ZURICH – The International Ice Hockey Federation has announced the groups, hosts and participants of the 2011-2012 IIHF European Women’s Champions Cup on Thursday. Five new entries are among the 20 teams.
The EWCC will be played according to the same format as last year. The new season begins on October 28 when 16 teams play in four tournaments in Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
The four winners advance to the second round that will be played December 2-4. The teams from the best four nations in 2011 are pre-qualified for the second stage. Finnish champion HPK Hämeenlinna will host one group that includes Kazakhstan’s Aisulu Almaty and two qualifiers. The ZSC Lions Zurich (Switzerland) and Torpedo Moscow Region (Russia) are seeded in the other group.
The best two teams of each second-round group advance to the final tournament, which will be played February 24-26. The host of the final tournament will be determined at a later stage.
For the teams from Hämeenlinna and Zurich it will be their first-ever participation in European club competition with women’s teams. The ZSC Lions, who gained fame by becoming Switzerland’s first European club champion in the men’s category in 2009, recently won their first national women’s title.
Same as the Zurich team, it was also the first women’s championship for Hämeenlinna when they swept last year’s EWCC winner Ilves Tampere in three games in the Finnish final last spring. Ilves became the first-ever Finnish EWCC winner in 2011 after the trophy had been in Russian and Swedish hands before.
In Group D of the first round, Slovak host HC Spisska Nova Ves and the Budapest Stars from Hungary will play their first EWCC games as well.
Another premiere in the first round is Pantera Minsk, the first-ever women’s club team from Belarus. The team was founded as a professional team just one year ago and also included national team players from other countries. The Belarusians played in the Latvian league where they won all 16 games with a whopping 142-13 goal record in their first season.
The European Women’s Champions Cup has been played since the 2004-2005 season. This year it includes again 20 teams from as many countries including 13 of the 14 best-ranked European nations in the IIHF Women’s World Ranking that ranks 37 countries.
2011-2012 European Women's Champions Cup
First round, October 28 to 30, 2011:
Group A: Bolzano Eagles (ITA), ESC Planegg (GER), Polonia Bytom (POL, host), Valladolid Panteras (ESP).
Group B: Pantera Minsk (BLR), Grenoble Brûleurs de Loups (FRA), SC Miercurea Ciuc (ROU, host), Milenyum Ankara (TUR).
Group C: Sparta Sarpsborg (NOR), Laima Riga (LAT, host), Herlev Hornets (DEN), Sheffield Shadows (GBR).
Group D: Slavia Prague (CZE), Sabres Vienna (AUT), Budapest Stars (HUN), HC Spisska Nova Ves (SVK, host).
Second round, December 2 to 4, 2011:
Group E: HPK Hämeenlinna (FIN, host), Aisulu Almaty (KAZ), Winner Group A, Winner Group D.
Group F: ZSC Lions Zurich (SUI), Tornado Moscow Region (RUS), Winner Group B, Winner Group C. Host: TBD.
Final Tournament, February 24 to 26, 2012:
The best two teams of each second-round group advance to the final tournament. The host will be determined after the second round.