There can only be ONE champion! This weekend is the Spagettimalja or Spaghetti Bowl, which is the championship game for Division I in Finland. This year it will be the Helsinki Wolverines (8-1) against the Hämeenlinna Huskies (8-1). There is so much information to understand regarding this game. I will try to give you just the highlights.
Wolverines Championship Route
The Helsinki Wolverines are a Maple League Organization. This team fields 3 seperate men’s teams! Check it out for yourself (www.helsinkiwolverines.com). One of the few teams that is not named Helsinki Roosters to win the Maple Bowl (2011), the Wolverines have always been viewed as a top organization by anyone who plays football in Finland. So how did they get in Division I? Well, like all teams, they had a down year in 2014 which led to them being relegated to Division I. Last year the Wolverines rebuilt themselves to be middle of the road in Division I and made the playoffs. This year the team has continued its progression and has been dominant all season (except that one loss).
Huskies accustomed to Championships
This is nothing new for the Hämeenlinna Huskies, all they do is win. This team has only been around for 6 years and this will be their 4th championship game. These team wasted no time getting to the Rautamalja (Division II Final) in 2013 and 2014, winning the second time to be promoted to Division I. The Huskies proceeded to advance to the Division I championship last year by beating the Wolverines in route to a Spagettimalja loss. Now they are back in the Championship game for the 4th championship game in 4 years. If history is bound to repeat itself, the Huskies are confident that luck is on their side for this game.
Coaches make a difference
This will be one of the few games in Finland this year where two American coaches will face off in a battle of wits. The Wolverines have the legendary Robert Johnson as their head coach. Johnson has been extremely successful in Finland(2007-present), including 5 Maple League championships, and 2 Maple League MVP awards. It is no surprise he has turned the Wolverines into a mirror image of the dominance he displayed as a player.
The Huskies have an equally impressive head coach in the coach/player Stan Bedwell. Bedwell is extremely well traveled in Europe as both a player and coach, having experience in various countries including Switzerland, Spain, Denmark, Serbia, Poland, and Italy. Bedwell is also no stranger to Finland making his 5th stop in Suomi this season in Hämeenlinna. With so many locations, the awards and championships have piled up for Bedwell over the years, but the consistent is that wherever he goes, wins follow. That stays true as he and the Huskies build together on mutual success.
The Best against the Best
This is one of those great matchups where the stats on paper match what you see on the field. Wolverines have the #1 offense in the league versus the Huskies #1 defense. The Huskies have the #2 offense vs the Wolverines #2 defense. I’m no math mathematician but on paper this makes it a tie, right? These two teams have played each other twice this year and split the matchups 1-1. But here’s some context, the first meeting was week one of the season and the Huskies did not have Stan Bedwell the player or the coach, as they lost 28-7 to the wolverines. Six weeks ago these two teams faced off with both teams fully prepared and the Huskies squeaked out a 34-33 win in Hämeenlinna. That second contest is what type of game you can expect to witness this weekend.
Who to watch for
The amount of talent flying around in this game is just crazy! Here are some of the players to keep a look out for during this exciting game. I’ve tried to match the players with jersey numbers to make it easier for you casual fans.
Offense – Turo Lipponen (78), Janne Lehtinen(8), Locklan Gilbert (4), Marcus Siiskonen (89), Teemu Rantanen(7), Niko Kantonen (41), Jerell Jones (43),
Defense – Antonio Harris (49), Veikko Kallio (19), Niko Hannula (16), Isto Laalo (56), Kimmo Hytönen (35), Lasse Oivio (64), Lasse Voipio (46)
Offense – Stan Bedwell (11), Lauri Siitonen (10), Velipekka Jaakonsaari (12), Xavier Ajuwon (5), Ottopekka Leskinen (1), Asko Mäntymäki (83), Jani Heinisalo (19
Defense – Archibald Barnes (17), Kevin Duley, Mika Kulmala (13), Tatu Niemi (22), Mikko Isokaanta (28), Nicholas Madsen (33)
When and Where to watch the game
When: Saturday, August 20, 14:45
Where: Brahenkentällä (Brahe Field), Helsinki
Live Stream: https://www.youtube.com/user/SAJLJenkkifutis
More information about the game