Women’s EHL Ranking Cup
M2: UHC Hamburg 2 (L Kreusler, S Stomps) HC Minsk 1 (N Shtsin)
UHC Hamburg’s excellent first half performance put them on course for a Sunday showdown with Surbiton as they held off HC Minsk.
Goals from Lilli Kreusler and Sofie Stomps put them in great shape before Minsk – in their first game of this magnitude – fought back well with Nataliia Shtsin getting one back and they had corner chances but could not find a way through again.
Early on, it was all UHC as they hit the ground running with Amy Costello’s upright backhand shot scooting just wide. Kreusler gave them the lead in the 12th minute with a smart finish, getting on the end of Amelie Wortmann’s bouncing ball across goal.
Yara Mandel was a constant threat down the left side with her 3D skills as UHC penned Minsk back, leaving only fleeting counter-attack openings for Viktoriya Sidarava.
It was 2-0 in the 26th minute when Stomps nailed her low penalty corner shot and that is how it remained into half-time with Maryna Navitskaya keeping out Nicola Pluta.
The third quarter had a very different flow to it with Minsk pushing on and winning a string of penalty corners and Shtsin got on the mark with a lovely deflection at the right post to half the gap.
And they came incredibly close to an equaliser when Alesia Kushner was found in space on the left of the circle but Noelle Rother slid out quickly to deny a great chance.
That came with 12 minutes to go but UHC soon regathered their composure and found their control. Indeed, they caused plenty of panic stations in the Minsk defence but could not find a goal to ease the tension.
Nonetheless, they held on for the win and a place in Sunday’s playoff for fifth place ranking points and Stomps was delighted with the outcome.
“It’s nice to win; it’s a KO game and if we lost, we’d be straight out and now we get another game,” she said afterwards.
“It was amazing having a crowd here, having my parents here. We lost a bit of our track in the game in the second half but we managed it right to keep ahead and get the win.
“We lost focus a bit; we needed to be concentrated and we had a lot of small losses of the ball which was unnecessary.
“It is fantastic playing international club hockey after so long. It is nice to face a new opposition and a new style of play.
For Minsk, manager Vitali Novik was pleased with the performance: “For our young team, it is a great experience to finally get to play EHL Women. It is a pity the loser here does not get that second match but still, we showed HC Minsk can play some hockey.
“We see some of the differences in the way they play and we tried to use our counter-attacks.”
The fifth place ranking match will be streamed live from Hamburg at 12.15 (CET) on Sunday.