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Hockey stars seek home comfort

Will Spengler Cup winners Davos also clinch the league title? Keystone Archive

Switzerland's top ice hockey players will be hoping to put their disappointing Winter Olympic campaign behind them on Thursday as they return to domestic action.

This content was published on February 27, 2002 - 11:48

Having had to settle for 11th place in Salt Lake City, many of the Swiss squad will now be looking to achieve better things with their clubs as the play-offs get underway.

At the start of the season Lugano and the Zurich Lions were seen as the likeliest contenders for the Swiss league title, with the two sides having contested the finals for the past two seasons.

Davos hot favourites

But the impressive form of Davos throughout the winter qualifying round has seen the team from canton Graubünden emerge as this year's hot favourites.

Davos, with Switzerland reserve goalie Lars Weibel and three Swiss internationals upfront, are set to meet Bern in their best-of-seven quarter-final series.

At first glance, the side from the Swiss capital will be rank outsiders after only managing to scrape into the play-offs in the final qualifying round. But recent, and not so recent, history may give Bern some cheer.

During the qualifying round, Bern were one of only two sides to defeat Davos twice. Their two other matches ended in a draw and a win for Davos.

Looking a little further back, Bern fans will also recall their side's impressive 4-0 annihilation of Davos in last season's quarter-finals, when Davos were once again strong favourites to progress.

Lions face Ambri

Switzerland captain Mark Streit and four of his international colleagues will be aiming to help the Zurich Lions clinch their third successive title. Like Davos, though, the Lions have not been handed the easiest of assignments in the quarter-finals.

The Lions are due to take on Ambri-Piotta who secured three wins and a draw from their four qualifying round matches against the defending champions. Former Ambri player Peter Jaks will be looking to continue the goalscoring spree that has made him the Lions' top scorer this season.

Jaks will need no introducing to the man trying to stop him during the quarter-finals. Ambri's first-choice goalie is a certain Pauli Jaks, Peter's brother.

Koleff takes on former team

Lugano head coach Jim Koleff is set to take on one of his former clubs as the canton Ticino side do battle with Zug. Former Zug heroes Patrick Sutter, André Rötheli and Ronnie Rüeger are all set to turn out for Lugano as they bid to improve on the club's recent record as league runners-up.

Fribourg against Kloten

The last of the four quarter-final series pits Serge Pelletier's Fribourg side against Wladimir Jursinow's Kloten.

Having taken Fribourg to an impressive third place finish in the qualifying round, Pelletier is expected to take over coaching duties from Koleff at Lugano next season, but will doubtless want to sign off from Fribourg in style.

Unlike the Swiss national team, Jursinow is heading into the playoffs with some Olympic success behind him. As an assistant trainer to the Russian side, the Kloten coach helped add an Olympic bronze medal to his country's ice hockey honours.

swissinfo with agencies

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