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Riihimäen Cocks
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HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper

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News / Cocks qualified, Serviti takes advantage

Baltic Handball League

2018.03.12 13:02

Cocks qualified, Serviti takes advantage

Quarter-finals of the 2017/18 season started and we already have our first Final Four participant. No surprise, it is the winner of last two editions of BHL, Cocks Riihimäki. The only other quarter-final during the weekend saw Serviti Põlva taking a 9-goal advantage into the second leg over HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper.

Lithuanian side Granitas-Karys Kaunas, finishing fourth in Group B of the regular season, agreed to play both legs in Riihimäki. Cocks was the favourite and justified it by winning both matches. Opening game on Saturday was quite tight for the first dozen minutes, but then the hosts opened up a six-goal lead and did not look back.

Gintaras Savukynas: Granitas showed great character

Cocks won the opening game by 40-29 (Aliaksandr Bachko and Teemu Tamminen 7 – Mindaugas Urbonas, Modestas Štarolis and Vaidas Drevinskas 6 goals) and therefore had a 11-goal advantage going into Sunday's return leg. Granitas' head coach Valdemaras Novickis had promised to fight and try to win at least one match, and they certainly put up a good resistance.

Lithuanians started well, had a 7-4 and 8-5 lead after ten minutes. First half ended 16-16 and it was still tight until the 40th minute. Then Cocks started to slip away, goal by goal and took a 36-30 win in the end (Bachko 8 – Štarolis 9). Finnish champion qualified for the Final Four for the sixth consecutive time. Last two seasons Cocks has won, plus they have twice finished runners-up and once third.

"First game was a very good performance from our side, we controlled the match from start to final whistle and had a comfortable win," commented Cocks' head coach Gintaras Savukynas. "Maybe the 11-goal advantage made players even too comfortable, because on Sunday our concentration was not at best."

Savukynas was still happy with two wins and also paid respects to the opponents: "Granitas showed great character, which everyone knows they have and made us really fight for the win on Sunday. But we are happy to qualify again for the BHL Final Four, as one of our main goals for this season has always been to try and defend our title."

Serviti beat Kehra in an away game

In the all-Estonian quarter-final it was expected to be a tight affair between two teams, who know each other very well. And for the first 30 minutes it was very even, although Serviti did get a three-goal cushion just before half-time, taking a 14-11 lead. Kehra's game was largely based on good defence and Mikita Yermashevich. The Belarussian scored seven times in opening half.

After the break, Kehra let Serviti slip away – midway through the second half, Estonian champion had already a 23-14 lead. They extended it to dozen goals, but eventually settled for a 31-22 win (Carl-Eric Uibo, Hendrik Varul and Henri Sillaste 7 – Yermashevich 8), which gives them excellent chances to qualify for the Final Four in front of their home crowd next Sunday.

"Kehra started well and we had big problems with Yermashevich, who was playing very well," said Serviti's head coach Kalmer Musting. "We changed the defensive formation and took the game into our hands. Nine goals is a nice gap, but we have to be well prepared for the second match. If we are not, the advantage can melt away quickly."

Kehra's head coach Kaupo Liiva was disappointed by his team's second-half performance. "The first 30 minutes we did everything as planned and agreed with the players. But then the discipline and rhythm was lost, we made too many simple mistakes and turnovers. The gap became too big and we have to analyze the match to make improvements," commented Liiva.