Mannheimer HC coach Michael McCann is hoping his side can emulate or improve on last season’s run to EHL BRONZE, a result he described as “an amazing result and experience for all the team, staff and club”.
They start their campaign on Friday morning (11.15am CET) with a battle against CA Montrouge, the French side back in the competition after seven years away.
Incredibly, the German club have never yet been beaten in normal time in 13 games and four EHL campaigns, only losing via shoot-outs. It meant they were denied a GRAND FINAL spot last Easter in Eindhoven by the Waterloo Ducks after a 1-1 draw.
For some, that might leave a bittersweet taste but the coach says it was “the biggest European result for the club in its history (behind our European Indoor Title in 2011) and something that is still spoken about very highly with in the team and club leading up to our next challenge in Barcelona.
“There is not much more we could have done in our preparation vs Waterloo last year and nothing more that we could have asked of our players. I personally look back on last year’s EHL with great memories and hope that we can use the experience from there to assist in qualifying for the Finals in Easter next year.”
They have a star-studded squad once again with Pat Harris, Danny Nguyen, Teo Hinrichs and Lucas Vila all in the mix while the awesome Gonzalo Peillat gives them a razor-sharp threat.
The Olympic gold medalist also looks back on the BRONZE as a massive moment in his career but is already ambitious for more silverware: “I think what he did last year was great. It was the first team for MHC to earn the bronze medal.
“But we cannot live of memories. It must be something that pushes us to the next step and surpass ourselves more and more. This is something this team will try to achieve this season. We know that it is going to be more difficult and a lot of effort but it is the new challenge for this team.”
Sometimes, even Gonzalo Peillat doesn't believe how hard he can flick a ball!
See him and his Mannheimer Hockeyclub team mates at the #EHLKO16 in Barcelona from October 4-6, 2019!
— Euro Hockey League (@EHLHockeyTV) September 8, 2019
Another man who sets the tone for Mannheim is diminutive Guido Barreiros, a passionate performer who has been making his presence felt with the club for nine years now. He previously played with FC Barcelona where he met Chrissi Münz who, along with McCann helped convince him to switch to German where he found a new home.
“Münzi , Mike and the club made it very clear that MHC had big plans for the future,” he said. “They want to get better and better, win the Bundesliga and also become stronger in European League; that plan got me in!
“I didn’t know much about the league but I trusted what they told me and, after a short time, I just loved it. I found in MHC something that I had in San Fernando [in Argentina] and is not easy to find: we are a team and a club that is a family all at the same time. That’s probably the biggest reason for me to have been here for so long.”
He now combines his hockey with his passion for yoga and meditation, something which he has practiced for four years now, crediting it with preventing injury and relieving stress.
“Last year, I went to Rishikesh, India study yoga for a few months and I became a Yoga teacher. Since then, I have done it as a job in the off-season, working in retreats or seminars like in Donin, Japan, where I give Asana classes and talks about mindful eating and consciousness.
“This really helped me; I love to share with people and spread it all over. I practice daily yoga, meditation and breathing techniques along with a full vegan diet.”
Barreiros has an inside line on their opponents as his brother, Ramiro, plays in France.
“He told me that they are a young and strong team with many French Under-21 players; it will be a hard game. We face this one as every game in the EHL, focus on our hockey and work step by step minute by minute. This competition is very challenging and we know it.”
Coach McCann says the side is currently coping with a number of injuries, meaning he has been calling on a number of the club’s rising youth players in the early weeks of the season. And he is looking forward to see how they cope with the EHL demands.
“We have played the first five matches in Bundesliga without five or six of our starting 11 players and will have to deal with this situation in the EHL as well,” the coach said. “The positive thing has been is we have had the opportunity to develop many of our players that might not have had the opportunities without the injuries.
“In Montrouge, we are excited to be playing a team that we do not know too much about. In these matches, it’s important that we concentrate mainly on ourselves and ensure that we bring the best performance that we can.
“We are expecting a team with a lot of individual quality who is not afraid to play against the top teams in Europe as they will have nothing to lose. They should come into the tournament with lots of confidence on the back of a very successful 2018-19 season.”
Peillat agrees, adding that meeting new opponents is part of the beauty of the competition, especially with the move to a straight knock-out format.
“It is the greatest thing of the EHL, to have the opportunity to play against different teams from around Europe. CA Montrouge is a great team and physically really strong. You cannot have a bad day.
“It is important to go with this mentality and play the best level possible and try to get to the next phase.
“With the new system, the teams are the best from their countries and every phase of the EHL is a final, it becomes more difficult now to reach the next KO. There are gonna be great games in Barcelona this year and probably a few surprises!”