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News / BHL Newsletter: Latvian and Lithuania leagues first to go on winterbreak
Baltic Handball League
BHL Newsletter: Latvian and Lithuania leagues first to go on winterbreak
New year is fast approaching and our last newsletter of 2018 reports on domestic action from all six countries, represented in Baltic Handball League. Latvian and Lithuanian leagues were the first ones to go on winterbreak, while elsewhere there are still few games to be played this week.
Last week of the year in Latvian championships brought two surprise results, both involving BHL-side Celtnieks Riga. The club currently lying fourth in Group B of BHL, is suffering from major injury worries and on Thursday missed three top players, as international goalkeeper Raitis Purinš and key figures in attack Vladislav Koshman and Arturs Lazdinš were all absent.
Celtnieks ended Tenax's winning run
Based on Latvian youth national team, MSG/LAT-Hertz surprised Celtnieks and took a 37:32 (20:17) win! Two days later it was Celtnieks' turn to shock, as they defeated fellow BHL-club ZRHK Tenax Dobele by 28:25 (12:13) and thus ended champion's 13-match winning run! Rihards Leja scored 8 goals for Celtnieks, while Nils Kreicbergs and Aleksandrs Krastinš were 5 times on target for Tenax.
Title-defender Tenax still went to winterbreak as clear leaders with 26 points. Celtnieks has 21 and SK Latgols 20 points. The top scorer list is led by a non-BHL player with Rolands Ivanovs from Jurmalas Sports having scored impressive 132 goals in 14 games. Kreicbergs is currently third with 111 and Koshman fourth with 104 goals.
On the contrary to their northern neighbours, Lithuanian league's last matches of 2018 brought no surprises. VHC Šviesa Vilnius beat KKSC-RSSG-Grifas Panevežys 35:20 (15:7), as Arturas Švilpa scored 8 goals and Granitas-Karys Kaunas defeated HC Utena 39:26 (20:11) with Paulius Šarkauskas again on form with 13 goals.
Granitas-Karys leads the table with 16 points, but other teams are not far: RK Kauno Ažuolas-KTU Kaunas 13, Šviesa and Dragunas Klaipeda 12 and HC Vilnius 11 points with champion Dragunas having one game in hand. Šarkauskas is the overwhelming leader of the scoring charts with 90 goals, as former BHL-player Vaidas Drevinskas (HC Vilnius) is second with 65 and Karolis Bliuvas (Dragunas) third with 60 goals.
Big matches this week in Estonia, Ukraine and Belarus
In Estonia, there will be the final round before Christmas this week with a huge match between Serviti Põlva and HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper coming up on Tuesday. Last week it was "business as usual" for three BHL teams, who took relatively comfortable wins. Serviti defeated their reserve team Coop Põlva by 35:22 (14:13) as Hendrik Varul scored 8 goals.
Kehra retained their leadership in the league table after a 34:24 (19:12) win over Aruküla/Audentes, as Latvian winger Uvis Strazdinš recorded 10 goals and HC Tallinn beat SK Tapa 32:19 (18:9) with Robin Oberg scoring 9 goals. Viljandi HC had to fight until final seconds to overcome HC Viimsi/Tööriistamarket by 29:28 (13:17), making it four wins out of four for BHL sides. Sergei Rodjukov and Simon Drõgin scored 6 goals for Viljandi.
After losing twice in BHL last weekend, defending champion Cocks Riihimäki took two wins in domestic league, beating Siuntio IF 32:20 (15:9) and Dicken Helsinki 24:19 (16:6). Andre Udd scored 8 in first and Teemu Tamminen 7 in the second match, but it was Cocks' Lithuanian goalkeeper Giedrius Morkunas, who was voted MVP on both occasions.
ZTR Zaporozhye continued preparations for the top-clash against HC Motor Zaporozhye this Wednesday and defeated HC Odessa last week by 28:19 (11:7), although travelling back from BHL weekend they barely made it home in time for the match. Oleksii Ganchev and Oleksandr Tilte were on target 6 times.
Similarly to ZTR, neighbours SKA Minsk have a huge match already this Monday, when they host HC Meshkov Brest in Belarussian league. SKA was shocked last week by Kronon Grodno and had to settle for a 28:28 (15:15) draw, as Mikita Vailupau was SKA's best scorer with 5 goals.
On photo: Paulius Šarkauskas of Granitas-Karys Kaunas is leading the scoring charts in Lithuania, while in BHL he is second best scorer this season. (Photo: HC Tallinn).