The world’s best club hockey competition hits full throttle this weekend as 16 of Europe’s top clubs battle it out for the four tickets on offer to the FINAL4 and the pursuit of the Alain Danet Trophy.
HC Rotterdam looks set to play the perfect host with huge crowds already confirmed with record numbers of pre-sales for Super Saturday and the potential for days to sell out entirely at the 6,500 seater venue.
The action gets underway on Friday, March 30 as English club Holcombe and Spanish side Real Club de Polo open the weekend’s action at 13.15h (CET).
Holcombe are playing in their second EHL campaign, taking up the position vacated by Surbiton as their ambitious team face the Spanish league leaders.
For Polo, star man David Alegre knows his side will need to be at their very best if they are to win through this knock-out tie.
“To play a good game is not enough,” he said. “You have to perform very close to excellence. Now, we will fight in every game. We don’t want to miss out on another opportunity!”
Belgian newcomers Herakles make their debut against Atlètic Terrassa (15.30h) in a battle between two clubs very much built around a family ethos and growing talent from within.
“It means a lot to play in the EHL!” said Herakles Nico de Kerpel “I’m in love with my club but every year when we are watching the EHL, people told me I needed to change club if I ever want to play in it.
“Being able to play it this year with all my best friends and with Herakles is a dream come true. Sharing this with our crowd makes it even better!”
Third on day one are Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles who face Russian champions Dinamo Kazan at 17.45h. Kazan are one of just two clubs to play in every season of the EHL but are still waiting for their first win in the KO16.
Racing have won only once in the KO16 but, on that occasion, went all the way to the FINAL4 and with Tom Boon and Cedric Charlier in their line-up, they have plenty of talent on display.
Day one concludes with a classic rematch between 2016 champions SV Kampong and 2017 winners KTHC Rot Weiss Köln at 20.00h.
They have met for the past two seasons and the winner has each time gone on to win the Alain Danet Trophy. Both are leading their domestic competitions currently, making this a potential ripper of a tie.
“When Kampong plays Cologne, it’s probably the best advertisement for hockey.” Rot Weiss coach Andre Henning said ahead of the event. “We enjoy playing against the best teams in the world, especially in the night session match.
“These matches are always intense but always fair with loads of spectators in the stadium and on the TV. That’s why we play hockey.”
Saturday’s action begins with the return of Ireland’s Three Rock Rovers to the competition after a nine-year absence to face the ROUND1 surprise package Saint Germain at 11.30h.
The Irish side have amazingly already won four trophies in the current season but have a very inexperienced team with just Mitch Darling and Peter Blakeney back from 2008-09.
Saint Germain have a glut of French internationals who helped them win World Cup qualification and they followed up with an epic performance in club colours to beat Club Egara in Barcelona to the KO16 ticket.
It means France will have two clubs in the KO16 for the first time. Straight after that game, Racing Club de France take on Uhlenhorst Mülheim in the next tie at 13.45h.
For RCF, they currently have a perfect record in the French league but are meeting an Uhlenhorst side that beat Rot-Weiss in the German league last weekend and have Timm Herzbruch and Thilo Stralkowski in a strong line-up.
At 16.00h, hosts HC Rotterdam make their entrance in what is sure to be a highlight of the weekend when they face Mannheimer HC. It marks a return to the competition after a four year break for Rotterdam and the event’s all-time top scorer, Jeroen Hertzberger.
“I have missed the EHL; the club has missed the EHL!” he said ahead of the event. “It is the ambition of the club to be at the top of the game, to participate for prizes, not just in our own country but also in Europe.
“It’s never as busy here than at the EHL. The KO16, 16 European top clubs – totally crazy!
“With teams from different countries and different cultures, with a different style of play and thought process, with their own crowd - it is just so much more fun. The charm of the EHL is the four-day hockey party!”
They will have their hands full against a Mannheimer HC team who feature the world’s deadliest drag-flicker Gonzalo Peillat and Olympic gold medalist Lucas Vila.
The KO16 closes out with a battle between EHL royalty with KHC Dragons facing two-time champions HC Bloemendaal at 18.15h in a tie packed with interesting sub-plots.
Bloemendaal have many stars with Jamie Dwyer back in the line-up, Florian Fuchs always a menace and former Dragons player Manu Stockbroekx.
Stockbroekx likened the tie to a cup final in the lead-up to the game. Dragons, meanwhile, have the world’s best player for 2017 – Arthur van Doren – at the base of their defence but he will move to Bloemendaal next season.
Working with Florent van Aubel, Loic van Doren and Felix Denayer, they have an excellent line-up, too, and are looking to add to their collection of EHL medals.
The winners of each of the KO16 games go into KO8 knock-out games on Sunday and Monday while the losers will play in ranking matches early on both of those days, too.
Always an event for innovation, this season, the Euro Hockey League is currently trialing a new scoring system.
The new scoring system will follow along the same lines at the Hockey India League with field goals and a penalty stroke goal that did not result from a penalty corner earning two goals. Every penalty corner and every goal from a penalty stroke that came about from a penalty corner will earn one goal.
The aim is to promote and reward free-flowing, attacking hockey and produce more beautiful field goals.
It adds an extra layer to the world’s best club hockey competition and we hope you will join us for the latest thrilling knock-out weekend!
Find out where you can watch the event at the following link:
Visiting the EHL along with thousands of others? Here are all the details:
Read about the changes here: http://ehlhockey.tv/news/ehl-trial-new-scoring-system-201718-season/
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Event website: http://ehlhockey.tv/