The Champions Hockey League’s 32 teams were drawn into eight groups for the 2021/22 Group Stage. In the first look at one of the two groups featuring Pot 5 sides, we’re taking a look at the three sides with previous CHL experience, as well as the first ever Ukrainian entrant to the competition - HC Donbass Donetsk.
Donetsk are one of five teams debuting in the CHL this season, and in Group G which features three teams from nations still in the Olympic Qualification hunt, they'll be looking to make their mark against Rungsted Seier Capital of Denmark, Rouen Dragons of France and KAC Klagenfurt of Austria who lead the group in terms of CHL experience, entering their fourth campaign.
Rungstead Seier Capital were the first to confirm their CHL return back in May. The Danish champions return for their second ever CHL season. Back in 2019, Rungsted took a sole win in their debut season, which came on Game Day 6 against HPK Hämeenlinna in a 3-1 victory, this time around they’re hoping for better.
“We are trying to reach the knockout stage.”
Erik Hjalmarsson, Rungsted Seier Capital Head Coach
“I think it is an interesting group. I don’t know a lot about the other clubs but I think it is going to be tough competition within the group to advance to the Playoffs.” Hjalmarsson explained.
“It means a lot to participate in the CHL. First of all, it's a reward for good results in your domestic league and it is very exciting to measure yourself against clubs from other countries.”
While there are three teams with experience in the CHL in Group G, HC Donbass Donetsk will be making their debut this year, marking the first time a side from Ukraine has ever entered the competition, but despite the inexperience of the competition, they're setting their sights high.
"Donbass always sets maximum goals, so the season promises to be interesting." Head Coach Pavel Mikulchk said following the draw.
"First of all, we need to go through the group stage. Our group is very strong, but we will do our best to perform with dignity. Getting to the playoffs is exactly the goal that needs to be achieved first."
With the new challenge ahead for the Ukrainian side, they're hoping to be well prepared for when the puck drops, knowing it will take different strategies to try and beat each of their Group Stage opponents..
"We need to study in detail the style of playing of our future opponents, for each team we need to find an individual approach.
"We will play well and interestingly, aggressively, trying to match the speed of the Champions Hockey League. In tactical terms, we will decide with which team how exactly we will play.
Donbass will be hoping to make it out of their group on their first attempt, but one team still hoping to do so heading into their fourth season is KAC Klagenfurt from Austria.
In three previous seasons in the competition, they've had good results but always fallen just short of advancing, but that's something they're looking to put a stop to this year.
"Our club has a rich tradition in European cup games, dating back to the 1960s, where we were very successful." Head Coach Petri Matikainen said, discussing his team's ambitions for this year.
"However, in our first three appearances in the CHL, we always finished third in our group, so our goal, our dream, will be to finally make it to the CHL playoffs, the round of 16, and then take it from there."
With the Draw this year taking a slightly different approach due to the ongoing Olympic Qualifiers, Matikainen expects a tough challenge in the Group Stage.
"After the seeding we had a good idea about what kind of teams we will have to face," he said.
"For me as a coach, all three opponents are new," he concluded.
We can expect a balanced group
KAC Klagenfurt Head Coach Petri Matikainen on playing in Group G
The final team playing in Group G will be making their third appearance in the competition. The Rouen Dragons of France last competed in the 2018/2019 CHL season, their most successful appearance as they managed to make it to the Round of 16.
For Head Coach Fabrice Lhenry, this is their aim for the upcoming season.
"The main objective for our team will be to qualify among the first two teams in our group. We achieved this during our last participation in the CHL and we wish to repeat it."
Lhenry, who has coached Rouen since 2015 shares the same feeling as his competition, that this will be a tough group for all involved.
"I watched the live draw carefully and my first reaction was that this group is balanced. It's difficult to predict the two teams that will qualify for the Playoffs. We will have to perform well if we want to go to the next round."
Now that the schedule has been announced, Rouen will be hoping to start strongly when they travel to face Klagenfurt in their opening game.
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