HÄMEENLINNA/DORNBIRN – The Preliminary Round in the European Women’s Champions Cup is history and the four finalists haven been segregated from the rest.
The teams which qualified for the European Women’s Champions Cup “Final Four” are Tornado Moscow Region (RUS), HPK Hämeenlinna (FIN), ZSC Lions Zurich (SUI) and ESC Planegg (GER).
The favourites from the two best-ranked countries Finland and Russia were on top of their tasks and won the second-round groups in Hämeenlinna, Finland, and Dornbirn, Austria.
HPK Hämeenlinna hosted Group E on home ice and defeated all of its opponents. A 6-3 win over Germany’s ESC Planegg was followed by victories by similar margins against the Sabres Vienna (5-2) and Aisulu Almaty (4-2).
Hämeenlinna faced its toughest challenge in the last game against the Kazakhs. Eveliina Similä tied the score at one after Albina Suprun had scored an early lead for Aisulu. The 1-1 score stayed until Hämeenlinna was able to break the resistance in the last ten minutes of the game.
The team that finished in second place and also qualified for the final tournament, however, was not Aisulu, but ESC Planegg. The Germans recovered from the opening day loss and won the deciding game against the Kazakhs.
Natalya Yakovchuk scored two early goals for Aisulu after ten minutes, but the Germans never gave up. Lisa Schuster cut the lead before the first break and Manuela Anwander tied up the score at 7:28 of the middle stanza, just three minutes after she had missed a penalty shot.
The game remained open and eventually it was Schuster’s second goal, a shorthander, that decided the game in the last period. Planegg defeated Aisulu 3-2 and cemented the second place in the standings by defeating Vienna 5-3.
Aisulu, which made it to the finals one year ago, ended up in third place. The Kazakhs won their only game against the Sabres Vienna 3-2 in a shootout.Group E: Box Scores
Tornado Moscow Region won the other group that was hosted by the ZSC Lions Zurich in Dornbirn.
The winner of the 2010 EWCC travelled to Lake Constance to sweep over its opponents. The Russians outshot French champion Grenoble Brûleures de Loups 62-19 for a 4-1 win on Day 1.
Against the ZSC Lions, Tornado was facing more challenges. Eva Schwärzler, the Lions’ Dornbirn-born forward, opened the scoring for Zurich with a shorthander at 10:53, but Tatyana Burina eventually became the match-winner with her two goals that turned the game around. Swedish forward Elin Holmlöv added another goal in the third period for the 3-1 win.
The tournament ended for Tornado with an 11-1 victory over Denmark’s Herlev Hornets on Sunday afternoon before the ZSC Lions and Grenoble met for a game to decide second place.
Despite outshooting the French 52-15, the Swiss had trouble finding the net until Sara Benz brought the Lions on the scoreboard with four minutes left in the second period. Schwärzler added a power-play goal for the 2-0 win that vaulted the ZSC Lions straight to the final in their first-ever EWCC appearance.Group F: Box Scores
Tornado Moscow Region, HPK Hämeenlinna, the ZSC Lions Zurich and ESC Planegg will play for European supremacy in the Final Tournament from 24th to 26th February 2012. The host of the tournament will be determined later this month.