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News / Tallinn and Cocks coming to BHL weekend as domestic cup winners

Baltic Handball League

2018.12.07 11:35

Tallinn and Cocks coming to BHL weekend as domestic cup winners

The last BHL weekend of the 2018 is ahead of us and most teams seem to approach it in a very good form. Almost all twelve teams had some positive results in domestic matches before this weekend, but two BHL clubs celebrated with a trophy, as HC Tallinn and Cocks Riihimäki claimed Estonian and Finnish Cup accordingly.

If for Cocks the cup win was almost a routine, then for HC Tallinn the success last weekend was first major trophy for the young club. And it did not come easily, as they had to eliminate fellow BHL-team Viljandi HC in the semi-finals and then beat cup-holder and last season's BHL runner-up Serviti Põlva in the final.

Jüri Lepp: positive emotions from the cup win

In the decisive match, Tallinn turned the game to their favour with excellent defending and using counter-attacks, winning 26:23 (Uku-Tanel Laast 6 goals). "For many of our boys this was the first trophy and I am very proud of them. This was one of the most memorable cup wins for me," said experienced and decorated Tallinn's head coach Jüri Lepp.

Tallinn will now face two Lithuanian opponents over the weekend. They will play high-flying VHC Šviesa Vilnius for the first time on Saturday, as the following day will host Granitas-Karys Kaunas, to whom Tallinn lost twice last season. "Obviously there is some tiredness in the team after the tough cup weekend," commented Lepp.

"Granitas is a team with big traditions and I know the club already from Soviet times. Lithuanian handball has always been known for their very spirited defence and excellent fighting spirit. Today's Granitas and Šviesa are no different – one is leading in the domestic league and the other advanced to the last 16 of EHF Challenge Cup," said Lepp.

"We have had few days of recovering trainings and will concentrate on the weekend's games. It's not going to be easy of course, but we hope to keep the good work going and I am sure, the positive emotions from a cup win will also help us. If we play at our best level, we can get good results and add some points to the table," believes Tallinn's head coach.

Granitas-Karys in good form despite injuries

Two Tallinn's opponents will also visit Viljandi during their trip to Estonia and Viljandi HC is not having the best of times. They only managed a draw in the league against SK Tapa, few days later lost to Tallinn and then suffered a 30:29 (Sergei Rodjukov 7) defeat in the hands of second division side Põlva/Arcwood in the bronze-medal match of the Estonian Cup.

Lithuanian sides had a busy week ahead of the BHL matches, playing two legs of the domestic cup quarter-finals, plus having a league match on Wednesday. Unbeaten and leading in Group B of BHL, Šviesa advanced in the cup by beating Kauno ažuolas-KTU over two legs by just two goals, but then came from behind in the second half and beat Dragunas Klaipeda in the league by 31:27 (Karolis Antanavičius 9).

Granitas-Karys lost the opening leg in the cup to Varsa-Stronglasas Alytus, but beat their opponent in the second match by 32:21 (Tadas Bučinskas 13) and secured their lead in the Lithuanian league by taking a 39:31 win (Paulius Šarkauskas 12) over KKSC-RSSG-Grifas Panevežys.

"It's quite busy times for us and not easy, as we have several players out injured and with generally thin line-up, this hits us hard," said Valdemaras Novickis, the head coach of Granitas-Karys. "And despite this we are leading in the league, so obviously we are doing something right."

Olympic champion from 1988 still assured Granitas will fight for the points. "We have two very important matches in Estonia and we need points, so despite the set-back we are going to give a good fight. We are analyzing our opponents from videos, as they play different handball than in Lithuania, so we need to be prepared," added Novickis.

Cocks turning attention to BHL after Champions League success

Title-holder Cocks has only played one BHL-game this season, having been busy elsewhere. After their brilliant 27:26 win (Nico Rönnberg 8) in their last EHF Champions League match over Orlen Wisla Plock, Cocks took the Finnish Cup with a 30:20 win (Rönnberg and Teemu Tamminen 8) over Helsingi IFK and defeated Åbo IFK in the league by 40:25 (Tamminen 9).

"We have had a great autumn. First time in Champions League and I guess we did not do too badly. Six points and some very good matches, even when losing, I don't think many expected this from us," commented Cocks' head coach Gintaras Savukynas. "Now it's time to turn our attention to next challenges."

Cocks usually meets this weekend's opponents in the Final Four. Their only encounter to date with ZTR Zaporozhye was in the 2016/17 season's final, when Finns took a 20:18 win. Cocks also has a good record against SKA Minsk in recent years, having defeated the Belarussian side in the final of 2016 and semi-finals of the last two seasons.

"Two tough opponents, who we know quite well, having played them in Final Fours recently. But we are playing at home, which is always special and despite being perhaps a little tired, we are taking it very seriously. Lucky for us, we have a full squad available, including Oleksandr Kyrylenko, who has returned recently," added Savukynas.

Latvian-derby in Group B on Saturday

It has been relatively easy preparation for the BHL weekend for ZTR and SKA, taking comfortable domestic league wins. On Wednesday, ZTR beat Donbass Mariupol 34:23 (Oleksandr Tilte 9) in Ukrainian and SKA destroyed the Under-18 national team by 40:16 (Mikalai Aliokhin 8) in Belarussian championship.

Another side hosting these two teams over the weekend is HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper, who is currently undefeated leader of the Estonian league. Kehra already played ZTR exactly a month ago and lost 33:22. Against SKA, the history goes way back, but last time the two teams met was in 2016/17 – both teams winning once with a similar score of 31:27.

On Saturday, BHL will also witness a Latvian-derby in Group B between Celtnieks Riga and ZRHK Tenax Dobele – something that has not happened since the Baltic Challenge League season in 2014/15. The two teams met in October, when a 40:34 win went for Tenax, who is currently leading Latvian league with 26 points with Celtnieks on 19 points.

Two sides, whose last domestic match ended in a defeat will have a very important Group A match in Põlva. After losing the Estonian Cup final, Serviti is hosting Dragunas, who suffered a league defeat on Wednesday in the hands of Šviesa by 31:27 (Karolis Bliuvas 10). Old-timers of BHL, the teams have not met since 2015/16 season's quarter-finals, where a 27:27 draw in Klaipeda was followed by Serviti's 28:25 home win.

On photo: HC Tallinn celebrated the first trophy success, claiming the Estonian Cup last weekend. (Photo: Helin Potter).