(Photo: © EHL / Frank Uijlenbroek)

Following the completion of Round 1.1 in Eindhoven just less than two weeks ago, the second Euro Hockey League tournament of the season gets underway this Friday at Can Salas, the picturesque home venue of the Spanish champions Atlétic Terrassa Hockey Club.

Eight teams have already confirmed for their place in the knockout stages of the competition, with Pool winners Club de Campo (ESP), KHC Dragon (BEL), HGC (NED) and Oranje Zwart being joined in the last 16 by runners up Rot-Weiss Köln (GER), Pembroke Wanderers (IRL), HC Dinamo Kazan and reigning Champions UHC Hamburg. This weekend, the remaining eight places at Easter’s hugely entertaining KO16 event will be decided, with twelve teams taking to the field in Terrassa in a bid to keep their Euro Hockey League dream alive.

This weekend will witness many superstars of the game in action, including HC Bloemendaal duo Teun de Nooijer (FIH Player of the Year 2003, 2005 and 2006) and Jamie Dwyer (FIH Player of the Year 2004, 2007 & 2009). Current FIH young Player of the Year Ashley Jackson will be keen to make his mark with England’s East Grinstead, while Germany’s Mannheimer will be showing off new star signing Matthias Witthaus in their first ever Euro Hockey League matches. Spanish will be represented in the tournament by two teams, with Pau Quemada’s Real Club de Polo de Barcelona competing alongside home favourites Atlétic Terrassa in a bid to reach the knock-out stages.  More information about the participating teams and players can be found below. 

The players and organisers at Atlétic Terrassa Hockey Club are greatly looking forward to this weekend’s tournament, which will be the first major international event to be held at the venue since the FIH Champions Trophy (Men) in 2006. “We are very excited to host the Euro Hockey League in Can Salas because our fans will have the possibility to see the best Europe hockey and have fun with it”, said Atlétic Terrassa and Spain star Sergi Enrique. Fellow Spanish international Miki Delàs also added his thoughts, saying: “With the support of our fans we will go very far in the EHL. The players will give our best efforts in the competition, but the fans are the true power of the team. If 'the Cathedral' beats, the rival kneels”.

Many of the matches from the tournament will be broadcasted live by Eurosport 2, with the Euro Hockey League’s Live Stream providing coverage of all games from Terrassa. More information about the teams competing this weekend can be found below, with further information about the Euro Hockey League being available on www.ehlhockey.tv.  Tickets for the event are still available. For more information, click here.

 

Pool A: HC Bloemendaal (NED) / Reading HC (ENG) / SC Stroitel Brest (BLR)
Dutch championship winners HC Bloemendaal are without question one of the most dangerous teams in the Euro Hockey League.  The 2008-2009 EHL champions are lead by Teun de Nooijer and Jamie Dwyer, both of whom are three time winners of the FIH Player of the Year award and considered to be among the finest players to ever grace a hockey field. These two superstars of the world game are ably assisted by Dutch international players Ronald Brouwer, Nick Meijer, Wouter Jolie, Laurence Docherty and goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann. Bloemendaal’s exciting brand of attacking hockey will ensure that they will be one of the teams to beat during this season’s competition.

It has been seven years since Reading HC won the old EuroHockey Club Champions Cup, and statistic that they will be keen to rectify this season. Despite an uncharacteristically slow start in the English National League, there are some who believe that Reading have the weapons to go a long way in the 2010-2011 Edition of the Euro Hockey League. Four of their star players have been on international duty with England at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, with Jonty Clarke, Ian Mackay and the Mantell Brothers Richard and Simon arriving back just in time to give their club side the best possible chance of qualifying for Easter’s KO16 event.

The steady progression of Belarus up the Euro Hockey League Ranking Table finally bore fruit earlier this year, securing a position in the world’s finest club tournament for SC Stroitel Brest. The current champions of Belarus will make history this weekend by becoming the first ever Belarusian side to play in the EHL. Founded as recently as 1988, the club competed in tournaments within the old Soviet Union between 1989 and 1992. Following the formation of the Belarus Championship in 1993, Stroitel have won the title with regularity, but will need to be at their very best if they are to qualify for KO16 ahead of either HC Bloemendaal (NED) or Reading HC (ENG).

Pool C: Atletic Terrassa HC (ESP) / Beeston (ENG) / CA Montrouge (FRA)
Although legendary defender Xavi Ribas has finally hung up his stick, there is still a great deal of expectation surrounding Round 1.2 hosts Atlétic Terrassa ahead of the 2010-2011 Edition of the EHL. Last season, the team showed moments of brilliance which suggested they were capable of going all the way in the competition, only to be defeated in the Quarter Final stages by a mesmerizing performance from H.C. Rotterdam. However, after collecting a record 18th Spanish Championship in June, Atlétic will begin this campaign full of confidence. Spanish international Sergi Enrique is a hugely important defensive player for the team, while Roc Oliva and Inyaki Freixa are industrious and unpredictable strikers capable of creating goals out of nothing. 

Two wins from their opening two games of last year’s EHL saw England’s Beeston HC top their Pool ahead of 2008-09 Semi Finalists KHC Leuven and St Germain, impressing everyone who watched them. Sadly though, their luck ran out when they faced Leuven for a second time, with the Belgians running out as comfortable winners. This time around, the Bees will be aiming to build on the confidence gained from a second place finish in the England Hockey League. England international George Pinner is a wonderful goalkeeper who likes to entertain the crowds, while fellow internationals Adam Dixon, Ali Wilson and player coach Martin Jones are all capable of unlocking opposition defences with their outstanding stick skills. 

For the second successive season, CA Montrouge have been drawn against Spanish and English opponents in the first round of the Euro Hockey League. Last season, Atlétic Terrassa and Reading HC recorded victories over the current French champions to force them out of the tournament. Once again, Montrouge must face Atlétic, and will be aiming for a revenge win over the host club after their match against England’s Beeston HC. CA Montrouge is an extremely athletic team that is not short of flair. Skillful France international Mattieu Durchon is the team’s superstar, being a player who is capable of scoring goals from midfield as well as providing a great number of assists.


Pool D: East Grinstead HC (ENG) / RC de Polo de Barcelona (ESP) / Kelburne HC (SCO)
East Grinstead
burst onto the EHL scene in the 2008-2009 season, where a number of superb performances saw them reach the Quarter Final stages only to be narrowly defeated by eventual champions HC Bloemendaal. Despite last year’s second round defeat at the hands of Amsterdam H&BC, the English champions will feel that this could be their season. The squad has been boosted by the return of striker and penalty corner star Ashley Jackson, the 2009 FIH Young Player of the Year, who joins forces with fellow England and Great Britain international Glenn Kirkham. Veteran GB Olympians Danny Hall and player coach Mark Pearn provide even more strength to a squad capable of achieving great things in this year’s competition.

Following last season’s stunning surge to the Euro Hockey League Semi Finals, Real Club de Polo de Barcelona will be aiming to go at least one stage further this time around. The club has retained the services of Spanish international Pau Quemada, a man who is now recognized as one of the most feared strikers on the planet thanks to his goal threat from penalty corners and open play. However, the team has lost Germany forward Matthias Witthaus to Mannheimer, while coach Jorge Dabanch has also moved on to new pastures by taking charge of Dutch side HGC. Despite these blows, RC Polo still has a squad of players that would be the envy of most other teams, with Alex Fabregas and Gabriel Dabanch being just two of many players well worth watching.  

Kelburne HC are without doubt the dominant force in Scottish hockey, having won a sixth successive league title last season to continue their record of qualifying for every Edition of the Euro Hockey League. The squad contains no less than nine players who represented Scotland at the recent Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India. The club’s renowned youth system has produced some superb talent in recent years, with youngsters Kenny Bain and Gordon McIntyre being two of their finest examples. Both are extremely dangerous and unpredictable players capable of firing their side into the last 16 of the competition. 


Pool G: WKS Grunwald Poznan (POL) / Mannheimer HC (GER) / Glenanne HC (IRL)
Mighty Polish outfit WKS Grunwald Poznan have taken part in every edition of the Euro Hockey League to date, and always prove themselves to be a tough side to play against. Last season they almost stunned eventual champions UHC Hamburg in the group phase, fighting back from 3-0 down to 3-2 before hitting the frame of the goal in the dying minutes. Eventually they were knocked out by this year’s Round 1.2 hosts Atlétic Terrassa, but return with a strong team for another crack at the EHL. Marcin Strykowski is a prolific goal-scorer who netted 64 times in the Polish league last season, whilst Poland captain Tomasz Dutkiewicz is an outstanding defender who is also a serious threat from attacking penalty corners.

Mannheimer sneaked into this season’s Euro Hockey League by virtue of finishing third in Germany’s national hockey championships, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that this team is not capable of challenging for the silverware. Last season’s impressive team, lead by Torsten Althoff (head coach)and former Australia striker Michael McCann (co-trainer) improved their squad by signing dazzling Germany forward Matthias Witthaus, although their audacious bid to sign three time FIH Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer from HC Bloemendaal fell at the last hurdle. Despite this, you can be sure that Mannheimer will be a force to be reckoned with during this season’s EHL.

Ireland’s Glenanne are back for a second season in the Euro Hockey League thanks to a second place finish in the Irish Hockey League. Last season the team fell to defeats against eventual winners UHC Hamburg and WKS Grunwald Poznan, forcing them out in Round 1.1. Glenanne will once again face German and Polish opposition, with Mannheimer and Grunwald likely to provide stern tests in Pool G. The team will have to cope without the goal scoring power of Ireland legend Stephen Butler, who has joined EHL rivals KHC Dragons of Belgium, but the team has retained of former international captain Graham Shaw, who continues in the role of player-coach.