← Previous Story THW Kiel win Geman Cup 2017 Next Story → RK Vardar – SEHA GAZPROM League champions 2016/2017! In a very tight and low-scoring final match, Cocks Riihimäki repeated their success from last season and are the 2016/17 BHL champions! The title-defender from Finland overcame BHL’s newcomer ZTR Zaporozhye in the final by 20-18 (10-10). In the third place play-off SKA Minsk defeated Serviti Põlva by 26-23 (11-15). Champions’ Teemu Tamminen was voted as the MVP of the tournament.Defenders and goalkeepers in key rolesThe final match in Põlva’s Mesikäpa Hall started with Cocks’ goalkeeper Kiril Morozov’s save – perhaps otherwise not significant, but jumping ahead, it set the tone for the final, as the 29-year-old Russian goalkeeper kept making excellent saves throughout the game. After an even start, Cocks had a maximum of three-goal lead, 7-4, but ZTR did not give up and by half-time the scores were level at 10-10.Maksym Karamyshev gave the Ukrainian side the lead for the first time in the match in the 32nd minute. 11 minutes later, ZTR’s goalkeeper Oleksandr Popov saw a red card in front of him and for a while it knocked the team off their rhythm. That was enough for Cocks to score four unanswered goals and take a 16-12 lead.But it was not over yet, definitely not for ZTR’s playmaker Oleksandr Tilte, who pulled his team with him, while scoring three times himself to put another draw 16-16 to the scoreboard. Coming on for Popov, Boris Kriuchkov in ZTR goal also made some important saves.And then started the “Teemu Tamminen Show”, as the Finnish left-winger scored three times with Tilte replying once from a penalty throw and Roman Severyn rounding up the numbers for Cocks’ 20-18 victory. Tilte finished as the top scorer of the match with 8 goals, Tamminen recording one less.Savukynas: “We would not have won without the EHF experience”Cocks’ head coach Gintaras Savukynas was quick to praise Morozov and his defence: “We conceded only 18 goals, this was all due to a great defence and excellent goalkeeping. This is almost two times less than in the semi-final, so I am very happy to see our players understood what was said between two games.”Another important factor, which the coach of the champions revealed, was the Finnish side’s participation in the EHF Cup group stage. “We have had a lot of very high level games in recent months and I even claim, we would not have won these matches in the BHL Final Four without that European experience and lessons,” admitted Savukynas.ZTR’s head coach Vitaliy Nat was only slightly disappointed: “I have no complaints to our players, they fought until the end and we did get close. Unfortunately we lost players to injuries before the Final Four, during semi-final and today Andrii Akimenko got injured, so in the end our bench was just too short,” Nat explained.The Most Valuable Player award went unsurprisingly to Cocks’ Teemu Tamminen, while despite not playing in Põlva, ZTR’s Oleksii Ganchev remained as league’s top scorer with 82 goals. Tamminen got close with 79 and Celtnieks Riga’s Arturs Lazdinš finished third with 73. On another personal achievement, Yury Lukyanchuk has now won the BHL title in five (!) consecutive seasons, having been the champion with SKA in 2013-15 and with Cocks in 2016 and 2017.SKA Minsk took the bronze-medalsA pair of former BHL winners put up a good performance in the third place play-off. SKA Minsk took a quick 2-0 lead, but Serviti Põlva then managed to take the control of the match for a long period. Especially with goals from Roman Aizatullov, Henri Sillaste and Hendrik Varul the Final Four hosts extended their lead gradually and went on a break with a 15-11 advantage.Carl-Eric Uibo even added one goal at the start of the second half, but then SKA started to climb back into the game. They put on a higher tempo and were helped by Serviti’s technical fouls and two-minute penalties. Goalkeeper Eston Varusk kept Serviti in the game for a while, but in the 51st minute it was SKA’s Mikalai Aliokhin who made it 22-22.Serviti only managed to score one goal in the final ten minutes and just 8 in the whole second half. Three-time BHL winners SKA eventually took a 26-23 win and finished the season with bronze-medals. For Serviti, it was the first finish outside the top three in last eight years!SKA’s head coach Ihar Papruha admitted they were hoping for a better finish: “We came here to win and our players were extremely disappointed with yesterday’s semi-final defeat. However, as anyone could see, both yesterday’s and today’s match were worthy of a final – so even and strong is the level in this Final Four.”On photo: 2016/17 BHL champion Cocks Riihimäki. (Photo by Helin Potter).