Belfast, Lyon to host semi-final events
The structure, participants, groups and dates for the 2018/2019 IIHF Continental Cup season have been set on Friday at the Continental Cup meeting.
17 teams from 17 countries will participate in the well-established structure with tournaments played in four stages and ending with the final tournament 11-13 January 2019.
The finalists will be determined in the third round in November that will be held in France’s third-largest city of Lyon and in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland.
Group D from 16 to 18 November includes Kazakh champion Arlan Kokshetau, HK Gomel from Belarus and host Lyon Lions as well as a qualifier. Group E includes host Belfast Giants representing the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, GKS Katowice from Poland as well as Croatian champion Medvescak Zagreb, which also plays in the cross-border league EBEL since leaving the KHL in 2017, and a qualifier. The tournament will also be played in November with the exact dates to be announced.
The teams will not only play for a chance to move on to the Continental Cup Final but the winner of the final tournament in January can also be invited to play in the Champions Hockey League the following season pending formal approval by the CHL board. The last five Continental Cup winners did so including most recent champion Yunost Minsk from Belarus, which will play in the CHL in the upcoming season.
The two qualifiers for the third round will be determined in the second round from 19 to 21 October. Italian champion Ritten Sport will host Group B with Hungarian champion MAC Budapest, Slovenian champion Acroni Jesenice and Serbian champion Crvena Zvezda Belgrade. Latvian champion Kurbads Riga will host Group C with Ukrainian champion HC Donbass, Spanish champion Txuri Urdin San Sebastian and the winner of the first round.
The first round with Group A will start in September and be hosted by Bulgarian champion Irbis-Skate Sofia and also includes Turkish champion Zeytinburnu Istanbul, Icelandic champs Vikingar from Akureyri and HC Bat Yam, which recently won the Israeli league.
First round, 28-30 September 2018:
Group A in Sofia, Bulgaria: Irbis-Skate Sofia (BUL), Zeytinburnu Istanbul (TUR), Vikingar Akureyri (ISL), HC Bat Yam (ISR).
Second round, 19-21 October 2018:
Group B in Ritten, Italy: Ritten Sport (ITA), MAC Budapest (HUN), Acroni Jesenice (SLO), Crvena Zvezda Belgrade (SRB).
Group C in Riga, Latvia: HC Donbass (UKR), Kurbads Riga (LAT), Txuri Urdin San Sebastian (ESP), Winner Group A.
Third round, November 2018:
Group D in Lyon, France: Arlan Kokshetau (KAZ), HK Gomel (BLR), Lyon Lions (FRA), Winner Group C. 16-18 November 2018.
Group E in Belfast, United Kingdom: Belfast Giants (GBR), GKS Katowice (POL), Medvescak Zagreb (CRO), Winner Group B. 15-17 November 2018.
Final, 11-13 January 2019:
Final: The top-two teams of Group D and the top-two teams of Group E will play in the final tournament to be held at the venue of one of the four teams.