Men’s EHL Ranking Cup – Thursday preview

Over a year since qualifying, Thursday sees seven clubs finally get to enjoy Euro Hockey League action with the men’s ABN AMRO Ranking Cup getting underway in Brasschaat.

The competition will see teams fight for vital EHL ranking points which could determine how many places each country gets in 2022’s European club competition.

In this article, we will look at how first two quadrants line-up:

Quadrant one:

Match 02: Dinamo Elektrostal v SV Kampong, 15.00 (CET)

In the first quadrant, Dinamo Elektrostal will face SV Kampong on Thursday’s only game in this section with the winner advancing to meet Austria’s SV Arminen on Friday, October 1. This section has been reduced to three teams as Scotland’s Grange Hockey Club have withdrawn due to concerns and issues with Covid-19.

Moscow’s Elektrostal are gearing up for their fifth EHL season having frequently picked off impressive wins in the competition but they have yet to top their particular group in their previous attempts.

They did get the best of arch rivals Dinamo Ak-Bars in both the Russian Cup and the Prometheus International tournament earlier in 2021 and they were runners-up in the recent national final.

There has been a reasonable level of turnover from 2020 with Anton Noshin, Evgenii Mokrousov, Aleksei Godenkov and Ivan Zuikov joining the newly formed TsOP Moskomsport outfit. Danill Karagodin, Mikhail Nekludov and Ilya Larikov have all retired.

Their replacements are mostly youngsters with Dmitry Zheleznyakov, Aleksei Samylkin, Petr Agapov, Ilia Bartenev, Andrei Gribanov and Oleg Kulakov joining their line-up.

Against Kampong, they will be heavy underdogs, though.  The 2016 champions have once again a strong squad to work with ahead of this latest EHL competition. Dutch Olympians Robbert Kemperman, Jip Janssen, Jonas de Geus, Lars Balk and Sander de Wijn link up with Bjorn Kellerman up top as well, giving them a well-rounded squad.

They are joined by rising stars Silas Lageman, Terrance Pieters, Derck de Vilder and Ties Ceulemans while David Harte is on the way back from injury. It means they have also added Moritz Kentmann to their goalkeeping options, moving to the Netherlands from Berliner HC.

EHL winners Martijn Havenga (retired), Pepijn Luijkx (Schaerweijde) and Floris de Ridder (SCHC) all moved on in the summer with Roelant Oltmans welcoming five players to the main panel from the club’s youth section, notably Mats Gruter who scored on debut last season.

They enter the competition following three wins out of four in the Hoofdklasse but they did fall 2-0 to HC Bloemendaal last Sunday.

Quadrant 2:

Match 3: Den Bosch v Saint Germain, 17.15 (CET)

It’s a battle between the new and old school of the EHL with Den Bosch making their debut against one of the most features in the competition’s history.

Den Bosch are looking forward to their first EHL competition courtesy of their second place finish in the Dutch Hoofdklasse in the 2019/20 season when play was called to a halt. It has been a very busy summer for coach Eric Verboom with 11 of last year’s panel moving on and another 10 coming in.

Among those joining those are the returning Australian star Dylan Wotherspoon, Austrian international Fabian Unterkircher and rising German talent Paul-Philipp Kaufmann. Jair van der Horst has also been signed following a successful spell with Tilburg having previously played in the EHL with Oranje-Rood.

Moving on are ace striker Jelle Galema who making the return trip to Oranje-Rood while Loïc van Doren is back at KHC Dragons following an equally impressive term at Oosterplas.

South African legend Austin Smith will be one of the men to watch having recently retired from the international scene in the wake of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

They have a mixed start to the Hoofdklasse with four points out of 12 but a 4-3 success against HC Rotterdam last weekend has raised their form guide.

For St Ger, this will be their 12th season in the competition.

Teenagers Guillaume de Vaucelles and Noé Jouin have both been named in the most recent French senior squad in the lead-up to their World Cup qualifier but many of their other big names have moved to the Belgian league in recent years.

The club does have the benefit of former Atlètic Terrassa man Pol Parrilla in their line-up while Miguel Pereira and Raif Gonessa – who played in the EHL in 2019 – moving across town from CA Montrouge.

The vastly experienced Guillaume and Grégoire Samson, Thomas Pauchet, Fabien Pourcelet and the returning Hugo Genestet are all named in their wider panel while William-Ike Jeammot captains the team and will be one of their corner options.

They enter the competition with wins over Lille (3-1) and Amiens (9-2) under their belt.

Match 4: La Gantoise v Club de Campo de Madrid, 19.30 (CET)

La Gantoise are preparing for their first EHL tournament having moved into the realm of title contenders in the Belgian Honor Division in recent years.

They are inspired by Red Lion Antoine Kina who brings his drive and skills to midfield. After that, there a is a mix of influences with Blaise Rogeau, Francois Goyet and Charles Masson highly experienced with the French international side.

On the newcomers front, Agustin Bugallo moves over from HGC, English international Jack Waller switches from Wimbledon, Matteo Desgouillons arrives from CA Montrouge and Martin Ferreiro makes the journey from Argentina.

They counteract the departures of Justin Dubois (Canada), Juan Saladino, Leandro Tolini (Tilburg), Loick Vanwetter (Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles) and Emile Esquelin (Waterloo Ducks).

For midfielder Alex de Paeuw, he says it is vital to keep three Belgian clubs in the EHL with a strong performance in Brasschaat: “We will do everything to win our two meetings and bring back the maximum number of points for the ranking of Belgium .

“Even if these meetings will not have much impact on us, it remains a first European experience for many players. They will be 2 very nice matches. We will try to have as much fun as possible and play offensively.” 

Club de Campo won back the Spanish title last May to complete a men’s and women’s double in the competition and they are looking forward to a return to the competition following a six and a half year absence.

They are coached by 1996 Olympic silver medalist Pablo Usoz while their star man is Quique Gonzalez. Andrés Mir brings a wealth of experience to the table while goalkeeper Mario Fernandez is well versed in the EHL following his years with Real Club de Polo, playing in several campaigns already.

There has been a strong influx of players with Joaquin Puglisi (Herakles), Lucas Garcia Alcalde (Beeston), Anton Parente (Holcombe), and Ignacio Rodriguez Mazon (RS Tenis) linking up with the side.

Influential defender Bosco Perez-Pla, however, has retired as have Willy Garcia and John Kinder.

“We really want to play this competition because the club has not participated in a European tournament for a long time,” Usoz said of the competition. 

“As the preseason has been short due to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, these matches will come in handy to further refine our form.

“Gantoise will be a difficult rival. It is a team that pushes at the top of the Belgian league and has international players from both Belgium and beyond.”

Javier Colons will done the goalkeeping pads as regular number one Tomas Terradas is unavailable.