Bloemendaal scrap past Royal Leopold challenge to reach EHL Men’s GRAND FINAL

EHL Men’s FINAL4: Royal Léopold 1 (G Baumgarten) HC Bloemendaal 1 (W Jolie), Bloemendaal win shoot-out 5-4.

HC Bloemendaal were pushed to the limit to keep alive a chance of a fourth EHL Men’s title, getting the win over Royal Leopold in the first FINAL4 date via a sudden death shoot-out.

Leo were the side who looked the more likely to get the result in normal time as Gaspard Baumgarten put them in front but Wouter Jolie – in his first EHL game since 2015 – levelled before Maurits Visser made the crucial shoot-out saves.

The first half was balanced on a knife-edge with both defences holding the balance of power as it ended 0-0. Leo did suffer a big blow, however, with star striker Tom Boon departing the scene early with his injury not sufficiently healed to allow him to play a further role.

The pick of the moves came from the Belgian side via Max Plennevaux and Corentin de Trez who worked two clever spin-passes to open the door for Nicolas Poncelet. Overlapping from the back, his flick was well blocked by the out-rushing Maurits Visser.

The Brussels side went in front three minutes into the second half when Tom Degroote stole the ball off last defender Wouter Jolie before ripping a waist-high backhand across the face of goal. There, Baumgarten was waiting to guide the ball into the goal.

Visser kept it at just one with good saves from Dimitri Cuvelier and kept out a couple of Degroote corner flicks, Jasper Brinkman’s overlaps causing the problems.

Bloemendaal got back on terms with 12 minutes to go from their fourth corner, thumping home off Romain Henet’s pads after an initial Tim Swaen corner shot was blocked.

Leo won another couple of corners but their options were blunted by Boon’s absence and they did not cause Visser problems. Bloemendaal also had their set piece chances when Swaen tested Henet well.

It sent the game to a shoot-out – just like the two women’s games earlier in the day – where Bloemendaal took the initial advantage with Visser keeping out Tom Degroote in the first round.

The next six shoot-outs before Glenn Schuurman fired wide and it ended 4-4 after the regulation series of shoot-outs. Jorrit Croon scored his second shoot-out in sudden death to put the pressure and while Poncelet earned a stroke, Plennevaux was denied by Visser to seal the deal.