Drafted Thursday evening to replace Leopold, the Flanders demonstrated that they were indeed in their place in the playoffs by eliminating Waterloo Ducks during the shoot-outs.
CIt was with panache and above all an exemplary mentality that the people of Ghent managed to validate their ticket for the final of the competition. They have worked hard and with great self-sacrifice all last week in order to be ready in case the Control Committee of the Federation announces a condemnation for Leopold in the case of its Argentinian player Federico Monja. Against the Waterloo Ducks this weekend, they showed great control and courage in the second leg, when they were trailing by two goals and the semi-final seemed to be falling into the Brabant camp. And it was finally at the shoot-outs that the Flandriens managed to emerge after 70 breathless and exciting minutes, which could already have offered qualification to each of the two teams.
An outcome dreamed of by Pascal Kina, the Ghent coach, who had stayed up all night between the two meetings to refine the final details of his plan. “I’m so happy for my players. It was a very difficult game. Our goalkeeper, Tomas Santiago, did not perform at his best level and we must be able to recognize that. But the team showed they could bounce back even when the circumstances were difficult. And that, we had never managed to do in previous seasons. »
In the Ghent camp, there was naturally euphoria after this qualification. A total release, a week after the sharing with Racing, which they will therefore find in the final, but which had deprived them of a place in the last four at the end of the 22 days of the championship. For Pascal Kina, it was therefore essential to praise the involvement and professionalism of his men. “We stayed calm and did the right thing. We will celebrate this place in the final and then we will get back to work conscientiously. But this group has matured in recent weeks. We don’t always stay very calm, but we managed to manage the game well. »
No EHL for Watducks, but good for the two finalists
For Gauthier Boccard, the Brabant captain, who will leave for Leopold this summer, the pill was particularly difficult to swallow. The midfielder regretted that his team failed to make the difference at the scoreboard when they had the chance in the second half. “We didn’t miss much to snatch this place in the final. We pushed forward. Unlike the first round, we dominated the exchanges. But they were lucky with their goals and that hurt us. I don’t think shootouts are a lottery. We were well prepared for the exercise, but it didn’t turn out the way we wanted. I really regret that we did not manage to widen the gap. We should have driven the point home. »
A feeling shared by defender Elliot Van Strydonck who will also return to Leopold, where he began his career. “I think what we lacked against Ghent was a bit of luck. We played well, but unfortunately we missed some chances at the end of the game. I don’t think it played out in the first round. The result was not catastrophic on a very difficult ground to play. We had the cards in hand to kill this game in the second set, but we didn’t. It is very frustrating ! »
An elimination all the more frustrating as the Waterloo Ducks will also not play the next EHL season when they finished at the top of the competition at the end of the classic phase of the championship, and that they was also one of its main objectives. Indeed, it is indeed the two playoff finalists, Racing and Gantoise, who will represent Belgium in the 15th edition of the prestigious European competition.