Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants will both travel to Sweden and Czech Republic after learning who they’ll face in the Champions Hockey League next season.
The draw for the 2019/20 competition took place in Bratislava during the rest day of the World Championships as Europe’s elite found out their fate in the group stages.
And for the British pair, it threw up two sets of tough fixtures, with Cardiff in particular set to take on Frölunda Indians, the Swedish side who won the competition last season.
As well as the Gothenburg based side, the Devils will take on Austria side Graz 99ers and Mountfield from Czech Republic, a team familiar to fans in the UK after playing Nottingham Panthers two seasons ago.
And Cardiff coach Andrew Lord is relishing another big test for his team on the European stage when the tournament comes around again for them in August.
“It’s fun to do it for a third time and you know more faces and teams, which is nice,” he said. “I’m excited by the groups and we’re playing three great teams, which will be a good test for us.
“The last two years have been hard on us with what he had, but this year, all the teams are coming off pretty good seasons.
“Graz have one hell of a coach in Doug Masin, Mountfield we saw when they played Nottingham Panthers a couple of seasons ago and everyone’s pumped about Frölunda, who have been one of the best teams in Europe for the last five years.
“It’s another awesome learning lesson and one for our fans and the Elite League to get excited about.
“Our league’s coming along well, as we saw with what GB did and we’re starting to make a name for ourselves. It’s an exciting time.”
Belfast Giants will make their tournament debut after winning the Elite League title and take on Luleå of Sweden, German side Augsburger Panther and Bili Tygri Liberec from the Czech Republic, who played Cardiff two season ago.
CHL | Adam Keefe gives his reaction to today's @championshockey draw as the Stena Line Belfast Giants are joined in Group C by Germany’s Augsburger Panther, Bílí Tygři Liberec of Czech Republic and Sweden’s Luleå Hockey! #ChampionsGoBeyond #WeAreGiants pic.twitter.com/DTirV5DQHk
— Belfast Giants (@BelfastGiants) May 22, 2019
Coach Adam Keefe insisted his team will prepare for a tough Champions Hockey League group the way they prepare for any game – with a will to win.
He said: “It’s been an exciting day for all of us and I’m very happy with the group we were drawn in. I think management were worried about airport locations, but I’m excited to be in this tournament.
“Now it’s time to familiarise ourselves with our opponents and look to compete. I know a bit about the leagues where the teams are from, but they’ll be a tough task and great challenge for our club.
“We’ll approach this tournament the way we prepare for everything. We want to win, but the main part is building a team that competes with our opponents.
“The pace will be harder and it won’t be easy. We want to make sure we have a fast team that can challenge and that’s a main goal for us.”
Group C: Luleå (SWE), Bílí Tygři Liberec (CZE), Augsburg Panthers (GER), Belfast Giants
Group H: Frölunda Indians (SWE), Graz 99ers (AUT), Mountfield HK (CZE), Cardiff Devils