Herentals. Who else?

Herentals. Who else?

03 Feb 2013 | Leonard Loonen
 

Beforehand HYC Herentals was tipped to simply gain the Belgian 2013 Cup. Miracles do exist indeed, but that wasn't the case on Saturday evening February 2nd in the brand new Patinoire in Liège. With a clear and well-deserved 10-2 victory Herentals successfully completed this year's Belgian Cup League.

 
 
 
 

Although IHC Leuven is still unbeaten in the Belgian Elite League (15 wins in 15 games) and had a flawless road to the Cup Final, beating both Antwerp Phantoms twice (5-3 and 11-3) and IHC Olympia twice as well (7-2 and 9-1), they knew in advance that this evening their opponents were generally considered to be the better team.

It is like a balloon you can inflate and inflate, but finally it definitively will burst. During the first 10 minutes Leuven had some chances indeed to open the score, but just hitting the post during power play was all they actually could achieve. Initially Herentals didn't quite insist, until they scored twice within a minute (10:58 and 11:43) to clearly express their superiority. Before period 1 had ended they doubled the score (16:44 and 17:58) to dash any expectation of success at the Leuven side.

During the second period the situation didn't change very much. Again Herentals easily tore apart the Leuven defence four times (23:17, 27:50, 34:50, 35:22). Leuven, however, showed to be well determined to display their positive ambitions, scoring twice: at 29:02 by Vincent Camelbeeck after his defending opponent unluckily slipped away, and at 33:49 by Jesse Raekelboom in a power play situation, the Herentals defence being obviously less concentrated.

Morgan scores 6-0. Photo: Leonard Loonen

The third period was the hardest of all. At least for the about 1,200 spectators in the almost sold out Liège arena. No reason for any excitement whatsoever. Nothing serious happened. Leuven wasn't able to achieve any better result; Herentals didn't want to, until they finally decided to go for the double digits. Once again within 60 seconds (57:07 and 58:00) they put the solid 10-2 final score on the display, their major negligence being their completely unsuccessful efforts afterwards to uncork the magnum bottle of champagne.

The Herentals situation is well-known. Their road to the cup final was even more impressive than the Leuven one:  Liège Bulldogs were beaten 8-0 and 12-1, and Eeklo Yeti Bears had to face 4-18 and 3-20 crushing defeats - exceptional scores even to Belgian standards. Indeed, Herentals are head and shoulders above all other Belgium teams, as a result of which the Belgian and Dutch Federations have decided to let them participate in the Dutch league this year (to be continued). That way they are able to develop the team much better. Their team roster containing 15 players of the Belgian national team speaks volumes, but one should not hide the fact that Herentals energetically invests in their youth education and development. For that reason the president of the Belgian Federation, Pascal Nuchelmans, stated this 'special treatment' of Herentals is well to be justified.
It's noteworthy that Matt Crowell, transferred last July from Medfield High School Hockey to Herentals, presently is the top scorer in the Dutch competition with 37 goals and 27 assists. During the Belgian Cup final he 'only' scored once plus 2 assists, not exceeding the Morgan brothers: Vincent scoring three times (no assists) and Mitch (2 goals and 4 assists).

On the Leuven side there were no tears in the dressing room after the match. They realistically had no better expectations nor illusions in advance. Head coach Danny Geysbrechts admitted frankly: "We all knew the Herentals skills, their technique, puck handling, goal-getting and especially the velocity of their team playing surpass those of all other Belgian teams. No wonder: they have 15 international players, we just have 3, and they play in a more competitive league on a much higher level than we do. Before the game the only thing I could say to my boys was: try to play your own system as concentrated as possible. Well, they succeeded in that just the first 10 minutes. After that they lost control."

One other excuse he added: "Leuven has a very young team which is presently in a development phase; at this moment Herentals is much more settled in this respect." One may feel a bit dubious about that statement: the average age of the players on the Leuven team roster during the Cup Final was 26,0 years, though it's true that 4 of them were playing recently in the Belgian under-18 team, the gold medal winning World Champion, that proudly was celebrated after the first period of the Cup Final. The Herentals' average age that evening wasn't more than 24,5 years, not including two of their four imports, since the Belgian Federation had decided Herentals shouldn't exceed the total of two imports for this special event, in order to reduce the big quality difference between the two teams.

All in all, Leuven should content themselves with the recorded fact that they were one of the finalists of the Belgian Cup League 2013, which absolutely is to their credit.

Leonard Loonen

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