EHC BIEL-BIENNE – Analysis of the 2018-19 season
Paradoxically enough, it was arguably supposed to be the most difficult season for Bienne since their comeback to the NLA. Last season’s excellent results in fact, made salivating a lot of people. But the truth is that, if on the one hand it’s difficult to achieve good results… on the other one hand it’s even more difficult to repeat the same results consistently. We mean, it wasn’t obvious at all to repeat last season’s fantastic ride… even if only because by now Bienne are respected and feared by everyone. Ultimately, Bienne are no longer a surprise.
Well, not only did Bienne repeat last season’s excellent results. But they even slightly improved them as they reached game-7 of the semifinal against Bern. We mean, the Seeländers are really almost there… and sooner or later, they will be where they deserve to be. That is, in the final.
They deserve it because the club has been doing an amazing work since years. They deserve it because are able to make progress every season. They deserve it because the management of the team is thrifty and smart. They deserve it because they improve every year thanks to great transfers and without crazy investments if we exclude very few exceptions.
This season, the Seeländers have been able to give their fans something to dream about. Again. Their season ended at game-7 of the semifinal though, and right now, obviously, there is a little bit of disappointment… that disappointment, however, very soon must make room for pride. The pride because of the excellent season!
It’s true that when you come so close – and yet so far… – from reaching a historical playoffs final, you feel sadness because you weren’t able to write history.
But provided that Bienne, the whole club, keep up the great work… well, they will write history very soon. And then again, Bienne have been writing history already over recent years. The Seeländers entered almost permanently another dimension. And they enter it to stay!
THE REGULAR SEASON
Bienne got off to an unbelievable start of the season. They won 8 of their first 9 Regular Season games and were at the top of the table most of Autumn. That’s something that never happened in the playoffs era. Then the Seeländers – just like every other NLA club except from Bern and Zug – had some ups and downs… but never really had a long streak of negative results. To sum up, in the context of an extremely balanced season, Bienne finished their Regular Season 4th placed. We mean, overall, an excellent Regular Season.
EHC Biel-Bienne – HC Ambrì-Piotta 4-1
SC Bern – EHC Biel-Bienne 4-3
Bienne got rid of Ambrì-Piotta in only 5 games at the quarterfinals stages but, it must be said, the Leventinesi turned out to be a tough nut to crack. Then it was semifinal time against the great rivals Bern… a very good start, then few missteps, then a great comeback, and finally a painful tumble. The truth is that, anyway, the Seeländers had some excellent playoffs and can go on holiday with their heads held high. They were so close from reaching the playoffs final for the first time in history!
Let’s see few things that in our opinion worked well and few things that didn’t work at all.
Bienne finished the Regular Season 4th placed and reached game-7 of the playoffs semifinals. Moreover… they spent a couple of weeks at the top of the National League table and were never below the 6th place. Yep, it’s safe to say that Bienne’s results were excellent in every way!
Bienne have been gifting ice hockey passionate with some great hockey basically throughout the whole season. Most of the time, the Seeländers were solid in the defensive zone, highly organized and at the same time unpredictable in the offensive zone. We think it’s safe to say that Bienne – together with Zug – put the best hockey on display. Let us not forget, moreover, that the Seeländers could count on arguably the best 4th offensive line of the league. Pure show!
As we said, Bienne were highly organized and at the same time unpredictable in the offensive zone. If we add together that the Seeländers’ roster was high-quality… well, that explains why they had the third best offensive record of the league at the end of the Regular Season. Only Lugano and Zug scored more than Bienne.
Not all worked out without a hitch. But it’s unthinkable for that to happen on any pro team in the country. Once again, however, we had the impression from the outside that the club has been doing a terrific job throughout the whole season. The roster was good, Brunner’s transfer paid off and, moreover, we always have overall an impression of seriousness in the management. When it comes to the club, moreover, we mean also coach Antti Törmänen, his staff and whoever is working behind the scenes also for the youth organization (EHC Biel-Bienne Spirit). In our opinion, everybody did a strong job. Again!
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Oftentimes, Bienne have been impressive in 5 vs 5 situations… but the power-play hasn’t been working throughout the whole season and the Seeländers paid a high price for that especially during the semifinal. Overall, the players were able to enter the offensive zone quite well and most of the times they were even able to move the puck around smoothly… Way too often, however, they weren’t able to put the puck in the net and they made too many mistakes.
Faceoffs are potentially a pivotal play in ice hockey especially at the key moments of the games. And the truth is that the Seeländers had the worst face-offs efficiency of the league (44.6%)… Among the players who took regularly face-offs, only Marc-Antoine Pouliot (53.0%) and Robbie Earl (51.3%), had positive rates.
Bienne earned 44 games in 25 games at the Tissot Arena and had only the 7th home record of the league at the end of the Regular Season. That’s not good enough. The Seeländers never earned more than 3 consecutive home wins… despite the fact that oftentimes the performances were good. Anyway, the best picture of Bienne’s home record of the 2018-19 season was game-6 of the semifinal against Bern…
Lack of experience
Bienne are improving a lot when it comes to experience and winning mindset. If you want to play a final, however, something is still missing… then again, you certainly can’t blame the Seeländers for that. We mean, experience and winning mindset can’t be bought at any market but you need to build them over time. In this regard, we think the Seeländers are on the right track. This was evidenced already during the quarterfinals against Ambrì-Piotta and during game-5 of the semifinal against Bern.
THE 3 STARS OF THE SEASON
How many times we’ve been writing throughout the whole season that “Toni Rajala is on fire”? Many times and always with full knowledge of the fact. Toni Rajala is arguably one of the most spectacular, fast and impressive forwards of the National League. He had a terrific season and oftentimes he made the difference. Toni tallied 48 points in 50 Regular Season games and finished the Regular Season 4th placed in the leading scorers ranking. He extended his contract with the Seeländers until the end of the 2021-22 season… we mean, fans can enjoy him for a while more!
Damien Brunner was a bet… his qualities are undisputed and he’s certainly among the best Swiss forwards of the century. Intead, when it came to his physical conditions and his motivations, some people had some doubts. Well, Damien wiped out all the doubts immediately! He hasn’t been missing a single game and he had an excellent season (if we exclude a drop of form during the second part of the Regular Season)… overall, Damien tallied 46 points in 62 games, only Toni Rajala did better. Moreover, Damien Brunner brought some winning mindset. A reborn player!
There are several players who we took into consideration as the third star of the season… starting from Jonas Hiller to any of the player of the 4th offensive line. Instead, we picked Janis-Jérôme Moser! The 18 years old played his first full season with the first team and initially didn’t even have his name printed on the jersey… he earned that “right” very soon though. His qualities, his calm and his personality are impressive for a guy his age. Finally, moreover, he extended his contract with Bienne until the end of the 2020-21 season and therefore he will wait before crossing the ocean. That, in our opinion, is a symbol of his maturity. Bravo!
The 23 years old Michael Hügli made his NLA debut back during the 2013-14 season with Zug (9 appearances) but then continued his career in the NLB, playing mainly for Rapperswil. Bienne signed him on the eve of this season and Michael – after an understandable adjustment-period – improved game by game and turned out to be a really pleasant surprise. We just can’t wait to see more of him next season!
THE SPECIAL MENTION
Jason Fuchs is somehow the symbol of the club’s mentality when it comes to acquiring players… that is, to sign young talented and famished players and help them grow. Jason joined Bienne on the eve of the 2017-18 season from Ambrì-Piotta and he’s been improving day by day. He still has room for improvement… but guys, what a great player!
THE SEASON IN NUMBERS – THE STATS
GOALS FOR & GOALS AGAINST
Bienne had the 3rd best offensive record and the 7th defensive record of the league at the end of the Regular Season. If we look at the chart of the goals’ distribution over-the-arc of the game, we are struck by the fact that the Seeländers conceded a lot of goals during the last 10 minutes of play… was that because of tiredness? Of course not, because the Seeländers tended to score much more during the second part of the periods. Was that because of the lack of experience then? We don’t think so. Maybe just lack of focus.
SHOTS & SHOTS AGAINST
Bienne have been shooting more than their opponents throughout the Regular Season while the ratio between shots for and shots against during the playoffs was basically even. The Regular Season’s trend shows that the Seeländers shot more than their opponents mostly during the first periods of play. During playoffs finally, there has been a drop when it comes to “shots for” during the third periods of play.
SCORING & SAVING PERCENTAGE
The Seeländers had a very good scoring percentage during the Regular Season and this evidences that the team has got quality and self-confidence. During playoffs then, the scoring percentage worsened… When it comes to saving percentage instead, it was good during the Regular Season and excellent during Playoffs.
POWER-PLAY & PENALTY-KILLING
Here is one of the main – if not the main – problem of Bienne… the power-play, the bloody power-play. The Seeländers had an only decent efficiency during the Regular Season and a catastrophic efficiency during the Playoffs. On the other hand, Antti Törmänen’s guys turned out to be some good penalty killers during the Regular Season but not during Playoffs.
Bienne’s Corsi Index was slightly lower than 50% during the Regular Seaosn… and worsened during Playoffs.
As written in the title, the Seeländers are almost there… and one day or another, sooner or later, they will make it to the final.
What about already next season? Who knows. Also the rich Zürich were forced to play the Ranking Round this season. We mean, anything can happen for better or for worse. But the truth is that this club is working so well that, sooner or later, will be rewarded. It might be next season… it might be in two seasons or in few years… but we’re pretty sure that, provided that the club keeps up, they will be Swiss Champions again one day!
Bienne have been improving regularly since when they were promoted to the NLA for the last time in 2008. They have gone from difficult seasons to some less difficult ones… they have gone from the playoffs qualifications to the semifinals… and finally, next season they will play also the Champions Hockey League!
What else can we say? These excellent results didn’t just happen and aren’t the fruit of senseless investments. Nope, they’re the fruit of hard work. A work present-oriented but also future-oriented, as it is evidenced by the impressive results of the EHC Biel-Bienne Spirit.
Now it’s time for some well-deserved holidays. Then, there will be time to think about next season… a season that will be very eventful and exciting.
Enjoy your holidays, Seeländers. And always BIELieve you can do it!