McCann thrilled to be in the FINAL8 mix with Mannheim

Coach Michael McCann says the EHL Men’s FINAL8 is “what we play for” as he looks forward to finding out who his Mannheimer HC side will play next Easter.

The German club reached the FINAL8 with wins last week in Barcelona against CA Montrouge (6-0) and Hampstead & Westminster (2-1).

Reflecting on the weekend, he said:  “From a hockey perspective, it was one of the best games we have played for a long time [against Hampstead & Westminster].

The defence was excellent; German teams are expected to be excellent in defence and we haven’t been in the past while so credit there. It was an ‘arbeitseig’ – a working performance. At the end, the guys deserved it.

“It was a bittersweet feeling; we won the game but lost Danny [Nguyen]. Normally after qualifying for the last eight, I am pretty excited but now, our thoughts are with Danny and hopefully we have him back on the pitch soon.”

His side have had to cope with a large number of injuries early in the season which has created chances for some new faces to make their mark.

Among them, Luis Knisel scored his first goal for the club in the KO8 win and McCann was delighted for him.

“What a story; he joined the team at the start of the season saying ‘I’m just happy to be here – I am going to prove to you guys over the next few years I am good enough to be in this team’. He has now only missed one game this season because he was sick.

“It was a team performance with a lot of good individual performances which you need to beat a tough team like Hampstead & Westminster.”

It sets up a FINAL8 place with Mannheim set to play one of HC Bloemendaal, Club Egara, Royal Leopold or Uhlenhorst Mulheim in the quarter-finals.

Mannheim celebrate their FINAL8 ticket. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

 “That’s what we play for; you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. If we can get everyone back on the pitch, we are going there to win it. It’s our job over the next few months in the Bundesliga to be in good shape for Easter.

“And then at Easter, we want everyone back on the pitch and fighting because we loved it last year, the feelings, the emotions, everything about the EHL. For a lot of our guys, this is their international hockey. I am just excited for the boys – it’s their team, their club and I am just here to assist.

“We will fight for everything. This is a by-product of three or four years of hard work. It’s not a one-off or a bit of luck. It’s the fourth time going to the KO stages in the EHL in four years. We are going there to be better than last year. If that means we go further, I don’t know, but I am looking forward to it.”