November 23, 2020
With national team week in early November and the virus raging around Europe, Baltic Handball League has been on pause for a month. Luckily, handball has not completely stopped and it is a good time to look how BHL clubs are doing in domestic and European competitions.
Five BHL clubs entered this year’s reformed European scene. All of them registered for the new EHF European Cup, which replaced the previous EHF Challenge Cup. In the circumstances it is difficult to call it a success, but it is a fact that unprecedented three teams have qualified for the third round. Though, all of them without playing a single game.
Three BHL teams advanced for EHF European Cup third round
Estonian champion Serviti Põlva was supposed to play Norwegian side Kolstad Handball in the second round, but EHF cancelled the games and Serviti advanced to the next stage. Exactly the same happened to Latvian champion ZRHK Tenax Dobele and Granitas-Karys Kaunas.
Tenax’s potential opponent was Helsingi IFK, but the Finnish club decided to withdraw due to travelling and organisational problems. Granitas-Karys was supposed to play against UMF Afturelding from Iceland, but as in Serviti’s case, EHF decided in favour of the Lithuanians. So Serviti, Tenax and Granitas-Karys are in third round of the EHF European Cup.
Two teams did play in the second round and unfortunately were eliminated. VHC Šviesa Vilnius travelled to Sweden and played both matches away against Ystads IF. Lithuanian side lost the first one 36:33 and two days later the “home” match 36:29.
Dragunas Klaipeda had a very familiar team against them, as the four-time BHL winner Cocks Riihimäki was drawn against Lithuanian champion. Last year’s EHF Champions League participant eliminated Dragunas by winning 33:24 at home and 39:26 in Klaipeda.
Bučinskas, Patcykailik and Koks top the scoring charts
Lithuanian league returned last week after over a month’s break. While Dragunas was playing European matches, the other three BHL teams added victories. If Šviesa and Granitas-Karys took them comfortably, Varsa-Stronglasas Alytus had to fight hard to beat HC Vilnius 29:28.
Top four of the Lithuanian championship is currently filled with four BHL clubs. All have played seven matches and unbeaten Šviesa is leading with 13 points. Varsa-Stronglasas has 11, Dragunas ten and Granitas-Karys six points. League’s top scorer also comes from BHL, as Granitas-Karys’ centre-back Tadas Bučinskas has scored 49 goals.
In Latvia, no league matches were played in November. Tenax continues unbeaten, having won all nine games. Celtnieks Riga has just one defeat from nine matches, but the other two BHL sides are in fifth and sixth position at the moment. Both SK Latgols Ludza and HK Ogre have managed to grab only three points. Top scorer of the Latvian league is Celtnieks’ right wing Aliaksandr Patcykailik with impressive 86 goals.
Estonian league saw two BHL clubs meeting, as Serviti Põlva continues unbeaten. The title-defender beat Viljandi HC away on Sunday 28:16. HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper suffered a first home defeat against domestic opposition in 20 games, as Tallinn was better on Friday 30:25.
Serviti leads with 14 points from seven games, followed by Kehra and Viljandi with eight. SK Tapa/N.R. Energy is currently fourth with four points. Estonian league has by far the youngest scoring leader from the three Baltic States, as 16-year-old Hendrik Koks from Viljandi is on top of the list having recorded 42 goals.
On photo: Tadas Bučinskas from Granitas-Karys Kaunas is on top of Lithuanian league’s scoring charts, while also placed in Top 6 in BHL. (Photo: Granitas-Karys).