Which team will win Baltic Handball League 2020?
News / BHL Newsletter: Important matches overshadowed by ZTR's withdrawal
Baltic Handball League
BHL Newsletter: Important matches overshadowed by ZTR's withdrawal
The week, where three important postponed matches were played in Group A, brought much more worrying news for Baltic Handball League. The leader of Group A, ZTR Zaporozhye has withdrawn from the competition due to financial problems. The decision about ZTR's results and upcoming matches will be taken by BHL's leadership this week.
The 1983 EHF Cup winner and 14-times Ukrainian champion ZTR Zaporozhye became a part of the BHL family in 2016 and in each of the three seasons qualified for Final Four, which they hosted in 2019. Twice, in 2017 and 2019, the Ukrainian side finished as runner-up.
"We are very sorry what happened. We are grateful to BHL, to all the teams, referees, officials for the time we spent together and we wish the league to always occupy a worthy place in European handball," commented club director Oleksii Tyshchenko.
Victories to SKA, Serviti and Tenax
On Friday in Riihimäki two teams met, who between them have won the last seven editions of BHL – Cocks the last four and SKA Minsk three before that. After an equal start, the visitors started to pull away midway through the first half. Leading 15:11 at half-time, SKA did not let title-defender close and took a clear 30:22 win. Dzmitry Nikulenkau and Nils Kreicbergs were the best scorers with six goals.
SKA moved across Finnish Bay and played Serviti Põlva two days later. The match turned out a real thriller from the start to final whistle. The Belarussians had the early lead, but then with good defending and saves from Eston Varusk, Serviti went ahead 7:4. SKA's goalkeeper Aliaksei Kishou started also making amazing saves and Serviti led at half-time 12:11.
The lead lasted another 14 minutes, but then two goals from Viachaslau Bokhan put SKA in front 19:17. It was exceptionally tight until the end with one team leading by one goal and then the other. With 90 second remaining, Henri Hiiend put hosts 28:26 ahead, Aliaksei Ushal pulled one back.
18 seconds before the final whistle, SKA had a penalty throw, which Yan Sabko sent to the post and Serviti took their first win of the season by 28:27. Hiiend and Henri Sillaste scored five goals for the winners, while Siarhei Shylovich recorded six for the visitors.
Also on Saturday, Lithuanian and Latvian champions met in Klaipeda. From the first minutes ZRHK Tenax Dobele took the initiative and never let it slip away. Tenax defeated Dragunas for the second time this season, by 33:27. Nils Mikelsons scored eight goals for Latvians, while Žanas Gabrielius Virbauskas had ten goals for Dragunas.
Domestic success across the board
It was a busy week for most of the BHL clubs, as ten teams also had matches in domestic leagues. Chasing league leaders Dicken Helsinki, Cocks took another win in Finland's championships, beating Åbo IFK away 31:25 (Yuri Semenov 12 goals).
Before travelling to Finland and Estonia, SKA also recorded a win in Belarus league. At home they beat HC Gomel by 31:21 (Bogdan Cherkashchenko 7). SKA is currently second, four points behind HC Meshkov Brest, while Cocks is just two points behind Dicken, but in third place of the Finnish league.
In Estonia, a local classic was played as Serviti defeated HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper 34:23 (Sillaste 7 – Vladyslav Naumenko 6). HC Tallinn also enjoyed a win, beating Aruküla/Audentes 37:29 (Markus Oliver Mädo and Kaspar Lees 7), while Viljandi HC suffered a surprise defeat in the hands of SK Tapa by 20:18 (Robert Lõpp 6).
Both BHL teams enjoyed a victory in Latvia, as Tenax was 34:26 better over SK Latgols Ludza (Maris Veršakovs 7) and Celtnieks Riga beat HK Ogre 42:32 (Aliaksei Haisa 10). In the recently started play-off stage, Celtnieks has seven and Tenax six points with the champions having played one game less.
Same situation appears in the Lithuanian league, where three BHL clubs form the top three: VHC Šviesa Vilnius 21, Dragunas 20 and Granitas-Karys Kaunas 15, but leaders have one match more played. Last week, Šviesa beat HC Vilnius 33:26 (Rosvaldas Ramunis 6) and Dragunas defeated SC Dubysa Šiauliai 41:23 (Benas Butkus 8).
On photo: Serviti Põlva and SKA Minsk produced a highly entertaining match on Sunday. (Photo: Helin Potter).