It was a hectic week for Baltic Handball League with some big decisions coming from the Board, matches planned, matches cancelled and eventually two games played. HC Dragunas Klaipeda and VHC Šviesa Vilnius overpowered their Estonian opposition and almost secured the places in the Final Four.
As time is running out and Latvian championship has only just resumed after a five-month break, the BHL Board decided to award all games against Estonian and Lithuanian opponents against the Latvian teams by 10:0. The decision changed league table dramatically with all four Latvian participants dropping to the bottom of the standings.
Dragunas too strong for youthful Tapa
“It was obviously not clubs’ fault with the worldwide pandemic out there, so it would not have been fair to exclude them. But we had to make a decision as there is only few weeks remaining to finish the regular season. Latvians will still play the matches left between each other,” commented BHL manager Urmo Sitsi.
In the meantime, the matches resumed on Saturday. Second-placed HC Dragunas Klaipeda hosted SK Tapa/N.R. Energy in the opening game with the visitors bringing a very youthful squad to Lithuania. The Estonian youngsters were not very respectful against the favourites and started brightly.
It was an even start until Mykolas Lapiniauskas made it 8:5 to the hosts and Danylo Hlushak scored 11:8 in the 18th minute. But Tapa fought back, as Markus Roosipuu cut the deficit to a minimal by 25th minute – 12:11. However, it was Tapa’s last goal in the first half, as Dragunas run away and took 17:11 half-time lead.
Second half belonged already more comfortably to Lithuanians, extending the gap to ten goals. Still, Tapa put up a fight and Ilja Kosmirak’s goal made it 24:17. But Dragunas produced a strong finish, winning 35:21. Lukas Juškenas scored five goals for the winners, as Kosmirak recorded six for the visitors.
Šviesa remains on course to win the regular season
For the second match, Viljandi HC welcomed VHC Šviesa Vilnius, to whom they had lost away 28:20 just three weeks ago. The hosts suffered a big loss already before the game, as Estonian international goalkeeper Rasmus Ots was forced into quarantine and thus 16-year-old Kaidar Keres played the full 60 minutes in goal.
Both teams started with excellent defence and goals mainly came from quick counter-attacks. The visitors took a 7:4 lead through Valdas Drabavičius in the 15th minute. Slowly, but surely Viljandi came back and Mihkel Lõpp equalized to 11:11 nine minutes later.
Estonians could not get their nose ahead and the last draw came after Sten Maasalu’s goal in the 37th minute, when the right-back made it 16:16. Šviesa pulled away, as Rosvaldas Ramunis scored 21:18 and Šarunas Ugianskis 24:20 with nine minutes left.
The visitors came close again with Aleksander Pertelson scoring 25:23, but could not withstand some powerful long range shooting. Šviesa claimed their 15th win of the season by 29:25. Drabavičius was on target seven times, while Maasalu and Hendrik Koks scored five goals for Viljandi.
Serviti Põlva remains on top of the BHL standing with 33 points, but Dragunas and Šviesa are following with 31, as the latter has two games in hand. The fight for the fourth spot in Final Four will be fierce, as Varsa-Stronglasas Alytus currently has 25, Granitas-Karys Kaunas 24, HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper and Viljandi HC 22 points.
On photo: HC Dragunas Klaipeda was too strong for youthful SK Tapa/N.R. Energy. (Photo: HC Dragunas).