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News / BHL Newsletter: all clubs busy ahead of the season start
Baltic Handball League
BHL Newsletter: all clubs busy ahead of the season start
We have less than a week and the new Baltic Handball League season of 2019/20 will kick off. As most of the BHL teams are already in action in different competitions, it's time to start with last season's innovation, the BHL Newsletter and see how the twelve clubs are doing.
The BHL champion of last four years Cocks Riihimäki started their EHF Champions League season last week in the brand new Cocks Areena. Over 1200 fans cramped into the new hall to witness Cocks losing to Swedish side IK Sävehof by 25:30 (Yury Lukyanchuk and Yury Semenov 6 goals).
"Unfortunately we could not win the opening game in our new hall. We fought well, but once again gave the opponents too much advantage in the early stages. We knew Sävehof's strengths, but could not stop them, so the right team won. Analysis will follow and we have to improve," commented Cocks' head coach Gintaras Savukynas post-match to club website.
Dragunas celebrated the first trophy win of the season
Besides Cocks, three more BHL teams started – and unfortunately two also finished – their European campaigns. Last season's BHL runner-up ZTR Zaporozhye took two easy wins in the opening round of the EHF Cup, beating British club London GD HC by 39:20 (Andrii Akimenko 6) and 39:14 (Olexandr Tilte and Vladyslav Zalevskiy 7).
The Ukrainians will now play HC Butel Skopje from North Macedonia in the second qualifying round. Besides progressing in the EHF Cup, ZTR also started the Ukrainian league with a win. At home they defeated HC Odessa by 28:20 (Akimenko 6).
Last season's Final Four participant Dragunas Klaipeda lost twice to Israeli side Maccabi Rishon LeZion by 28:34 (Žanas Gabrielijus Virbauskas 7) and 20:23 (Gytis Šmantauskas 7), while Serviti Põlva was also twice defeated – 22:32 and 26:27 (in both matches Henri Sillaste 7) by Slovenian club RD Riko Ribnica, who will now face SKA Minsk.
At home, Lithuanian champion Dragunas already won the first trophy of the season, defeating on Saturday Granitas-Karys Kaunas in the Supercup match by 36:30 (Virbauskas 8). "We needed positive emotions and to win the trophy is good, but the quality of the game still needs improvement," commented Arturas Juškenas, Dragunas' head coach.
Three-time BHL champions SKA Minsk has started the domestic season perfectly. They have won first four games, including beating the champions HC Meshkov Brest 27:24 (Siarhei Shilovich 7). Last week SKA took a comfortable win over SKA-BGUFK Minsk by 46:29 (Matsvei Udavenia 8).
Both Latvian clubs strengthened with quality players
Estonian league saw it's first matchday last week and produced some surprises. Runner-up and cup-winner HC Tallinn was struggling with injuries and surrendered to SK Tapa by 20:21 (Rauno Aus 6). And the bronze-medallist and former BHL champion HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper lost away to Viljandi HC 25:27 (Dmytro Yankovskiy and Janar Mägi 7 – Volodymyr Maslak 6).
Title-holder Serviti Põlva however had an "easy day in the office", as the champions beat Aruküla/Audentes at home 40:18 (Mathias Rebane 10). Serviti also gave a debut to their new Latvian import, as international pivot Arturs Meikšans joined the club in the summer to replace Hendrik Varul, who moved to Hammarby IF in Sweden.
Latvian league will only start this week, but as a pre-tournament a Riga championships was played. BHL participants Celtnieks Riga and ZRHK Tenax Dobele won two games before meeting eachother in the decisive match. Celtnieks came out on top, winning 38:35 (Aliaksei Haisa and Artis Kurmens 8 – Andis Ermanis 8).
Both Latvian teams will bring some interesting names into this season's BHL. Celtnieks signed two experienced Belarussian wingers in Aliaksei Haisa and Aliaksandr Patsykailik with the latter having represented former winners SKA and Cocks before. Tenax brought back two players from Germany, who helped Latvian national team to qualify for EURO 2020 as Aivis Jurdžs joined from SC DHfK Leipizig and Maris Veršakovs from TGS Pforzheim.
On photo: Dragunas Klaipeda celebrated the win of Lithuanian Supercup on Saturday. (Photo: RK Dragunas).