Wimbledon and HC Oranje-Rood completed the FINAL4 line-up for June 2017 in Antwerp as they won through their KO8 games against Mannheimer HC and Atlètic Terrassa to close out a cracking Easter weekend in Eindhoven.
It was another sold out stadium, the second in four days, and they were treated to a pair of close-run affairs.
In the first tie, Wimbledon became the first English side to reach the FINAL4 since Reading in 2011 as they beat Mannheimer HC in a shoot-out 5-3 after normal time had ended 2-2.
It continues their incredible journey from the second tier of the English league structure to back-to-back national titles and now a place in the EHL FINAL4 in Dragons on June 3 and 4.
In this tie, Mannheimer drew first blood, breaking the deadlock when Gonzalo Peillat scored his first goal of the weekend with a low rocket of a corner in the 13th minute. They made the best of the opening quarter but Wimbledon roared back into contention in the second quarter, swapping around the advantage.
Simon Mantell equalised from the penalty spot after Phil Ball’s initial shot hit Patrick Harris’s body en route to the goal – after a video review, it was adjudged to have been going toward goal and not wide as initially thought.
Just a minute later, Phil Roper – the KO16 hero – stormed forward from midfield and picked out Ian Sloan on the left of the circle. He worked the ball onto his open side and aimed to cross for the two Wimbledon players waiting at the right post but a Mannheimer defender got their first and he turned the ball in by Jan-Philipp Fischer.
John Kinder almost stole in for an improbable third goal when he almost robbed the ball from around the back of goalkeeper Andreas Spack and they also held on in the closing quarter as Danny Nguyen saved off the line from a Simon Mantell corner flick.
Those saves proved key as Mannheimer fought back and were level at 2-2 with five minutes to go when Jonathan Ehling got on the end of a crash ball from Thomas Prochazka into the circle.
But Wimbledon produced a perfect five from five in the shoot-out before James Bailey kept out Maximilian Neumann in the third round to carry the day.
They will go on to play Oranje-Rood after the Dutch side showed their class to see off Atlètic Terrassa and reach the EHL’s FINAL4 as they, once again, delighted a sold out crowd in Eindhoven to earn their place in Antwerp in June.
Dani Martin’s Atlètic did start the better, winning a couple of early penalty corners, both of which were blocked by Pirmin Blaak in the first five minutes.
But, from there, Oranje-Rood began to show their power and they went ahead from a corner of their own which Mink van der Weerden rocketed into the goal in the 13th minute.
They went close numerous times in the second quarter for further goals with Bob de Voogd just missing out from a close range deflection from Agustin Mazzilli’s through pass.
Jelle Galema went near a couple of times, too, but just the single goal remained in the difference at the break. Galema won a corner early in the second half that was mistrapped but the second goal eventually came in the 35th minute from a brilliant team move.
A ball out of defence found Rob van der Horst who beat a couple before picking out Niek van der Schoot. His ball located Bob de Voogd moving left of the circle and, on the run, he unleashed a brilliant shot across Marc Calzada and in off the inside of the post.
From there, Oranje-Rood pulled out plenty of tricks and skills to delight the crowd but no further goals as Bram Huijbregts drew an amazing save from Calzada while de Voogd missed a sitter in the closing seconds.
Atlètic could not make any inroads and the job was done on the field as efficiently as off the field and Oranje Rood progress to a date with Wimbledon in the FINAL4.
They join KHC Dragons in Antwerp on June 3 and 4. The Belgian hosts will meet Rot-Weiss Köln in the other semi-final encounter with a new name already guaranteed to be on the famous Alain Danet Trophy.
Tickets for the FINAL4 are already on sale at www.ehlhockey.tv/tickets for a 5,000 capacity stadium in Brasschaat for what promises to be the perfect end to a wonderful tenth EHL season.
HL 2016-2017 KO16 and KO8, 14-17 April 2017 at HC Oranje-Rood, Eindhoven (NED)
Friday 14 April
M1: Banbridge HC 1 (M Allister) Racing Club de France 1 C Peters-Deutz), Racing win 3-0 on shoot-out
M2: WKS Grunwald Poznan 0 Real Club de Polo 6 (A Casasayas 3, D Alegre 2, A Reyne)
M3: KHC Dragons 2 (T Verheijen, T Briels) Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles 1 (J Truyens)
M4: SV Kampong 1 (Q Caspers) KHTC Rot-Weiss Koln 2 (M Grambusch, J Gomoll)
Saturday 15 April
M5: Atletic Terrassa 4 (R Oliva 3, M Bolto) Lisnagarvey HC 1 (S Murray)
M6: Wimbledon 3 (P Roper 2, B Arnold) UHC Hamburg 1 (J Schmid)
M7: HC Oranje-Rood 3 (A Mazzilli 2, M van der Weerden) AHBC Amsterdam 2 (B Burkhardt, J Reid-Ross)
M8: Mannheimer HC 2 (G Barreiros, F Schües) Club Egara 1 (P Quemada)
Sunday 16 April
M9: KHC Dragons 5 (T Briels 2, A Hendrickx 2, F van Aubel) Racing Club de France 1 (C Peters-Deutz)
M10: Real Club de Polo 1 (G Coll) KHTC Rot-Weiss Köln 2 (C Zeller, M Miltkau)
Monday 17 April
M11: Wimbledon 2 (S Mantell, I Sloan) Mannheimer HC 2 (G Peillat, J Ehling), Wimbledon win 5-3 on shoot-out
M12: HC Oranje-Rood 2 (M van der Weerden, B de Voogd) Atletic Terrassa 0