Month: December 2021 (Page 1 of 2)

Q & A with Jaz Miley

Jazmine Miley Captain of Puerto Rico women’s national team, holds Latam cup Trophy

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure of speaking with Jazmine Miley captain of the Puerto Rico women’s national team and HPOC Movement Founder& CEO Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Association Director.

What was your introduction into hockey and how did it all start?

I started hockey at a very late age. I had just moved from Queens NY to Long island NY. Being new to the neighborhood as a teenager it’s important to try to find kids my age. My next door neighbor who also recently  moved in invited my mother and I to their house warming party. It was there that I one of the nieces who invited me to one of her hockey games and I fell in love at first sight. 

Not only are you a player for the Puerto Rico women’s national team but you are also the HPOC Movement Founder & CEO Purto Rico Ice Hockey Association. How did this come about?

I started HPOC Movement in 2020 right before Covid and after speaking to the current Director Sydney Kinder about our time playing college hockey. Despite playing for two different programs we had such a similar experience. I wanted to make a community where all players of color are welcomed and have a place where they feel safe. It was imperative to have a program for our younger players like a big sister/brother that can mentor them and even help parents that are new to the hockey world. Coming from a one parent household that paid for everything  hockey related, everyone knows that hockey is expensive and not everyone has that privilege to afford gear, travel hockey, summer camps, etc., I feel blessed.  I was very fortunate that Scott Vargas  included me in the making of the Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Association as the hockey Director. Being able to make history on the island is such an amazing privilege. 

At the 2021 Latam Cup Puerto Rico was represented by the Men and for the first time the Women’s team. What was the selection process in picking both teams?

We advertised on hockey platforms and social media sites.  We based our selections  on players experience whether they play A, AA or AAA. Even now post-Amerigol Latam Cup we have many players reaching out to us with and without experience. So many people want to be a part of the team.

Puerto Rico women made spectacular debut by winning the 2021 Latam Cup which you were a part of. What was the feeling like after winning the championship and what will this do for women’s hockey in the territory?

Winning the 2021 Amerigol Latam cup tournament was such a surreal moment, especially since it was our first time playing as a team. I personally played with one other player a few years back. But besides that we were all very new to playing with each other but we clicked so well. I am excited for our future ventures as a team and being able to practice and mesh more. 

Puerto Rico women win their first Trophy in there first ever tournament

When will Jose Miguel Agrelot Coliseum be open For ice skating and hockey?

Unfortunately there is no definitive date yet, but we plan on putting the date out on our social media platforms as soon as its available.

There is Rumors that first game at the coliseum will be against Dominican Republic?

That is a false rumor. We have not thought about who we will play once the stadium is finished.

Jose Miguel Agrelot Coliseum

Will the Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Association set up a leagues and programs for youth hockey?

 We are definitely looking to grow Puerto Rico Hockey by including our youth players.

 Outside of the Latam Cup will Puerto Rico play in any other tournaments or exhibition games in 2022?

We have established the Spring Primavera which will ultimately be an invitational tournament for the Men, Women and youth.. But we also plan to make appearances at other tournaments. 

Does Puerto Rico have future plans to join International Ice Hockey Federation?

We would like to join the IIHF, we are currently reviewing the rules, regulations and qualifiers needed to join the IIHF.

Do you think the game can grow in the Caribbean and how will Puerto Rico lead the way?

I think ice hockey can grow in the Caribbean, our only set back is affordable access to ice and a building that meets IIHF’s requirements. Puerto Rico can only lead by example. The most important first step is for countries to be able to afford an expensive building that most likely will have to be built from the ground up, putting in ice and being able to run it consistently.

You can also check out this Article from 2019 on Jazmine Miley:
Miley launches coaching career with Junior Hurricanes

2022 World Junior Championship Group B preview

Mike G. Morreale – NHL.com

Jake Sanderson, selected No. 5 by the Ottawa Senators in the 2020 NHL Draft, is looking forward to having the opportunity to make history as a member of the United States at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The United States will try to win back-to-back titles for the first time after defeating Canada 2-0 in the 2021 championship game. Canada was the last team to do so, winning five straight from 2005-09.

Sanderson, a 19-year-old sophomore defenseman at the University of North Dakota, had two assists and was plus-7 while averaging 18:04 in ice time in seven games at the 2021 WJC. On Tuesday, he was named United States captain for the tournament.

“One thing that played a big part in the success we had was coming together as a team as fast as we could,” Sanderson said. “It’s a pretty quick tournament and there are a lot of games in a short amount of time. The team that comes together, builds chemistry, and trusts each other the fastest is going to have success. And that’s what our group did last year.”

Canada is the host country for the 2022 WJC, scheduled for Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Red Deer and Edmonton.

The United States is scheduled to play preliminary-round games at WP Centrium in Red Deer in Group B with Russia, Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland. Group A consists of Canada, Finland, Czechia, Germany and Austria.

The top four teams in each group will play in the quarterfinals Jan. 2. The semifinals are Jan. 4, and the championship and third-place games are Jan. 5.

Here’s a look at each Group B team, in predicted order of finish:

United States

Coach: Nate Leaman

2022 NHL Draft watch: Logan Cooley, F, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Slovakia (9:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 28, Switzerland (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Sweden (9:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Russia (9:30 p.m. ET) 

Outlook: Leaman returns and should again incorporate a fast and supportive game up front and on the back end with the help of returning forwards Matty Beniers (Seattle Kraken), Brett Berard (New York Rangers), and Landon Slaggert (Chicago Blackhawks), and defensemen Brock Faber (Los Angeles Kings), Tyler Kleven (Senators) and Sanderson. Drew Commesso (Blackhawks) may have the edge in goal entering the preliminary-round stage, with Kaidan Mbereko (2022 draft eligible) also competing for playing time. Cooley, an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary players to watch list for the 2022 NHL Draft, is second in goals (14) and first in goals per game (1.50) in 20 games for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Under-18 Team.

Russia

Coach: Sergei Zubov

2022 NHL Draft watch: Danila Yurov, F, Magnitogorsk (RUS); Arseni Koromyslov, D, SKA St. Petersburg 2 (RUS-JR); Vladimir Grudinin, D, CSKA Moscow (RUS)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Sweden (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 27, Switzerland (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Slovakia (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, United States (9:30 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Zubov, a Hockey Hall of Famer, replaces fellow Hall of Fame member Igor Larionov, who guided Russia to a fourth-place finish in his only year as coach at the 2021 WJC. The country has finished in the top three in nine of the past 11 tournaments but last won in 2011. Goalie Iaroslav Askarov (Nashville Predators) returns after finishing 3-3 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 2021. He highlights a talented roster that includes forwards Nikita Chibrikov (Winnipeg Jets) and Danila Yurov (2022 draft eligible). Returning forward Marat Khusnutdinov (Minnesota Wild), who scored five points (two goals, three assists) while averaging 17:26 in ice time at the 2021 WJC, is captain. Defensemen Shakir Mukhamadullin (New Jersey Devils) will play in the tournament for the second straight year after he averaged a Russia-high 21:04 per game in ice time. Koromyslov (6-3, 180) is a B-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary players to watch list, and forward Matvei Michkov, eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft, is an exceptional talent who may be Russia’s top point producer in the tournament.

Sweden

Coach: Tomas Monten 

2022 NHL Draft watch: Mans Forsfjall, D, Skelleftea (SWE)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Russia (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 27, Slovakia (9:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, United States (9:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Switzerland (4:30 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Sweden should be solid in all phases, especially with the return of goalies Jesper Wallstedt (Wild) and Calle Clang (Pittsburgh Penguins), defensemen Emil Andrae (Philadelphia Flyers) and Simon Edvinsson (Detroit Red Wings), and forwards William Eklund (San Jose Sharks), Alexander Holtz (New Jersey Devils), Zion Nybeck (Carolina Hurricanes), Theodor Niederbach(Red Wings) and Oskar Olausson (Colorado Avalanche). Holtz had two assists in six games with the Devils this season; Eklund had four assists in nine games with the Sharks. They were teammates for two seasons (2018-20) with Djurgarden of the Swedish Hockey League and could form a dynamic top line.

Slovakia

Coach: Ivan Fenes

2022 NHL Draft watch: Juraj Slafkovsky, F, TPS (FIN); Filip Mesar, F, Poprad (SVK); Simon Nemec, D, Nitra (SVK)

Schedule: Dec. 26, United States (9:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 27, Sweden (9:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Russia (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 30, Switzerland (7 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Slovakia has been eliminated in the quarterfinal round the past six years after finishing third in 2015. Among the key returnees from the eighth-place team at the 2021 WJC are forwards Martin Chromiak (Los Angeles Kings), who has scored 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 23 games for Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League, and defenseman Samuel Knazko (Columbus Blue Jackets). All eyes will be on returning forward Juraj Slafkovsky and defenseman Simon Nemec, each a potential top-15 pick in the 2022 draft. Nemec scored six points (one goal, five assists) in five games and was named tournament MVP as captain for second place Slovakia at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Slafkovksy scored nine points (three goals, six assists) in five games. Forward Dalibor Dvorsky, a 16-year-old who is eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft, led Slovakia with 12 points (eight goals, four assists) at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and could surprise in his first WJC.

Switzerland

Coach: Marco Bayer

2022 NHL Draft watch: Lian Bichsel, D, Leksand (SWE); Lorenzo Canonica, F, Shawinigan (QMJHL)

Schedule: Dec. 27, Russia (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 28, United States (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 30, Slovakia (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Sweden (4:30 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Switzerland will rely on goalies Noah Patenaude (7-2-2, 2.96 GAA, .914 save percentage) of Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Kevin Pasche (9-4-1, 2.20 GAA, .916 save percentage) of Omaha in the United States Hockey League to remain competitive. Bichsel (6-5, 216), who has one assist in 12 games for Leksand of the Swedish Hockey League, is a B-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary players to watch list. Forward Simon Knak (Nashville Predators) returns for his third World Juniors after he was captain for ninth-place Switzerland at the 2021 WJC. Canonica (5-11, 179), who has scored 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 29 games for Shawinigan, is a C-rated skater after being passed over in the 2021 draft.

2022 World Junior Championship Group A preview

By Adam Kimelman – NHL.com

Kaiden Guhle is one of three players with Canada for the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship that played in the 2-0 loss to the United States in the championship game of the 2021 WJC.

The Montreal Canadiens defenseman prospect said that loss still is being felt by more than just himself, forward Cole Perfetti (Winnipeg Jets) and goalie Dylan Garand (New York Rangers).

“Just unfinished business for the team,” Guhle said. “Playing at home, there’s a lot of pressure when you play for Team Canada. You’re expected to win. I think the guys know that. The guys are hungry for a gold medal this year.”

Guhle scored three points (two goals, one assist) and averaged 15:53 of ice time in seven games, fourth among Canada defensemen. He likely will have a bigger role this year.

Since the 2021 WJC, Guhle played three games for Laval, Montreal’s American Hockey League affiliate, and after playing in three preseason games this season, he was one of the final cuts from Canadiens training camp.

He said he feels that professional experience on and off the ice has made him a better player entering his second WJC.

“I think just maturity, a little bit of confidence,” Guhle said. “I think puck-moving skills have improved a little bit just from seeing other guys play, being with other guys in higher levels and playing pro hockey. I think that’s improved a little bit. I think just all-around maturity. One year is pretty big at this age group.”

The 2022 WJC is scheduled for Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta.

Canada will play its preliminary-round games in Group A at Rogers Place in Edmonton, along with Finland, Czechia, Germany and Austria. Group B consists of the United States, Russia, Sweden, Slovakia and Austria, and will play preliminary-round games at Peavey Mart Centrium in Red Deer.

The top four teams in each group will play in the quarterfinals Jan. 2. The semifinals are scheduled for Jan. 4, and the championship and third-place games Jan. 5.

Here’s a look at each Group A team, in predicted order of finish: 

Canada

Coach: Dave Cameron

2022 NHL Draft Watch: Shane Wright, F, Kingston, OHL; Brett Brochu, G, London, OHL

Schedule: Dec. 26, Czechia (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 28, Austria (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Germany (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Finland (7 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Canada is stocked with dynamic offensive players, topped by forwards Dylan Guenther (Arizona Coyotes), Kent Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Perfetti, but the offensive lynchpin could be Wright (6-foot, 185 pounds), projected to be the No. 1 pick of the 2022 NHL Draft with an all-around skill set that’s been compared to Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. There’s also forward Connor Bedard, the seventh 16-year-old selected to play for Canada at the World Juniors, joining a list that includes Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, and who has a history of dominating older competition; he scored 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in seven games as a 15-year-old at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship. The defense includes a potentially dominant top pair in Guhle and Owen Power (Buffalo Sabres), and goalie Sebastian Cossa (Detroit Red Wings) is a 6-foot-6 wall behind them. Canada is a favorite to win Group A and its second championship in three years.

Finland

Coach: Antti Pennanen

2022 NHL Draft Watch: Joakim Kemell, F, JYP, FIN; Brad Lambert, F, JYP, FIN

Schedule: Dec. 26, Germany (2 p.m. ET); Dec. 27, Austria (2 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Czechia (2 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Canada (7 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Finland will be keyed by its defensemen, led by Topi Niemela (Toronto Maple Leafs), voted best at the position at the 2021 WJC after he scored eight points (two goals, six assists) in seven games and helped Finland finish third. For scoring, Finland could look to Kemell (5-11, 171), an A-rated forward in NHL Central Scouting’s players to watch list for the 2022 draft who has scored 18 points (12 goals, six assists) in 21 games for JYP in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland. Roni Hirvonen (Toronto Maple Leafs), Roby Jarventie (Ottawa Senators) and Brad Lambert (2022 draft eligible) also return when Finland looks to win for the first time since 2019.

Czechia

Coach: Karel Mlejnek

2022 NHL Draft Watch: David Jiricek, D, Plzen, CZREP; Jiri Kulich, F, Karlovy Vary, CZREP

Schedule: Dec. 26, Canada (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 27, Germany (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Finland (2 p.m. ET); Dec. 30, Austria (4:30 p.m. ET)

Outlook: The group of defensemen could be a strength led by David Jiricek (6-3, 189), an A-rated player in Central Scouting’s players to watch list who is playing in the top pro league in Czechia. He scored two points (one goal, one assist) and averaged 16:11 of ice time in five games at the 2021 WJC and will be joined by Stanislav Svozil (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Michael Krutil (Chicago Blackhawks) from the 2021 group of defensemen. Forwards Jan Mysak (Montreal Canadiens), captain of the 2021 team, and Pavel Novak (Minnesota Wild) will be counted on to supply offense. Mysak leads Hamilton of the Ontario Hockey League with 17 goals in 24 games; Novak leads Kelowna of the Western Hockey League with 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) in 24 games.

Germany

Coach: Tobias Abstreiter

2022 NHL Draft Watch: Florian Elias, F, Mannheim, GER; Yannik Burghart, F, Kaufbeuren, GER-2

Schedule: Dec. 26, Finland (2 p.m. ET); Dec. 27, Czechia (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Canada (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Austria (2 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Germany will have a tough time matching its sixth-place finish at the 2021 WJC without its best eligible players, forwards Tim Stutzle (Ottawa Senators), JJ Peterka (Buffalo Sabres), and Lukas Reichel (Blackhawks). Elias, who played on the top line with Stutzle and Peterka last year, will be counted on heavily. Another player who could generate offense is Burghart, who scored 14 goals in 12 games in Germany’s junior league. Goalie Florian Bugl (2022 draft eligible), who helped Germany to wins against Slovakia and Switzerland at the 2021 WJC, will return but will be pushed for the starting job by Nikita Quapp (Carolina Hurricanes). 

Austria

Coach: Marco Pewal

2022 NHL Draft Watch: Marco Kasper, F, Rogle (SWE); Vinzenz Rohrer, F, Ottawa (OHL)

Schedule: Dec. 27, Finland (2 p.m. ET); Dec. 28, Canada (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 30, Czechia (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Germany (2 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Austria finished 10th at the 2021 WJC and returns looking for its first win in its fifth tournament appearance (0-17). It won’t be easy against its preliminary-round competition, but it should be able to score more than the one goal it had in four games last year. Kasper (6-1, 183) is an A-rated forward for the 2022 draft who has scored six points (two goals, four assists) in 24 games for Rogle in the Swedish Hockey League. He had one assist in four games as a 16-year-old at the 2021 WJC and is one of 10 returning players. Among them is forward Senna Peeters (2022 draft eligible), who scored Austria’s only goal and will play in the WJC for the third time. The 19-year-old has scored 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 26 games for Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

The ABC’s with Ukraine’s NHL – Bound Star Artur Cholach

Artur Cholach bound for the NHL

By Lee Reaney – Kyiv Post

In an exclusive interview with the Kyiv Post, Cholach talked about Arenas, Barrie (Canada), and Comebacks after leading the Ukrainian national team at last week’s IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships – Division 1B in Lithuania. 

It’s been a long time since Ukraine has seen such a promising hockey talent as Artur Cholach.

Drafted last summer by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knight, the hulking 193 cm, 91 kg defenceman plies his trade for the Barrie Colts in one of the top junior leagues in the world – Canada’s Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

“This is a special moment that I’ve been dreaming about my whole career”, he told the Kyiv Post. “This means that I am moving in the right direction and that everything can be achieved if you stick with it and work hard.”

The last time a Ukrainian was drafted to the NHL? In 2007, when goaltender Sergei Gaiduchenko was drafted by the Florida Panthers, although he never played in North America. 

The last time a Ukrainian defenceman was drafted to the NHL? In 1998 – five years before Cholach was born – when Maxim Linnik was selected by the St. Louis Blues. He, too, did not play in the NHL.

Cholach’s chances at turning pro are looking up. 

After scoring two goals during Sokil Kyiv’s run to the finals last season, he was drafted third overall by the OHL’s Barrie Colts. Cholach starred for Ukraine’s national U20 team at last week’s Division 1A world junior championships, where he nearly cracked the Top 10 in scoring by registering 8 assists in 5 games.

Setting an Example
As the only player on the U20 national team currently playing in North America, things worked differently for Cholach in the run-up to the world junior tournament.

Firstly, he needed to come back from an early season concussion. Then, he needed permission from his local club – who he pointed out were enthusiastic about his participation. Finally, he needed to adapt to the time zone, new teammates, and a much larger ice surface.

“I am proud to be able to represent my country on the international stage“

he said. “Unfortunately, our national team is not experiencing the best of times. We need to move to the higher divisions. Still, it’s a great opportunity and learning experience when you play against other national teams.”

The team experienced a wild run at the championships, with promotion still on the table until late in the tournament.

Ukraine was the only team to top the first place France, who will be promoted to Division 1A next year. The game against France was itself a roller coaster, with Ukraine building a 5-1 first period lead only to find themselves forced to come back to tie the game late in the third period.

“It was a difficult game in terms of psychology”, Cholach said about the encounter. “Our team was bad at preventing goals. We lost the second period and had to start all over again in the third.”

Forward Maxsym Simchuk tied the game with 2:31 to go, with Artem Hrebenyk netting the overtime winner to cap one of the most memorable comebacks in Ukrainian hockey history.

“It was our game and we couldn’t lose”, said Cholach. “Everyone considers us outsiders at the championships, but we have proved the opposite – that we can and will beat the favourites and raise the level of our national team.”

Unfortunately, the team fell to a tough Slovenia team in the next game and finished the tournament in fourth place with 3 wins and 2 losses to secure yet another year at the Division 1B level.

Still, the future looks bright. 

Besides Cholach’s heroics on the blue line, the team was led by Danylo Korzhyletskyi, Simchuk, and Denys Honcharenko, who notched 37 points between them to finish 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, respectively, in the scoring race.

From Lviv to Canada
It has been a crazy journey for Cholach.

At first, he wanted to play football like every other boy in Ukraine. Being too young to play, his parents put him in hockey.

It’s a good thing they did. 

Cholach got his start with the Galician Lions youth team, which plays out of the tiny arena in Novoyavorivsk in Lviv Oblast. 

Recruited as a 15-year-old teen to play for Russia’s elite U16 Red Army team, he spent half a season there before getting promoted to its U18 squad.

He spent the next season playing AAA hockey in the USA, before coming back to Ukraine to star for Bila Tserkva Bilyy Bars and Sokil Kyiv. That’s when the Colts came calling.

“Artur is a great addition to our defensive core and Colts fans should be excited”, said Colts coach and GM Marty Williamson, who used the team’s only import pick on Cholach. “With Artur playing in the U.S. previously, his English is very good which helps with his adjustment to our team.”

From the tiny rink in Novoyavorivsk to the big lights of one of the world’s best leagues – the journey isn’t lost on Cholach.

“Arenas are good [in Canada] and have a lot of capacity”, said Cholach. “Probably the only comparable rink in Ukraine is Kyiv’s Palace of Sport. There are probably 10 such arenas in Barrie [ed. Population – 150,000) alone. Ukraine still has room to grow in this regard.”

You can catch Cholach starring for the Barrie Colts when his team plays the Kingston Frontenacs on Feb. 3, as the game will be broadcast nationally on Canada’s TSN.ca. Game time is 19:30 ET (2:30 EET on Feb. 4).

National Team First Victim in Ukrainian Hockey’s Civil War

President Ukrainian National Olympic Committee Serhiy Bubka

By Lee Reaney – Kyiv Post

Shorthanded due to the ongoing civil war among Ukrainian domestic leagues, Ukraine’s national hockey team put on a brave face over the weekend even as it struggled to keep pace at the Christmas Cup – the latest in a series of Euro Hockey Challenge events ahead of next April’s world championships.

The previous Euro Hockey Challenge event, in Budapest, Hungary from November 12-13, ignited a civil war in Ukrainian hockey that continues to cut deep. 

On the eve of that tournament, Donbas Donetsk and HC Kramatorsk recalled some of their players in violation of national team commitments. The Ukrainian Hockey League (UHL) suspended the players from the domestic league. Donetsk and Kramatorsk continued to play the players, resulting in their expulsion from the league.

Like South Park’s Cartman, Donbas owner Boris Kolesnikov essentially told the UHL: “Screw you guys – I’m going home” and took his team, the teams of allied owners, his media partners, and corporate sponsors, and started his own league, the Ukrainian Hockey Super League. 

The Ukrainian Hockey Federation (UHF) recruited new teams to its rump UHL and recruited media partners and corporate sponsors of its own.

Then came the battle for players – and public relations.

Sanctioning the Unsanctioned
The first front in this civil war was a legal one.

Donbas filed first, arguing that the UHF’s suspension of its players violated Ukraine’s Labour Code since the players were employees of the team and were being kept from working by the federation. 

The federation shot back, issuing a notice that any players participating in the Super League will face sanctions, saying in a statement

“I urge hockey players not to bury their careers and to decide – do you play for yourself, or do you play for us all?”

This has incensed Sergei Varlamov, a former NHLer and General Director of the Super League. In an open letter to Georgi Zubko, President of the UHF, he addresses players directly:

“I urge you to act exclusively within the framework of the Law and not carry out the criminal orders of leadership of the UHF … I ask you to inform me personally about all the facts of pressure on you, as on the bodies of sports justice. I guarantee the provision of legal assistance and protection to all victims of the UHF.”

As in any war, you need to align your allies.

So, to shore up legitimacy, the sides called in the big guns. 

Vying for Prominence
The next front to open was the battle for influence, or alliance-building.

The Super League drew the opening salvo by having Ukrainian National Olympic Committee President Sergei Bubka, also of Donetsk, drop the ceremonial puck at the Super League’s inaugural game. He sat for an interview with the Super League’s press service afterwards. 

“Today there should be as many clubs as possible to have greater competition”, Bubka told the Super League. “When there is competition, then the quality of our players will increase … Today we need to unite efforts, do what we can to have as many clubs as possible … throughout Ukraine. Then the championship will be more competitive, and the league will be stronger, so the quality of the game will increase.”

Bubka was traveling and not available for comment over the weekend, but his office referred the Kyiv Post to a statement that read:

“The NOC of Ukraine [hopes to] initiate a round table meeting to discuss the existing problems between the Hockey Federation of Ukraine and hockey clubs in order to establish a constructive dialogue and resolve issues”, adding that Bubka and Ukrainian Youth & Sports Minister Vadym Gutzeit hope to meet directly with the UHF.

Not to be outdone, the UHF brought in IIHF President Luc Tardiff, who also met with Bubka and Gutzeit.

“Of course, I am well aware of the situation in Ukrainian hockey … because the case in Ukraine is unprecedented,“

he said in a release that clearly sided with the federation.

“I can say that the UHF did absolutely right. The first rule that cannot be violated [is that] clubs must ensure the participation of players in international competitions. This is the rule on which the principle of holding all international competition is based … [violating this] key rule of world hockey can lead to anarchy.”

Money Matters
Of course, money makes the world of sports go ‘round.

One of the main disagreements that precipitated the current civil war was over league sponsorship and TV rights. 

Before the division of the Ukrainian Hockey League, games were played on Ukraine’s XSport, owned by Kolesnikov. 

After an audit, Zubko accused XSport of not only not paying the league for broadcast rights, but of actually receiving payment from the league to play the games on television.

Zubko also accused Kolesnkikov of tanking a sponsorship deal the league had made with sports betting site VBet that would have seen the UHL receive millions of UAH for broadcast rights. Donbas is sponsored by VBet rival Parimatch. 

The fragmentation into two leagues saw the rival betting companies back competing leagues – Vbet the UHL, Parimatch the Super League.

Likewise, the Super League is being broadcast by Kolesnikov’s XSport, while the UHL has worked with local broadcasters and streams games on YouTube. 

The Player Conundrum
The final front of this civil war is the battle for players.

After the initial split, both leagues scrambled to find additional teams – often with a side of nastiness.

After Bila Tserkva Bilyy Bars followed Donbas and HC Kramatorsk to the SuperLeague, many of its players and coaches stayed in the UHL to form Brovary Sports & Professional College (BSPC). 

Sokil Kyiv stayed loyal to the UHL, while the Super League had UkrDonInvest founder Vitaliy Kropachev found SK Sokil Kyiv to directly compete with the more well established Kyiv team. 

This has been a boon for Ukrainian players and those in the region at or near retirement.

Druzhkivka Altair, a team founded after the launch of the Super League, coaxed 41-year-old Denis Kochetkov out of his recent retirement to become their player-coach. 

Viktor Shakhvorostov, who played with Donbas in 2015-16, was coaxed to the Super League’s Sokil Kyiv from Russian second-tier team HC Rostov. In an exclusive interview with the Super League’s press service, he explained his reasons for returning.

“Family – plus they offered the best conditions”, he told the press service. “I thought [about it], weighed the pros and cons. It’s just that there were more advantages here [including family], so I made the decision.”

Still, even with the influx of hockey teams and players into the country, the ban on SuperLeague players from the national team can be felt. 

Christmas Cup
The first victim of this mess has been the Ukrainian national hockey team, which dropped all three matches at last weekend’s Christmas Cup in Poland.

Ukraine started the tournament well, pushing Hungary to overtime before a terrible giveaway in the extra frame saw the team fall 2-1 with just 8 seconds left in the game. 

It was another tight game against the favored French in game two, but some heroics in goal by Sergei Pisarenko meant the French required a diving goalmouth save in the game’s final moment to secure a 2-1 win. 

Ukraine was flat in the third game, and never looked to bother host Poland as they fell to 0-3 with a 4-1 loss.

The Christmas Cup is part of the Euro Hockey Challenge – a series of exhibition tournaments between similarly-ranked nations designed to give players national team experience ahead of the year-end IIHF tournaments. 

Ukraine hosts the next tournament, from February 10-12 at Kyiv’s Palace of Sport before travelling to Katowice, Poland to play in the 2022 IIHF World Hockey Championships Division 1B. Held from April 25 – May 1, Ukraine will play Estonia, Japan, Lithuania, Poland, and Serbia for the chance to be promoted to Division 1A.

Whether or not they will field a full team by then remains to be seen. 

Like all wars, a great deal of good will and diplomatic leadership will need to be seen before then.  

Finland grabs top spot

 

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Finland grabs top spot

That win over Canada helped the Finns claim top spot – both in the Channel 1 Cup and the overall Eurotour standings. But the winning margin was complicated.

Over the course of the tournament, Russia compiled 10 points to Finland’s seven. However, the Russians played an extra game – the curtain-raiser against Canada on Dec. 15. As a result, Russia’s win over Sweden was discarded from the ranking. That made Sunday’s clash between Finland and the host nation into a winner-takes-all decider.

The curios continued. After 60 minutes, the teams were locked at 2-2. In overtime, though, the Russians tested a tactic successfully used by Sergei Fyodorov with CSKA Moscow in the KHL. Goalie Ivan Fedotov was called to the bench in favour of an extra skater; the gamble was that the Red Machine could retain possession and protect the empty net.

It didn’t pay off this time. Finland snatched possession and Sakari Manninen surged towards the empty net, only to be hauled down by Slava Voinov. Ordinarily, the foul would have resulted in a penalty shot, but with the empty net in play Manninen was credited with the winning goal. The Finns felt this was poetic justice after Voinov’s controversial goal late in the third period tied the game. There was nothing wrong with the defenceman’s shot, but Finnish observers were convinced that goalie Harri Sateri was impeded earlier in the play and head coach Jukka Jalonen was outspoken in his criticism of the officiating. “It was 100% interference,” the coach told the Iltalehti newspaper. “There’s nothing unclear and no reason why it shouldn’t be given. Even a blind man can see it.”

Russia tops Canada for the first time since 2017

The opening game saw Russia edge Canada 4-3, with the visitor fighting back from 1-4 after 40 minutes but falling just short in the third. That was the first time Russia defeated its old rival since the 2017 Channel 1 Cup, when Oleg Znarok’s team enjoyed a 2-0 victory in its final tournament before PyeongChang.

This time, Russia ramped up the Olympic history, donning a uniform inspired by the 1956 Soviet jerseys from the country’s first Olympic gold in Cortina d’Ampezzo. The Russian win came on goals from Lokomotiv’s Yegor Korshkov and Alexander Yelesin, plus further tallies from Nikita Nesterov and Vadim Shipachyov. The latter two were part of the 2018 golden roster in Korea.

Vladislav Tretiak, head of the Russian Hockey Federation, talked up the impact of Russia’s success. “No matter what line-ups the teams put out, games [against Canada] always attract extra interest,” he told Championat. “Almost the entire country is talking about this win. Maybe we’ll see the same in the Olympic final.”

France fit for promotion

The French players pose for a team photo after winning the gold-medal trophy at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B in Tallinn.

By Chapin Landvogt – IIHF.com

As if a crystal ball had been made use of by the schedulers of the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B, the final day of tournament play featured a winner-take-all match-up of France against Slovenia. Coming in, Slovenia was undefeated in four games, outscoring opponents 26-10, while France had only lost one game, a wild one that came to a conclusion in favour of Ukraine in overtime. 

Adding seasoning to this fiery stew, France’s Tomas Simonsen entered the contest as the tournament’s clear-cut top scorer with seven goals and 13 points while Slovenia’s Marcel Mahkovec was tied for second overall with three goals and 10 points, while being tied for first overall with a +10 rating. In short, the two most prevalent offensive weapons were going up head to head for promotion.

And the game proved to be every bit the thriller a match of this magnitude should be.

France was able to get on the board fairly early in the first period when Jordan Herve, battling in front of the Slovenian net, tapped in a beautiful pass from Theo Gueref after he had gotten the puck from Simonsen. That was at the 5:25 mark and was followed up by France’s second goal of the period in the ninth minute of play, when Herve was once again Johnny on the spot, rifling in the rebound of a quick wrister from the blueline by Antoine Fermine. Slovenia reacted like a team stunned and concentrated on stopping the bleeding for the rest of the first period.

Whatever words of motivation Slovenian coach Lovro Bajc was able to find in the first intermission, they eventually bore fruit. The team came out of the gates looking like men on a mission and were able to cut the lead to one already in the third minute when Jure Povse broke through the French defence and saw his flailing shot attempt, interrupted by a French defenceman’s stick in the last second, nonetheless slip by French goaltender Antoine Keller.

The game continued to see chances created by both teams until Miha Bercic tied things up in the fourth minute of the third period, knocking in a centre-slot rebound of a shot from the right circle while on the power play. Despite this new lease on life, Slovenia joined France in playing a careful game from there on out, as neither team appeared ready to make what could prove to be a fatal mistake.

Alas, one was ultimately made.

Maintaining puck control in the Slovenian zone, France’s Gueref received a sly pass from the blueline and found defenceman Maxime Corvez all alone at the blueline. Corvez made use of the traffic created by Simonsen in front of the net, who managed to attract the ire of two Slovenian defenders and rocketed a perfectly placed wrister over the shoulder of Slovenian netminder Luca Kolin, whose view was clearly blocked. With just a little over six minutes to play, the intensity picked up across the board with France in the pole position.

Slovenia created several chances but couldn’t get the puck in the net right on up to the last minute of play. They continued giving their all to create pressure, but a French forward got hold of the puck with more than enough time to skate it to centre ice and at least dump it in to eat away the final seconds. Instead, he attempted to hit the empty net from France’s half of the ice, hitting the post and leading to a crucial face-off in France’s zone with 10 seconds to go. With everything on the line, France won the face-off and the final 10 seconds were pushed and shoved away below France’s goal line, leading to an ensuing rush of the team from the bench once the siren roared, with sticks and gloves and helmets being tossed all over the place.

By the slightest of margins, France had gained promotion in a most fitting manner, in the tournament’s most fitting match-up.

With two goals and some clutch defensive play to wrap things up, Herve was named the player of the game for France, his line with Gueref and Simonsen proving to be the most potent in the tournament.

The road to final

Thanks to a four-goal outburst in the 3rd period of the team’s opening-day game against an upstart Japanese squad, Slovenia won its first game 7-3 and then edged out Poland with a tight 3-1 win, which entered the final day of play at the bottom of the standings. The Slovenes had obviously enjoyed the taste of victory and would go on to roll over its next two opponents.

Despite a 2-2 score after 20 minutes of play, Slovenia knocked off host Estonia 8-2 and then barrelled over a potent Ukrainian attack 8-4, doing so primarily on the strength of four first period goals. That had the team rolling on all cylinders heading into the final.

France’s route to the final was more arduous, despite dominating Poland in Game 1 to the tune of a 6-2 final. That was followed by a labouring 2-0 victory over Estonia and a wild 7-6 overtime loss to Ukraine, one that had seen Les Bleus come back from a 5-1 deficit to take a 6-5 lead in the third period, only to allow the 6-6 equalizer with over two minutes left in regulation time. By the third minute of overtime Ukraine had snuck away with a second point. 

This led to an extremely important match-up against the similarly successful Japanese side, one it would go on to take 6-4. Interestingly, France scored four times in the second and entered the third period with a 4-0 lead only to allow four goals against in the third, making that period the second one in the tournament in which France would open up the floodgates. Fortunately, it too was able to pop in a few goals in the third as well, allowing it to play for promotion on the tournament’s final day.

Relegation and returnees

Despite many periods of solid hockey, even against France and Slovenia, Estonia and Poland entered the last day of play both within reach of relegation. This was due in part to the 4-3 overtime victory for Estonia against Poland the day before, allowing each team to collect at least a point and stay within striking distance of maintaining the class. On the final game day, both teams would have an uphill battle, with Poland having to face neighbour Ukraine while Estonia would go up against Japan. Both Ukraine and Japan had a solid tournament, with Japan having lost only to Slovenia and France, even having beaten Ukraine in their direct match-up.

The top players

Simonsen, who takes a regular shift for Amiens in France’s top circuit Ligue Magnus, where he has 17 points in 17 games, would go on to lead the tournament in scoring with seven goals and 15 points in five games. After that, a trio of Ukrainians dominated the scoresheets, with forwards Danylo Korzhyletsky (14 points), Mykhailo Simchuk (13), and Denys Honcharenko (10) coming in 2nd-4th. Slovenes Mahkovec and Luka Gomboc came in 5th and 6th in scoring with 10 and nine points respectively, but both were held off the scoresheet when it mattered most against France. 

Herve, Gueref and the NHL-drafted Artur Cholach of Ukraine, playing defence, also had fine tournaments with eight points in five games apiece. Likewise, Japanese forwards Yu Sato and Kotaro Murase each collected points at over a point-per-game pace.

Looking forward

France will now head back up into the Division I Group A, replacing Hungary, which is on its way down after losing to Denmark in an all-decisive final day match-up pitting two teams that had yet to register  a point. It’s been a few years since current Columbus Blue Jacket Alexandre Texier was making music for France in the Division IA, but that is where the program sees itself, with the proof now in the pudding after this tournament. Slovenia was not able to completely live up to its billing as the group favourite heading in but should maintain that status heading into next year’s contest, despite Hungary joining the ranks. Both Japan and Ukraine showed that they clearly belong at this level and have much to build on after this year’s tournament experience.

For Poland, this year’s tournament ends with a demotion into the Division II Group A, and it’ll surely come with the disappointment of knowing that they were able to skate and perform against just about all opponents at this level for periods at a time but ended up being one overtime goal away from maintaining the class. Thanks to some convincing play in Brasov, Romania, Italy will replace Poland in the Division IB, meaning next year’s tournament will feature this year’s host Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Slovenia, and Ukraine.

Belarus promoted to World Juniors

Belarusian players celebrate after the win in the deciding game against Norway.

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

Following a five-year absence Belarus will be back competing among the top-ten nations at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship in Novosibirsk and Omsk, Russia.

Five straight victories, including a final-day rally against Norway, sees Belarus win promotion from the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A with 15 points out of a possible 15.

But despite a perfect record, Belarus’s procession to promotion in Denmark´s Horsholm wasn´t as straightforward as the final standings might suggest. During a pulsating final day encounter against fellow promotion hopefuls Norway, the Belarusian promotion campaign briefly looked in danger of derailing.

With Norway leading 2-0 midway through the second frame, the Scandinavians went dangerously close to further stretch their lead.

Only seconds later, Yegor Chezganov pulled a goal back for Belarus kickstarting their fightback. Alexander Suvorov then scored the game-tying goal at 8:17 of the third period, which guaranteed promotion for Belarus. Valentin Demchenko sealed their victory and perfect record with an empty netter with 42 seconds left in regulation time.

“When the score became 0-2 everyone understood that there was no turning back. They all had to give the best, leave everything on the ice,” said Belarusian forward Alexander Palchik. “In the third period we started to play more aggressively, to forecheck and Sanya Suvorov scored a great goal.”

Team captain Suvorov of Dynamo Minsk led by example and finished as top scorer of the tournament notching 4+7 in 5 games. Latvia’s Raivis Ansons tallied 4+5 to finish second, followed by another Belarusian, Vitali Pinchuk on 2+7 in third.

Belarus returns to the top division of the World Juniors for the first time since 2018. Eight players from the gold-winning Division 1A roster will be eligible to defend the Belarusian colours in Russia next year. The triumph in Denmark also marks a winning start for new head coach Sergei Stas.

“It turned out to be a difficult game. We beat one of the best teams. It was not easy, we endured it, withstood the pressure and showed character. The emotions are indescribable and they will be unforgettable,” said Stas.

Latvia finished second in the standings. They won silver following four victories and a narrow 2-1 defeat against Belarus. Norway ended up with the bronze medals. But heading into the final round of games, all three teams still harboured hopes to strike gold at the Bitcoin Arena.

For Norway to finish top, the Scandinavians needed to beat Belarus with a four-goal margin or more. Latvia on the other hand kept their fingers crossed for a Norwegian win against Belarus but with no more than three goals. Latvia would then be required to do their job by beating Kazakhstan in regular time in their final game sneak past and finish top on a better head-to-head record.

Despite Norway emphatically outshooting Belarus 15-5 in the first frame, the game was still goalless at the first intermission. The Scandinavians were finally rewarded for their offensive endeavour during a high-octane second frame. Mikkel Oby-Olsen outmuscled Pinchuk in the corner, found Sander Engebraten who fed it along the blue line to Ole Julian Holm. The Norwegian captain’s one timer was tipped past Alexei Kolosov by Martin Johnsen as Norway went in front at 9:21 of the middle frame.

Having finally managed to find a chink in Kolosov’s armour, the Norwegians doubled their lead 65 seconds later thanks to a lighting quick move. Jonas Haughom won the puck behind his own net, fed Patrick Elvsveen who hit a pin-point pass to Eskild Bakke Olsen, who raced past Arseni Sazanovich and one-on-one deked Kolosov to finish in style.

With the Belarusians momentarily struggling to find their composure, pesky Norwegian attackers surged ahead in their hunt for more goals. Elvsveen missed a fine opportunity to increase Norway’s lead as Belarus only seconds later got back into the game. Demchenko picked up the puck, backhanded it to the burly Artyom Levshunov, who barrelled down centre ice towards the Norwegian net. Surrounded by four Norwegians the puck dropped to an unmarked Chezganov in the slot, who ripped a wrister past Markus Stensrud at 13:46 of the second period.

The pulsating see-saw battle of offensive hockey continued in the third frame as both teams needed to score. The speed and skill from Norway´s Philip Granath and Sander Wold caused visible problems for the Belarusian rearguard. But as Norway failed to capitalize on their chances, Belarus tied the game with a fine move at 8:17. Instigated by the influential Pinchuk, his cross-ice puck found Suvorov on the left flank. On a two-on-one rush, the Belarusian captain tried to pass it across to Sergei Kuznetsov, but hit Norway´s blueliner Haughom before reacting quickest on the rebound to tie the game at 2-2.

With 2:15 left of the game, Norway called a time-out with head coach Tobias Johansson pulling Stensrud from the net in a final effort to grab a winner and salvage a silver medal. Instead, Demchenko with 42 seconds from the end scored an empty netter and the game-winning goal for Belarus.

En route to the gold triumph, Belarus had gotten off to a flying start in Division IA. Nine different players scored as hosts Denmark was mauled 9-1 in their opener. Belarus continued their free-scoring form in their next game against newly-promoted Hungary. 5-1 up after the first frame in a game they eventually won 8-2. Pinchuk enjoying a fine afternoon tallying 1+4. Another fine individual display came against Kazakhstan with Chezganov tallying 2+2 in a disciplined 4-2 victory.

But as was on display in their final game against Norway, this crop of Belarusian players was also capable to grind out results. Against second-placed Latvia, Belarus was outshot but narrowly toppled its neighbours in a 2-1 win. Metallurg Zhlobin’s Ilya Spat scored with a close-range backhand at 13:33 of the middle frame to put Belarus ahead. On a two-on-one rush Suvorov finished high past Latvia’s netminder Bruno Bruveris at 12:52 of the last period. Latvia’s top scorer in the tournament, Ansons, pulled a goal back with 4:43 left of the third period. Despite Latvia going for bust pulling Bruveris from the net with two minutes left of regular time, Belarus withstood the storm.

Kazakhstan who came down from the top division, finished fourth under new head coach Alexander Istomin. At the bottom end, hosts Denmark got their first three points on board when it mattered the most. Blanking Hungary 4-0 in the relegation decider keeps the Danes in the group, while Hungary heads straight back to Division IB following five straight defeats.

Italy bounces back

The Italian players during the national anthem after the deciding win against Korea for first place in the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B.

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

Getting off to a flyer and never looking back, Italy needed only four games to secure a top-place finish at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A in Brasov, Romania.

Securing promotion in emphatic style, Italy took maximum points from its first four games to open up an unassailable advantage over the rest of the chasing pack ahead of Sunday’s concluding game against Great Britain.

Italy’s gold medal triumph was confirmed while lounging in the stands of Brasov’s Olympic Ice Hall. They had looked on as their only remaining contender for the top spot, Great Britain, suffered a second-period meltdown as Romania hit four unanswered goals to record a memorable 4-3 victory.

Competing at the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B, Italy will be able to call up 10 players from their gold medal-winning roster from Brasov to skate at the higher level next year.

Thomas Galimberti led in scoring for the Italians tallying 4+2 points in four games. He was closely followed by 17-year-old debutant Tommy Purdeller of the Red Bull Hockey Academy from Austria, who notched a couple of goals and three helpers. But Italy’s recipe for success was not down to individual efforts, but to a team full of attacking options. Head coach Giorgio de Bettin witnessed 12 different players net Italy’s 19 goals en route to winning promotion.

While the Italians enjoyed versatility going forward, they were rock solid at the opposite end. 71:07 minutes of play was required before conceding their first goal in Brasov. Carlo Muraro and Damian Clara shared goaltending duties with almost identical save percentages. With Italy only conceding four goals in as many games, their two goaltenders both enjoyed two wins and a shutout each with a GAA of 0.50. 16-year-old goalie prospect Clara enjoyed a shutout at his U20 Worlds debut for Italy and still has three more years left to shine at this level. Clara wrote history earlier this year by being named to the World Championship roster of the senior national team at his young age.

As Italy celebrates gold, the surprise package of the tournament was undoubtedly newly promoted Korea. They showed few signs of any jet lag seeing off Romania 4-1 in their opener. Woojae Kim’s team followed it up by edging Spain 2-1 in overtime, before rallying back from a two-goal deficit to beat Great Britain 5-4 after penalty shots. In the end, it wasn’t enough to deny Italy, though, when the two teams clashed in a key game between the two only undefeated teams on Friday night.

An interference penalty against Johannes Gschnitzer gave Korea the first power play of the game, which they took full advantage of as Heegon Jang converted at 11:24. But with 20 seconds left of the first frame, Italy was level. Leonhard Ludwig Hasler and Purdeller combined for Jakob Prast to tie the game at one apiece.

16 out of 22 Italian players on their roster skate in their home country. One of those, Hasler currently on loan at Sterzing-Vipiteno in the AlpsHL, enjoyed a particularly fine afternoon against Korea. He provided his second assist of the game as Enrico Larcher put Italy ahead at 8:40 of the middle frame. With Korea’s Minjae Park sitting out a holding minor, Hasler himself converted on the powerplay at 13:35 to stretch the lead to 3-1.

Italy powered on in the third frame. At 2:28, the red-hot Hasler notched his fourth point when providing the assist for Marco Zanetti to hit home 4-1. With the Koreans chasing a goal and running out of steam, Galimberti, who plays his hockey at Pelicans Lahti’s U20 team in Finland, closed the scoring for Italy on the powerplay with 1:27 left to record a fine 5-1 win.

The event was played in Brasov’s Olympic Ice Rink, a venue named at a time when the Transylvanian city hosted the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in 2013. Then future NHL stars such as Finland’s Sebastian Aho and Kevin Fiala of Switzerland both skated in Brasov at the EYOF hockey tournament. Perhaps a new generation of future Italian stars now saw the light at the very same venue hosting the U20 Division IIA tournament almost nine years later.

Earlier in the tournament, Italy had ruthlessly blanked both Lithuania and Romania 7-0 and 5-0 respectively in their opening two games. The Azzurri then rallied back from a goal down to edge Spain 2-1 during game three, with Italy’s top scorer Galimberti netting Italy’s winner midway through the contest.

The competition concludes Sunday, and there’s still plenty to play for during the final round of games. Korea and Great Britain, level on points are both in contention for silver or bronze. At the bottom end of the table, Romania, Lithuania and Spain will all be fighting to avoid relegation to Division IIB.

Q & A with Israel Elite Ice Hockey League Founders

Meet Mark who is partner of Tal and they started the Israel Elite Hockey League.

By George Da Silva – National Teams of ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure of speaking with Tal and his partner Mark founders of the Israel Elite Hockey League.

Nobody would have ever dream of starting a league during a pandemic but Tal and Mark had a dream and with great effort and determination they were able to start a ice hockey in Israel.

How did this adventure in starting up a league start for you?

For many years players in Israel have dreamed of having a league where all the best Israeli players can compete against one another, adding import players to the mix would help increase the level of play for Israeli players and give them a chance to compete against players they might not have otherwise.

We decided to take those things and create an opportunity for both Israeli and import players to get value out of not just playing hockey in Israel but experiencing the country and everything it has to offer.

Was this league started to raise the level of play in Israel and the Israeli hockey player or are there
alternative motives?

This league was started to grow the sport of hockey in Israel. When we first started this league,

We envisioned it opening up the eyes of Israeli citizens to a sport that many of them don’t know about. Not only do we want to grow the sport of hockey in Israel, we also want to expose the rest of the world to Israeli hockey along with the Israeli people and their culture. This league was started as a culmination of both objectives, and we are exceeding expectations already.

What difficulties did you have in starting up a league during a pandemic?

The league was on its way to be even bigger during our inaugural season before the pandemic hit. We had plenty of import players waiting to come and play in our league, but because of the pandemic, we could only get so many entry permits for players and most were unable to come, so we were able to bring over 12 imports. It forced us to be a much smaller league than we would have liked, but we were still able to have a fun and competitive season with a smaller group of players.

This is part of the reason why we are even more excited for this upcoming season, as we are able to import many more players from all over the world to come play in the IEHL and experience Israel like never before.

IEHL Logo

Where does the financial backing come from?

Currently the IEHL is a tuition based league & experience, each player pays a fee to come to Israel, travel around the country, live in Tel Aviv etc the hockey is a part of the entire experience. As the IEHL grows it’s sponsorship partners it will help continue to subsidize the cost for players to come and add more value for each player’s experience.

Is there a limit on how many foreign players can play on each team?

There is no limit to how many foreign players can play on each team, but we would like to have as diverse teams as possible, meaning we want to combine both our import players and Israeli players so everyone has a chance to compete together.

You just completed the first year of the league. What things would you like to improve on going into
the second season?

Well first and foremost, we would like the league to be bigger than last year, and we are already on track to reach that goal with adding 2 new teams for the new season. Another big improvement for this season is we will move to 5v5 and play on an Olympic sheet of ice. We hope to continue adding sponsors to our partnership list and grow the IEHL.

HC Tel Aviv Champions of IEHL.

You mentioned this year will be 5 on 5 hockey and played on an Olympic ice surface. Does
this mean all league games will be played in One ice Arena?

While there are only so many options for first class hockey facilities here in Israel,

We are currently in very close talks with one ice Arena to host the IEHL this summer.

The other option would be hosting the IEHL in Jerusalem, at Pias Arena.

Will we see any Israelis from the league play on the national team in the future?

Yes, there are several local Israel players that play on the national teams here in Israel.

We have players playing on both the U20 and Senior national teams.

This coming season almost all the national team players living in Israel will be playing in the IEHL.

Are there any plans for club teams to compete in IIHF club tournaments?

As the IEHL is a private league not affiliated with the IIHF currently, I don’t think we would have the chance to enter a team into any club tournaments. It is something that could be possible in the future with some sort of affiliation with the IIHF.

Exciting game action Between HC Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Capitals

How can fans watch and follow the league?

Every single one of our games will be streamed live on our YouTube channel,

The Israel National Hockey Society. Fans can always check up on our stats and standings on our website, Israelhockey.com, we are also in talks to have our games broadcasted locally.

Fans can also follow our social media accounts: @theiehl on Instagram, @IsraelHockey on Twitter, and the Israel National Hockey Society on Facebook.

HC Tel Aviv vs Holon Vipers

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