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News / BHL Newsletter: Great domestic week for most of BHL clubs
Baltic Handball League
BHL Newsletter: Great domestic week for most of BHL clubs
All 12 teams of the Baltic Handball League were in action last week in their domestic league competitions. Latvia and Lithuania have already reached play-off stages, but decisive games are taking place in all six countries involved in BHL. All this season's Final Four participants were victorious.
BHL title-holder Cocks Riihimäki have already secured the first place and direct qualification to semi-finals in the Finnish league. On Saturday they took a convincing win over BK-46 Karjaa by 33:17 (Teemu Tamminen 6 goals). With one more game to play, Cocks has a four-point lead over Dicken Helsinki.
Cocks has also been the busiest club preparing for next season and recently announced two new signings for 2019/20. 27-year-old Serbian right-winger Aleksandar Gugleta joins from North-Macedonian side RK Pelister Bitola and 24-year-old Belarussian goalkeeper Aliaksandr Markelau moves to Finland from Romanian club CS Minaur Baia Mare.
Equally convincing as the Finns, was the host of Final Four, SKA Minsk in Belarus. Three times winners of BHL played the last match before the international break and beat Masheka Mogilyov at home 39:25 (22:11). Mikita Vailupau was in great scoring form, recording 14 goals.
ZTR Zaporozhye had to fight against their own reserve team, ZTR-Burevestnik. They only had 16:15 lead at half-time, but eventually ran away as 35:28 winners (Andrii Akimenko and Dmytro Artemenko 7). ZTR is leading the league with 40 points, but EHF Champions League side HC Motor Zaporozhye is two points behind and has three games less played.
BHL's three Lithuanian teams had a perfect week, as all qualified to semi-finals, winning both legs of their respective quarter-final ties last week. Final Four team Dragunas Klaipeda was better over KKSC-RSSG-Grifas Panevežys 38:24 (Deividas Virbauskas 9) and 30:28 (Virbauskas and Karolis Bliuvas 5).
While Dragunas waits for their semi-final opponent from the pair RK Kauno ažuolas-KTU Kaunas – Varsa-Stronglasas Alytus (matches 1:1 after two legs), two BHL sides VHC Šviesa Vilnius and Granitas-Karys Kaunas will clash in the last four.
Šviesa beat SM Dubysa Šiauliai by 36:24 (Valdas Drabavičius 9) and 34:27 (Drabavičius 10). Granitas-Karys was twice better over HC Vilnius, beating them at home 31:28 (Paulius Šarkauskas 11) and away 32:29 (Modestas Štarolis 13). The semi-finals will only start after the BHL Final Four in the end of April.
In Latvia, the semi-finals are in full swing and producing interesting results. Celtnieks Riga lost at home to SK Latgols Ludza, but last week managed to win away by 31:26 (Artis Kurmens 6). Champions ZRHK Tenax Dobele suffered a surprise defeat in the hands of HK Ogre by 30:39 (Oskars Arajs 9) and thus both semi-finals go to decisive third matches, to be played on 6th April.
And finally, in Estonia, title-defender Serviti Põlva and HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper will clash in the final round of the second stage to determine who wins the regular season. Both teams have 33 points and have secured a direct qualification to semi-finals, while a draw in the last match would be enough for Serviti to finish first.
Last week, Kehra beat Coop Põlva 36:28 (Kaspar Lees 8) and Serviti defeated fellow BHL side HC Tallinn 27:21 (Henri Sillaste 6 – Uku-Tanel Laast 8). Fourth BHL team, Viljandi HC secured fifth place after beating Aruküla/Audentes by 31:18 (Andrey Khapal 9).
On photo: Valdas Drabavičius scored 19 goals over two quarter-final legs in Lithuania, helping VHC Šviesa Vilnius to semi-finals. (Photo: VHC Šviesa).