Now in its 13th year of existence, the International Ice Hockey Federation's Continental Cup is a four-phase tournament involving the top club teams from secondary European hockey leagues.
Nineteen teams from 19 countries participated, and were whittled down to four teams reaching the Super Finals. The recently completed last round of the tournament was held in Grenoble, France. Austria's most prominent team, Red Bull Salzburg, swept its way to the 2010 championship.
The Red Bulls are the first team from Austria to win the plate that goes to the tournament winner. The other teams to reach the final round were Belarusian team Yunost Minsk (the 2007 champions), the host Grenoble Bruleurs de Loups from France's Ligue Magnus and the Sheffield Steelers from the United Kingdom's Elite League.
Not only is Red Bull Salzburg the first Austria squad to win the international tournament, it is also the first to reach the finals. But in 1997-98, VEU Feldkirch won the championship in the defunct European Hockey League. The Red Bulls have frequently dominated the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga (EBEL) in recent years, winning the 2006-07 and 2007-08 championships while featuring several former NHL players. Last year, EC KAC Klagenfurt knocked off the Red Bulls in the finals.
So far during the 2009-10 EBEL regular season, Salzburg is in third place, trailing the Graz 99ers and EC Villach SV. The club, however, is a threat to capture its third championship in four years to go along with its Continental Cup crown. Coached since 2007 by longtime former NHL coach Pierre Page, the squad featured numerous players with pro experience in more prominent leagues.
Red Bulls goaltender David LeNeveu
played parts of two seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes
. One of the team's leading scorers, left winger Steven Regier, scored 3 goals in eight games with the St. Louis Blues
last season and played 26 NHL games overall with the New York Islanders
and St. Louis. Defenseman Doug Lynch
, who was named Best Defenseman at the Continental Cup by the tournament directorate, played two games with the Edmonton Oilers
. Numerous other members of the team have played in the American Hockey League and/or the various top leagues in Europe, as well as suiting up for their national teams.
Salzburg secured its spot in the Continental Cup finals by emerging from the semifinals in Latvia with narrow victories over Latvian team Liepajas Metalurgs and Ukrainian team Sokil (Falcons) Kiev of the Belarusian league. In the final round, the Red Bulls preserved their perfect record in the tournament, knocking off Yunost in the first game and then proceeding to dismantle Sheffield by a 6-1 score and hammer Grenoble by a 9-4 count.
The four top scorers in the final round of the Continental Cup tournament were all Red Bulls players. Defenseman Matthias Trattnig
led the way with seven assists, while Daniel Welser was the top goal scorer with four. David LeNeveu
's .960 save percentage led the way among the goaltenders in the tourney. Meanwhile, forward Brett Aubin and defenseman Jeremy Rebek
had a goal and four assists apiece in the final round.
The third time in the Continental Cup was the charm for Salzburg. In 2007, they lost in the semifinals by a 1-0 score to eventual champion Yunost. Last year, the team got knocked out in the second round of the tournament. The 2010 tournament marks the second straight season that France hosted the finals. Last year's final round was held in Rouen. Slovakian team MHC Martin won the 2009 Continental Cup. The Rouen Dragons finished second.