European Leagues

Prospect Season Starts Next Week

With the passing of August, the summer is on its decline, and hockey season is almost here in North America. But, in Europe, preseason games are already being played and the regular season is set to begin next week. On Thursday, slick scoring prospect Nikita Kucherov and CSKA will square off against perennial league power Magnitogorsk in their season opener in the Russian KHL. A week later, on 9/15, action starts in the Finnish SM-liiga where Riku Helenius and JYP will open against KalPa. That day also marks the start of the Swedish Elitserien where Johan Harju and Lulea will face Vaxjo.

Kval till Elitserien Game Day: 4/8/11

MODO 2 @ Sodertalje 0
Riku Helenius, Sodertalje, 24/26, 2.11 GAA, .923 sv%
Season totals: 18 GP, 4-11-0, 0 SO, 3.03 GAA, .884 sv%
Kval till Elitserien totals: 5 GP, 2-1-1, 0 SO, 1.83 GAA, .925 sv%

Former Northern Michigan netminder Tuomas Tarkki made 22 saves to lead MODO to a 2-0 shutout of Sodertalje and a spot in the Elitserien next year. Lightning prospect netminder Riku Helenius made 24 stops, but in the absence of goal support Sodertalje's fate was sealed. The club will be relegated to the Allsvenskan next year. Vaxjo moves up to the Elitserien while MODO, barely, retains their spot in Sweden's top league.

So ends the entry level contract of former first round pick Helenius. The netminder was loaned out to Sodertalje toward the end of last season with the emergence of Jaroslav Janus and he played well in earning Sodertalje's starting job in last year's Kval till Elitserien tournament. This year, however, Helenius' play tanked in the first month of the Elitserien regular season. He lost his starting job to young Pontus Sjogren and did not regain it until the final 3 games of the the Kval till Elitserien round, which may be too little, too late to earn a qualifying offer from the Lightning.

Kval till Elitserien Game Day: 4/6/11

Sodertalje 3 @ Mora 2
Riku Helenius, Sodertalje, Win, 17/19, 2.00 GAA, .895 sv%
Season totals: 18 GP, 4-11-0, 0 SO, 3.03 GAA, .884 sv%
Kval till Elitserien totals: 4 GP, 2-0-1, 0 SO, 1.72 GAA, .926 sv%

Sodertalje peppered Mora with a whopping 47 shots on goal en route to edging Mora 3-2 in their 9th game of the Kval till Elitserien. Lightning prospect Riku Helenius made 17 saves to win his second straight must-win start. Elsewhere, Vaxjo defeated Rogle 4-2 and MODO beat Orebro 4-1.

Vaxjo had already clinched a spot in the Elitserien for next season. With their loss, Rogle will stay in the Allsvenskan. That leaves MODO and Sodertalje tied at 17 points right now with MODO holding the goal differential tiebreaker at +13 to +5. That means Friday's 10th and final round of the Kval till Elitserien will feature an all out battle for all the marbles with MODO visiting Sodertalje. A win keeps the club in the Elitserien next year. A loss means relegation to the Allsvenskan. Time to find out how clutch Riku Helenius can be. Note that in the opening match of the Kval till Elitserien, Sodertalje did defeat MODO 3-2 in a shootout with Pontus Sjogren between the pipes.

Kval till Elitserien Game Day: 4/3/11

Rogle 1 @ Sodertalje 2
Riku Helenius, Sodertalje, Win, 29/30, 1.00 GAA, .967 sv%
Season totals: 18 GP, 4-11-0, 0 SO, 3.03 GAA, .884 sv%
Kval till Eliserien totals: 3 GP, 1-0-1, 0 SO, 1.50 GAA, .943 sv%

Riku Helenius just won the biggest game of the season for Sodertalje. Sitting in 3rd place behind Rogle, Helenius made 29 saves to defeat the Allsvenskan side and keep Sodertalje afloat in their race to stay in the Elitserien next season. Ryan Lasch had both goals for Sodertalje.

However, MODO killed Mora 8-1 today, giving MODO the tiebreaker on goal differential at +10 to Sodertalje's +4. So, Vaxjo sits in first on the table at 20 points with MODO and Sodertalje trailing at 14 points a piece. Vaxjo has clinched a spot in the Elitserien next season because MODO and Sodertalje have a head-to-head game remaining. The top two teams go to Sweden's top league next season, so it looks like it's down to MODO, Sodertalje, and Rogle at 1 point back all fighting for 1 last spot. Sodertalje draws Mora and MODO in their remaining games. MODO gets Orebro and Sodertalje. Rogle has Vaxjo and Orebro left.

And, out of nowhere, it looks like Helenius, who backstopped Sodertalje through last year's Kval till Elitserien, will be in the thick of it at the very end this year. It might be Helenius' final games under a Lightning contract as a BoltProspect, but at least he's making it interesting.

Also, in the Elitserien playoffs, Farjestads and Skelleftea have advanced to the finals. They were the 2nd and 3rd place teams during the regular season.

Kval till Elitserien Game Day: 3/30/11

Sodertalje 1 @ Orebro 4
Riku Helenius, Sodertalje, DNP
Season totals: 18 GP, 4-11-0, 0 SO, 3.03 GAA, .884 sv%
Kval till Elitserien totals: 2 GP, 0-0-1, 0 SO, 3.00 GAA, .800 sv%

Sodertalje is in trouble. Orebro scored 3 unanswered 3rd period goals to defeat the Elitserien club 4-1 today in the 7th round of the Kval till Elitserien promotion/relegation tournament. With 3 games left to go, Sodertalje now sits in 3rd place, 2 points behind Allsvenskan side Rogle and 6 points behind another Allsvenskan side, Vaxjo. If the Kval till Elitserien ended today, Sodertalje would be relegated to the Allsvenskan. Complicating matters is Sodertalje's razor-thin tiebreaker lead over MODO, which is the other Elitserien club in the tournament. Sodertalje faces Rogle on Sunday in what is, essentially, a must-win for the club. A regulation loss for Sodertalje would make keeping their spot in Sweden's top league a near impossibility. It's hard to believe this is the same club that came within an eyelash of making the Elitserien playoffs just a few weeks ago.

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