. Edging Aalborg Pirates 3-0 in front of a full house, the victory brought an end to an 11-year-long trophy drought for a club on the comeback trail following its liquidation in the spring of 2010.

The latest addition of silverware entering the trophy cabinet sealed Rungsted’s ticket for their maiden appearance in the Continental Cup. The reigning Danish cup champions welcome Great Britain’s Sheffield Steelers, Yunost Minsk of Belarus and Kurbads Riga from Latvia to Group D of the third round of the Continental Cup. Played at the Saxo Bank Arena between 17-19 November 2017, the home crowd will be in for a treat with two places up for grabs for the final tournament played in January next year.

“I think we have a strong, fast and hard-working team this year. Our biggest strength is our depth, we’ve struggled with injuries throughout the last month, but we have still been able to maintain a high level. I know depth will be crucial considering the schedule in this tournament where you play three games in three days,” said blueliner Joachim Moller, the third generation of his family wearing the blue, red and white jersey of his home-town club.

25 kilometres up the North Zealand coast from the centre of Denmark’s capital Copenhagen, hockey has set the pulses racing throughout generations. In the tranquil environs of the leafy Horsholm municipality, Rungsted IK first saw its light in 1941. Following three Danish championships and four domestic cup trophies, the club lost its bite in their new disguise following the addition of Cobras to its name. The joy of playing a domestic cup final in 2010 soon turned into despair as financial meltdown saw them plummet for life in the second tier. Following their much-awaited return to the top flight, the buzz was once again restored in Horsholm.

“When top-level hockey disappeared, it was obvious that something was missing. Even though our rink holding 2,400 spectators is not the biggest, it’s fantastic to see it being sold out for the big games. When hockey started once again at the top level again in 2013, it was amazing to see how many people showed up,” said the club’s CEO Thomas Friberg, who today treads carefully as the club is being rebuilt. With a strong foundation of 160 sponsor partners and recent improvements on their home arena inaugurated in 1971, things are currently on the up for the club, which last won its domestic championship back in 2002.

They have been bolstered by the return to the club of local lad Morten Green, with 19 senior World Championships for Denmark, who together with the aforementioned Moller both have been vital cogs leading by example in the club's continued rise following years spent in the doldrums.

“The first season (2013/2014) back in the top league was tough and we ended up last. Since then we’ve shown progress each year on and off the ice,” said Moller, who is an embodiment of playing for the jersey. Rungsted’s championship-winning teams of 1955 and 1963 included his grandfather, Otto, while Joachim’s father Jan was a long-serving servant for Rungsted and Denmark and one of the all-time greats within the Danish game. Having previously played on the team together with younger brother Mikkel, Joachim is these days solely representing family honours at a club entering exciting times.

“We have a great local community supporting the team here so I believe we have the building blocks in place. Our new practice rink will be crucial for the development of future generations and hopefully we will see more local talent in our professional organization,” said Moller.

“But on a more short-term perspective, we need to perform better in the playoffs, the last two seasons have ended way too fast. A long play-off run in the spring will definitely help grow the sport here, as these are the games that matter and is what people want to see.”

While Moller and his teammates are aiming to prolong the current season into spring, another rare opportunity to put the Danish game in the spotlight will arrive in April next year with the Scandinavians hosting the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship for the very first time.

“I think this is an extraordinary chance to show how great this sport is and hopefully it will attract more players, fans, sponsors and media attention,” said Moller of the tournament played in Copenhagen and Herning between 4-20 May 2018. “In my opinion, hockey in Denmark does not get the recognition it deserves. We are doing extremely well, developing world class players and our national teams are also doing well, but the media coverage is still very poor. Hopefully, this event will be an eye-opener for a lot of people.”

A prelude to international matches on Danish soil with all to play for will already be on display this weekend during the Continental Cup. A tournament evoking pleasant memories from Moller, who during a trophy-laden stint at SonderjyskE Vojens between 2009 to 2013 played at the Super Final stage of the Continental Cup in Minsk in January 2011.

“I have great memories from the Continental Cup. We finished third overall, which at that time was the best result ever by a Danish team so we were proud of that,” he said of a tight final tournament where 8,810 were in attendance at the Minsk Arena during their opener against eventual winners Yunost Minsk.

While fellow Danes Odense Bulldogs and Herning Blue Fox have progressed to the final series of the Continental Cup during the previous two seasons, Rungsted now hopes to follow them in their footsteps. Currently flying high in second place of the domestic championship, they now need to rise to the occasion on their home ice against a troika of international opponents of unknown calibre.

“Of our Eastern European opponents I know very little, but I know that my former teammate Aleksandrs Macijevskis is the coach of Kurbads from Latvia. The Sheffield Steelers have a few players that played in the Danish league so they are a little more familiar even though our knowledge level of them is still limited. It is always special to compete against foreign teams and see where we stand against them, so I expect a very exciting tournament, with a lot of fun and intense games,” said Moller.

Follow the Continental Cup Group D with the live ticker and live stream from Rungsted on the event website.

 

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