It was Swede against Swede in the 2016-2017 Champions Hockey League as Swedish Hockey League rivals Frölunda and Linköping locked horns in a highly anticipated quarterfinal series. When the on-ice smoke machines allowed the players to take the ice, however, it was the Indians who provided the real fireworks, skating to a comfortable 9-2 aggregate win, thanks to 4-0 and 5-2 wins in the home-and-home series.

Leading the way for Frölunda was a 28-year-old, well-traveled American right wing who very nearly chose a different career path. Casey Wellman collected his tournament leading ninth point in the Champions League when he scored the final goal in Frölunda’s 5-2 victory over Linköping December 13 in the second leg of the quarterfinals.


Wellman grew up in Brentwood, California and it was the diamond, not the rink, that first attracted the former University of Massachusetts All-American. Wellman’s father Brad spent eight seasons in Major League Baseball, playing for the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City Royals before hanging up his spikes in 1989. Growing in the warm, sunny clime, it seemed only natural that Wellman would follow his father into baseball. He did, at least at first. By the time he was 12, the future Minnesota Wild/Washington Capitals winger had had enough.
“Baseball is too boring for me, you just stand out there waiting for something to happen,” Wellman said.

His uncle, who played for the now defunct Fresno Falcons of the East Coast Hockey League, had bought Wellman and his older brother, Logan, their first sticks and skates and Wellman immediately took to the ice as a little boy. “By the time he was 4, he was already on a team,” said his mother, Jodi Wellman.

Frölunda head coach Roger Rönnberg is more than a little happy that Wellman chose hockey over baseball. Rönnberg was instrumental in snapping up Wellman, who spent one year with Spartak Moscow in the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League, where he had 16 points in 40 games. “We have kept a good eye on him,” Rönnberg said. “He is an aggressive player with a good nose for the goal.”

After missing the first five games with his new team as he arrived in Sweden after the start of the regular season, Wellman has turned heads in Göteborg and around the league. He has 14 points in 21 SHL games and is third on the team in assists with 10. Yet it is in the Champions League where he seems to shine.

After failing to register a point in the first leg of the quarterfinals, Wellman exploded as Frölunda used a strong power play to overwhelm Linköping. The American set up a pair of power-goals in the second period as the Indians scored three times to take a 4-2 lead. The two assists gave him seven in the Champions League, tops on the team. Wellman sealed the win with a third-period goal, his sixth of the tournament.

“This was a big win for us,” he said. “They have beaten us twice already in the league so this was good. We are one step closer to our goal of winning the Champions League a second time.”

Frölunda faces Swiss champion Fribourg-Gotteron, which features Roman Cervanka, who has 12 points in seven Champions League games and Yannick Rathgeb, who has 11. The semifinals open on January 10.

The Indians are not alone in the semifinals as the Växjö Lakers advanced after overcoming a two-goal deficit to claim a 3-2 aggregate win over Swiss side ZSC Lions Zurich. The teams went into the return leg December 12 in Växjö dead even following a scoreless tie in Zurich, The Swiss jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead, with Swede and former NHL star Robert Nilsson netting one goal and notching an assist. Växjö, behind Robert Rosen, rallied, tying the game in the second period before Rosen scored the game winner at 5:30 of the third period. The Lakers take on Czech champions Sparta Prague in the semifinals.