Lugano’s target was to finish 6th placed and finally finished the regular season 8th placed 6 points behind the 6th place. We mean, on the practical side the Bianconeri nearly achieved their target.
In order to achieve it completely, or to do even better, consistency was missing. Lugano in fact had way too many ups and downs. In fact, we think you can divide the Bianconeri’s season in four parts. A good start under Sami Kapanen, the collapse under Sami Kapanen, an impressive comeback under Serge Pelletier and finally a final part of the season not very suitable for the faint of heart and negative despite the playoffs’ qualification reached at the last gasp.
We all knew it wouldn’t be an easy season. The club based on the shores of the lake Ceresio changed a lot both on and off the ice. A new coach with a new philosophy was appointed – with hindsight, it was an experiment that didn’t pay off – and most and above all the team lost a lot in terms of class and personality considering the departures of real “pillars” such as, among others, Elvis Merzlikins, Gregory Hofmann and Maxim Lapierre.
We all knew it wouldn’t be an easy season. There is no point in beating round the bush, this was a season of transition. A season that, nevertheless, Lugano finished with the qualification to the playoffs. Playoffs during which we’re pretty sure the team could stand up even to a great team like Zürich.
We all knew it wouldn’t be an easy season, therefore you can’t say that everything went wrong. Certainly, Lugano could do better. But finally, Lugano had a season during which the whole club learned a lot and surely realized what is needed in order to try and get back to the top… right, in order to “try” to get back to the top… because the National League became so competitive that it’s more and more difficult, for each team, to make it to the post-season.
WHAT DID WORK
When Sami Kapanen was dismissed – after the humiliating road defeat suffered against Ambrì-Piotta – Lugano seemed to be in a desperate situation. And instead, the Bianconeri were able to make an impressive comeback that finally allowed them to finish the season in the top 8. The comeback proved that, willy-nilly, the team was very much alive.
Lugano finished the regular season with the 6th away record of the National League. Mind you, that’s not a spectacular achievement but nevertheless the Bianconeri made the playoffs – playoffs that obviously didn’t take place because of the coronavirus – also thanks to their performances on the road that were all in all satisfactory.
Sandro Zurkirchen was outstanding during the first part of the season and Niklas Schlegel delivered excellent performances during the last part of it. Certainly, the goalies were a strength for the team and both goalies were even able to “steal” few wins.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
There was a time when the Resega – now Cornèr Arena – was a difficult place to play for the opponents. This season instead, the opponents had some sort of an easy time on the shores of the Ceresio… Lugano earned 37 points in 25 home games, that’s not good enough. Moreover, the Bianconeri scored only 64 goals at home. Only Langnau scored less at home (57).
Lack of emotions (under Sami Kapanen)
Lugano got off to a decent start of the season with Sami Kapanen and delivered few showstopper performances. Then, however, when things started to go south emotions were missing. Way too often the Bianconeri delivered emotionless performances and seemed unable to react. In this regard, the departure of a charismatic player like Maxim Lapierre did cost a lot.
Let’s go straight to the point: import players play a crucial role in Switzerland. In this regard, Lugano’s import players weren’t good enough. Perhaps only Atte Ohtamaa delivered good performances and we think it was no accident that the Bianconeri were solid especially during the first two months of the season. Of course, you can’t say that Lugano’s import are poor players. Quite the contrary. However, in our opinion, they’re not the right ones in the right place at this moment.
THE THREE STARS
Alessio Bertaggia was the player who delivered the best performances this season and we think it’s safe to say that he is also one of the stars of the National League season. As usual, Alessio’s commitment was impressive… to that, he added the fact that he became a points-scoring machine. He is worth the National Team!
Sandro Zurkirchen / Niklas Schlegel
We talked already about the two goalies, who delivered excellent performances. Perhaps, if we take them one by one, Sandro and Niklas aren’t the best goalies around… together though, we think they form the best pair of goalies of the National League. Firstly, Sandro had the difficult task of replacing Elvis Merzlikins and he did a great job. Then Niklas, coming off the short and disappointing experience in Bern, made it clear that he can be a number one goalie.
When it comes to points scored over the arc of the season, perhaps Reto Suri could do better. When it comes to attitude, commitment and will, however… the former Bull was second to no one and deserves a big round of applause! Overall, he had a good first season in Lugano and the impression is that next year he can make even more the difference.
Serge Pelletier (Coach)
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth… Serge Pelletier arrived on the shores of the Ceresio lake when the team was downhearted. He was able to resuscitate the group in a very short time and we think it’s safe to say that he deserves big credit for the comeback. If he leaves the club, we’re pretty sure that his experience will help him to find another job very soon.
Many people weren’t very happy when David McIntyre was announced as the new import player. Then, however, David did very well in Lugano especially at the beginning. Most and above all, he brought in leadership and made clear that in Switzerland it’s difficult to earn positive results unless you have a dominant center.
Goals For – Goals Against
Goals For – Goals Against even strength
Lugano moved from the best scoring record of last season to the 9th scoring record during this one. Certainly, it was a problem for the Bianconeri to put the puck in the net. When it comes to defense instead, the Bianconeri were overall quite solid and finished the season with the 6th best defensive record.
Goals For – Goals Against each 10’
This chart makes you wonder whether the team’s physical condition was good enough and if the players were too tired because of the system of play of Sami Kapanen. Lugano in fact, darn struggled during the last thirds.
Leading, tied, trailing
Lugano was leading 35.07% of the time, only Genève Servette and Davos were leading longer in the National League. Then, however, results were negative. Again, was it because of the poor physical condition? Maybe. One thing is sure though, the departures of several charismatic players didn’t help.
Scoring percentage – Saving percentage
Lugano had a low scoring percentage, in fact only Fribourg Gottéron, Ambrì-Piotta and Langnau had a lower scoring percentage. Overall, then, also the saving percentage was quite low… only Langnau and Rapperswil had a lower saving percentage. However, when it comes to saving percentage, numbers need to be interpreted and as we said we think that Sandro Zurkirchen and Niklas Schlegel were a strength for this team.
Power-play – Penalty-killing
Lugano had the 6th power-play efficiency of the league and were the 4th best penalty killers. Under Serge Pelletier instead, the Bianconeri had the 3rd best power-play efficiency of the league and were always the 4th best penalty killers around. We mean, PP and PK weren’t a problem.
THE SEASON IN ONE QUOTE
Ups… and downs. In every way.
Every team is looking for consistency, but consistency is the most difficult “thing” to have. However, Lugano seriously paid a high price because of the lack of consistency in terms of results and performances. Overall, as we said, in our opinion the Bianconeri’s season wasn’t negative in every way. Surely the whole club learned a lot. And, surely, also Hnat Domenichelli – key man for the future – learned a lot during this first season as SD. We mean, if we talk about the future Lugano can be quite confident. If we talk about this last season instead, there were too many ups… and downs. In every way.