Article courtesy of European Hockey Federation
For this year, the annual Euro Hockey League KO16 event has been combined with the FINAL4 as part of the rejigged international calendar following the Pro League’s introduction.
It means a high octane week of action, starting on Wednesday, April 17 in Eindhoven in the south of the Netherlands.
Two years ago, the venue brought together 20,000 fans to the city with the venue sold out each time Oranje-Rood took the field. This time, the stands have been expanded to hold up to 6,000 people while all the action will be streamed around the world on www.eurohockeytv.org.
The hosts will be looking to light up day one of the competition when Oranje-Rood play the evening game against German national champions Uhlenhorst Mulheim (19.30 CET).
The Eindhoven club is a cosmopolitan line-up with internationals from several different countries. Six of the panel are involved with the current Dutch selection with drag-flicker supreme Mink van der Weerden leading the line.
Bob de Voogd will hope to sign off his spell with the club with another EHL gold having scored the winning shoot-out in 2015 when the club was known as Oranje-Zwart. He will move to Braxgata next season.
Belgian World Cup winner Thomas Briels, Pakistani duo Rashid Mehmood and Muhammad Rizwan Jr, former World Player of the Year Robert van der Horst, rangy defender Joep de Mol, Argentina striker Lucas Martinez and the gloriously skillful Benjamin Stanzl from Austria make up a side packed with ability.
Mulheim, though, will be no pushover and they come into the competition as the leaders of the Bundesliga after two big wins in Hamburg against UHC and Harvestehuder THC last weekend.
Thilo Stralkowski retired at the end of last season, meaning additional responsibility for the brilliant Timm Herzbruch (with 26 league goals this season), Benedikt Furk and Lukas Windfeder along with a series of German Under-21 graduates.
The tie gives huge potential for fireworks while the winner will have a potential KO8 match in the pipeline against either Russian champions Dinamo Kazan and another German side Mannheimer HC (12.45 CET) in the first game of the carnival.
Kazan are one of just two sides to have played in all 12 seasons of the EHL alongside Poland’s WKS Grunwald Poznan. They already have a European ticket in the bank for next next term courtesy of their Russian league win last October.
The downside is they have yet to play outdoors in 2019 as they wait for the big thaw for their national championship to start on May 12. In addition to six Russian internationals, they will field a trio from Pakistan with Ali Shan and Abu Baker signing, linking up with Hassan Anwar.
They will hope not to be too under-cooked for the challenge of Mannheim and repelling Gonzalo Peillat’s penalty corner bullets. The German club returned to form with a 6-1 win over Dusseldorf last weekend after some mixed results since the end of their winter break.
In the other section of this half of the draw, KHC Dragons face Three Rock Rovers (15.00 CET) in a rematch of last year’s bizarre 20-10 classification match in Rotterdam. The scoreline probably played a big part in the EHL calling time on the two-for-one field goal trial.
Dragons had struggled to find form for much of the season after nine players moved on last summer with another nine coming in. The likes of Arthur van Doren, Loic van Doren, Alexander Hendrickx, Victor Wegnez and Nico Poncelet were hard to adjust to but they returned to their best in true fashion last Sunday with a 4-1 win over top seeded Waterloo Ducks in the national quarter-finals.
Waiting for these two in the next phase are either Waterloo Ducks or Surbiton (17.15 CET), both back in the EHL for the first time since the KO16 event in Eindhoven in 2014.
The Ducks were the outstanding side in the Belgian regular season before they were abruptly upset by Dragons last Sunday. John-John Dohmen, Gauthier Boccard, Simon Gougnard and Vincent Vanasch and their team mates will be hoping to respond in style.
Surbiton, meanwhile, look forward to their second EHL campaign with an extra relish having withdrawn from last year’s competition due to a player-clash with a large number selected for the Commonwealth Games.
Scotland’s Alan Forsyth is their star man having top scored in England for the last four seasons; they will also be smarting after an English final loss to Hampstead & Westminster having topped the league stages.
On day two of the KO16 on Thursday, April 18, Saint Germain face a fiery rematch against Club Egara (12.45 CET). It is a game with plenty of history with the French champs winning the last meeting in Barcelona 6-4 courtesy of a late stroke.
Egara, though, look to be in better form than 18 months ago with Vincenc Ruiz, Josep Romeu and EHL legend Pau Quemada the leading lights.
Their quarter of the draw will lead into a game with either Royal Leopold and Real Club de Polo (15.00 CET). Polo are hoping they can give long-term coach Carlos Garcia Cuenca the perfect send-off with a run to the FINAL4 before he steps down with Roger Pallarols coming in next season.
Xavi Lleonart has returned to the club this year having been player of the match in the EHL GRAND FINAL last year while Roc Oliva is a crucial addition.
Leo, though, will be hard beaten with lots of talented players like Tom Degroote, Tanguy Zimmer, Dorian Thiery, New Zealand’s Kane Russell and French players Gaspard Baumgarten, Aristide Coisne and Jean-Baptiste Forgues.
Scottish newcomers Grove Menzieshill have a huge task on their hands for an EHL debut when they take on Dutch runners-up AH&BC Amsterdam (17.15 CET).
Amsterdam’s form has improved in recent weeks after coach Graham Reid stepped down in favour of the Indian top job with Jan Jorn van’t Land taking over. Superstars like Billy Bakker, Valentin Verga, Justin Reid-Ross and Fergus Kavanagh make for an eye-catching outfit.
The KO16 draws to a close with a classic meeting of SV Kampong – winners in 2016 – and 2017 champs Rot-Weiss Koln (19.30 CET). It is their fourth meeting in successive seasons in the knock-out stages, each one a classic with the Dutch club shading it 2-1 so far.
Both sit second in their respective divisions and the cast list is truly immaculate – David Harte, Robbert Kemperman, Bjorn Kellerman, Sander de Wijn, Lars Balk, Mats and Tom Grambusch, Marco Miltkau, Timur Oruz and Christopher Ruhr among them.
For the KO16 winners, they play in the KO8 on Saturday, the losers into a Friday classification matches. It rises to a climax with the FINAL4 on Sunday and the medal matches on Easter Monday where the 12th winner of the famous Alain Danet Trophy will be crowned.
EHL 2018-2019 Match schedule KO16-FINAL4
17-22 April 2019 at HC Oranje-Rood, Eindhoven (NED)
Wednesday 17 April 2019
M1 12.45h KO16 Dinamo Kazan vs Mannheimer HC
M2 15.00h KO16 KHC Dragons vs Three Rock Rovers
M3 17.15h KO16 Waterloo Ducks vs Surbiton HC
M4 19.30h KO16 HC Oranje-Rood vs Uhlenhorst Mülheim
Thursday 18 April 2019
M5 12.45h KO16 Saint Germain HC vs Club Egara
M6 15.00h KO16 Royal Leopold HC vs Real Club de Polo
M7 17.15h KO16 AH&BC Amsterdam vs Grove Menzieshill
M8 19.30h KO16 SV Kampong vs Rot Weiss Koln
Friday 19 April 2019
M9 12.45h Ranking match Loser M2 vs Loser M3
M10 15.00h Ranking match Loser M1 vs Loser M4
M11 17.15h Ranking match Loser M5 vs Loser M6
M12 19.30h Ranking match Loser M7 vs Loser M8
Saturday 20 April 2019
M13 09.30h KO8
M14 11.45h KO8
M15 14.00h KO8
M16 16.15h KO8
Sunday 21 April 2019
M17 13.00h FINAL4 Semi-Final 1
M18 15.15h FINAL4 Semi-Final 2
Monday 22 April 2019
M19 13.00h BRONZE MEDAL MATCH
M20 15.15h GRAND FINAL
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Event website: http://ehlhockey.tv/