The new season of BHL starts on Saturday, the 21st of September with eight teams to compete from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Belarus. Minsk SKA will defend the title that was won last year in the final with Riihimäki Cocks.
Taking in consideration that Minsk SKA, the team from Belarussia, only lost one game last year and the addition of two new Belarussian teams HC Meshkov Brest and HC Vitjaz it is a real possibility that the Baltic league may be dominated by the huge belarussian force. Before last year Belarussian teams had been away from the Baltic League for three years and now their enthusiasm has grown even bigger. This years newcomers Brest have already played in BHL before four years ago gaining fourth position, while Vitjaz are debutantes.
Fighting for a place in the final 4 tournament are also two Estonian teams Põlva Serviti and HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper, Riihimäki Cocks from Finland and Lithuanian Klaipeda Dragunas. The absolute outsider of this group seems to be Latvia’s Riia Celtnieks/LSPA who was left without a single point last year and probably havent improved enough this year to be real contenders in the league.
Coach of Põlva Serviti, who just recently lost their European Cup game to Bergens team and the coach of Kehra, Jüri Lepp, said almost identical sentences about the upcoming season:” The goal is to get to the Final 4, but it is going to be hard, as there are strong Belarussian teams, Riihimäki Cocks, who has many newcomers and ofcourse the always strong at home Dragunas.”
Finlands Riihimäki Cocks has high hopes for the season, as they have strengthened their already strong team, who came second last year, with new additions like Estonian national goalkeeper Marius Aleksejev, Estonian leagues last years top scorer Kristo Voika. With these and other additions Riihimäki are certainly hungry to go one place better this year.
The director of Baltic League Urmo Sitsi: The prospect of ten teams that we had in the summer is now come down to eight with the help of the Belarus teams. In the future the ideal number would be 16-20 teams but expanding geographically is not in our plan. The main agenda at this moment is to increase the number of Baltic clubs and make them more interested.“
Timetable of the first round:
21.09. (kell 14.00, Klaipeda): Klaipeda Dragunas – Minski SKA
21.09. (kell 16.00, Riia): Riia Celtnieks/LSPA – Riihimäki Cocks
21.09. (kell 16.00, Minsk): Minski Vitjaz – Bresti Meškov
21.09. (kell 18.00, Põlva): Põlva Serviti – HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper
22.09. (kell 14.00, Klaipeda): Klaipeda Dragunas – Bresti Meškov
22.09. (kell 15.00, Minsk): Minski Vitjaz – Minski SKA
22.09. (kell 16.00, Põlva): Põlva Serviti – Riihimäki Cocks
22.09. (kell 16.30, Riia): Riia Celtnieks/LSPA – HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper
The final sequence of the season 2012/2013: 1. Minsk SKA, 2. Riihimäki Cocks, 3. Põlva Serviti, 4. HC Kehra/Pulp&Paper, 5. Kaunase Granitas-Gaja-Karys, 6. Klaipeda Dragunas, 7. Dobele Tenax, 8. Riia HK LSPA/NB-SAN.
Source: Baltic Handball League press release and ww.baltichandball.net