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BHL Newsletter: Tenax one win away from title, Tallinn eliminated Kehra
It's this time of the year, where every game – and even every goal – counts, as play-offs are being played in three Baltic countries and Finland. Last week, there was plenty of drama in Latvian final and a slightly surprising outcome in Estonian semi-final.
At the start of the week, Estonian semi-final series had a familiar look – two best teams of the regular season, Serviti Põlva and HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper had a 1-0 lead in their series. Serviti comfortably completed it and beat their reserve team Coop Põlva in next two matches – 38:30 (Henri Sillaste and Stanislav Kholodiuk 6 goals) and 40:27 (Sillaste 8).
Goalkeeping heroics in Latvian final
In the second semi-final, last week saw a complete turnaround, as first HC Tallinn equalized the series against Kehra with a 34:26 win (Robin Oberg 8). And the next two matches also went Tallinn's way, by 20:16 (Sergei Glinka 6) and 31:27 (Uku-Tanel Laast 9) and the Estonian cup-winner qualified for club's first ever league final against Serviti!
South of the border, Latvian league is one step ahead as medal matches are already being played. Title-holder ZRHK Tenax Dobele went to Sunday's second final match having won the first. Celtnieks Riga put up a great fight and there was more drama than in many other games.
In the first half, neither of the teams managed to get more than a one-goal lead, but early in the second half, Tenax went ahead by three goals, 13:10. Celtnieks did not give up, fought back and took a 17:16 lead in the 49th minute. When Tenax's Nikita Pančenko made it 20:20 in the 54th minute, it was time for the goalkeepers to step up.
Uldis Jansons for Tenax and Raitis Purinš for Celtnieks pulled out some amazing saves and last six minutes went goalless! In the penalty series, it was Ivars Lacis from Tenax, who saved Artis Kurmens' shot and the title-defenders took a 25:24 win (Pančenko and Andis Ermanis 5 – Arturs Lazdinš 8).
BHL champion Cocks qualifies to Finnish final with ease
Finland plays in the same rhythm as Estonia and semi-finals were completed last week. BHL champion Cocks Riihimäki had no problems overcoming Helsinki IFK, winning 32:19 (Teemu Tamminen 11), 35:21 (Yury Lukyanchuk 6) and 40:17 (Tamminen and Nico Rönnberg 7) and will now meet Dicken Helsinki in the final.
Cocks has been very busy all spring putting together their squad for the new season. Last week, probably the most important news was that their star player Nico Rönnberg prolonged his contract and will continue with the Finnish and BHL champions. Cocks also signed an experienced Russian playmaker Yury Semenov, as the 28-year-old joined from Hungarian side Balatonfüred KSE.
League is also continuing in Ukraine and Belarus. This season's BHL runner-up ZTR Zaporozhye could not get better of the EHF Champions League side HC Motor Zaporozhye on Monday and lost 21:30 (Oleksandr Tilte 6). However, the next day ZTR beat Portovik Yuzhnyi 33:14 (Maxym Strelnikov 13).
In Belarus, three-time BHL champions SKA Minsk had an early scare away against Masheka Mogilyov and lost the first half by 13:18. But this season's BHL bronze-medallists stepped up in the second half and won 29:27 (Mikita Vailupau 11). Good news for SKA was the return of their goalkeeper Ivan Moroz from injury, though he only came on to the field for two penalty throws.
On photo: Uldis Jansons (left) and Raitis Purinš were in great form in the second final of Latvian league.