Men’s EHL Ranking Cup – Saturday preview

Saturday and Sunday see the third and fourth quadrants of the men’s ABN AMRO EHL Ranking Cup take place as the hosts enter the fray with English, German, Irish and Belarussian clubs all taking part. The schedule has been adjusted due to Dinamo Ak-Bars no longer being able to take part due a number of positive Covid-19 tests prior to their flight to Antwerp.

It sees the first match each day start at 11.45. This means a potential change to Sunday’s order of matches with Three Rock Rovers playing at 11.45 no matter if they win or lose their first game; this is due to travel arrangements. The schedule change is to avoid a four-hour gap between fixtures.

** All matches will be live streamed on

Quadrant 3

M9: Three Rock Rovers v HC Minsk, 11.45 (CET)

Ireland’s most successful EHL club take on the reigning Belarus champions in the first meeting between clubs from the two countries at this level.

It has been a rollercoaster of a summer for Three Rock Rovers for whom a large chunk of their three in-a-row winning side are unavailable this time around. Daragh Walsh (returning to KHC Leuven) and Ben Walker (Braxgata) are the latest co-opted to play in Belgium while club legend Mitch Darling has retired.

Three Rock Rovers

With Harry Morris, Ben McCrea and James Kyriakides moving out of Ireland for work, Elun Hack has seen the panel overhauled. Ali Empey, Andy Keane and Mark Samuel return from UCD along with Matteo Romoli while Fred Morris is back from the Netherlands. Ryan Spencer (Monkstown) adds to the options.

Rovers are Ireland’s most successful EHL side, picking up a first knock-out win for an Irish club in 2019 when they beat Grange before pushing Rot-Weiss Köln in the KO8.

Only half a dozen players remain from that season but Hack is excited about the challenge with his side unbeaten after three games in the Irish league.

“EHL is unique in that it brings together teams that would otherwise never play against each other, and therefore provides the opportunity to test your skills and abilities against different demands.

“However they line up, it will be a great test for us, and one we are really excited about. In 2019, we had a fantastic match against Grange, and then Rot Weiss, we will be hoping for more of the same this time around and prove that Irish teams are well capable of competing against the big teams across Europe.”

For Minsk, they will be looking to grab their first win in the EHL when they come up against Three Rock Rovers in the men’s ABN AMRO EHL Ranking Cup.

Vladislav Belousov was the top goalscorer in the EuroHockey Championship III in the summer which Belarus won with nine HC Minsk players in the line-up. He is also, probably, the hockey player with the highest Instagram following, his comedy sketches drawing over 800,000 followers.

In early September, they were denied the Belarussian Super Cup title by SC Stroitel Brest, 2-1 in the final but Sergey Drozdov’s side did win the Belarus national title for an eighth consecutive year last May in a dramatic five-game series, the final game decided on a shoot-out.

M10: Hampstead & Westminster v Mannheimer HC, 14.00 (CET)

Hampstead & Westminster are back for a second EHL campaign having been the breakthrough act in the 2019/20 event in Barcelona, beatting HGC 2-1 before pushing Mannheimer HC all the way in the KO8.

And it is an enticing rematch for those two sides in quadrant three. For the new season, H&W welcome Seb Buddle (Naenae Hockey Club, New Zealand) Matt Ramshaw (Loughborough Students HC) and Welsh international Dan Kyriakides (Cardiff & Met HC) to their line-up for the new season. On the flip side, a pair of Olympians are now in Europe with Jacob Draper (Royal Beerschot) and Harry Martin (Rotterdam) crossing the channel for the new campaign.

Hampstead & Westminster’s 2019 winning side

They do still have plenty of Olympic talent in the line-up with Rupert Shipperley powering things while South African Matt Guise-Brown brings a vicious penalty corner to the table. Kwan Browne brings his guile and know-how to shape the team.

Shipperley is thrilled to get back into EHL action: “I can’t wait to get back out competing in the EHL, which is the pinnacle of club hockey. We proved on our last visit to the completion that we are more than capable of being here.

“We’ve got a strong squad and I am fully expecting the Mannheim game to be another tough battle, hopefully we can come out on the right side of the result this time. There has been a long break in domestic club hockey, so there aren’t many better ways to start the new season, playing in the EHL. I know the HWHC supporters are looking forward to it as much as we are as players.”

Mannheimer HC will take in their fifth successive EHL season with Andreu Enrich looking to keep building the side. They finished third in the 2020/21 season, missing out on the final via a shoot-out at the hands of Uhlenhorst Mülheim. Gonzalo Peillat is with the club for a fifth season to give them one of the strongest corner options in the world game while his Argentine compatriot Guido Barreiros is another long-time star of the team.

Linus Müller and Justus Wiegand – both just 21 – were part of the German Olympic setup while the young talent does not stop there. Teo Hinrichs, also 21, and 19-year-old duo Mario Schachner and Erik Kleinlein along with Raphael Hartkopf all have had international game time in 2021.

They go into the competition following 10 points from their first six Bundesliga games while H&W have two wins from two.

Quadrant 4

M12: Surbiton v KHC Dragons, 16.15 (CET)

The late withdrawal of Dinamo Ak-Bars has left just three teams in the fourth quadrant of the draw and, thus, just one Saturday fixture  but it is a potential cracker as England’s Surbiton take on Belgian champions and hosts KHC Dragons.

For Surbiton, the 2019/20 EHL campaign proved a slightly frustrating one for the London club as they were denied a FINAL12 spot by the Covid-19 pandemic. They had impressed with a big 5-2 win over Real Club de Polo and a 4-1 victory over Dinamo Kazan in October 2019 to move through to the next phase only for the season to be called to a halt.

Since then, there have been plenty of changes. Welsh corner gun Gareth Furlong has signed up following his spell with Tilburg while Adam Buckle, Nick Park, Ben Park and Ben Stevenson are other new additions.

They join a strong panel with Olympians Tom Sorsby and James Gall joined by fellow internationals Luke Taylor, David Goodfield – an EHL medalist with Harvestehuder THC – Jonty Griffiths and Scotland’s Jamie Golden.

But, like a lot of GB’s big players, Europe has come calling for top scorer Alan Forsyth (HGC), Zach Wallace (HGC) and Brendan Creed (Beerschot) while James Royce has gone to Australia.

Dragons, reigning Belgian champions and complete with Olympic gold medalists like Felix Denayer, Simon Gougnard and Florent van Aubel, the host club is definitely one to watch over the EHL Ranking Cup weekend.

They came from out of the blue to win the Belgian title last season following a slow first half to the season to shine in the top eight group stages and then won the playoffs. Since then, there has been plenty of player movement with Gougnard joining the club from KHC Leuven and Conor Harte has added to their defensive line-up, switching from Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles.

On the goalkeeping front, Loic van Doren is back at the club after an impressive spell with Den Bosch, replacing Tobias Walter who has moved on to Braxgata. Of the other moves, Cedric Charlier returned to Racing, Luke Noblett to Australia and Bozz Willaert to Almere while Louis Rombouts has stopped.

There is also movement on the coaching front with Dennis Dijkshoorn taking on the coaching reins from Gilles van Hesteren who moved back to the Netherlands with SCHC.