There’s thousands of youth hockey tournaments year-round. Small, mom-and-pop events with 16-20 teams. Corporate behemoths with more than 300 teams. Some new, some old. Some come, some go. How many can say they truly make an impact on the participants and their families, and the global landscape of youth hockey?
The 2022 Champions League hockey tournament set out to do just that, by organizing the first ever world championship. Designed to put the best 2008-born players in the world on the ice together at one time, the inaugural event drew teams from five different countries including the United States, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and Kazakhstan. With so many different nationalities from various backgrounds, what happened when this group of 13-year-olds collided on the ice in Coral Spring, Florida, was awe inspiring.
Extremely unique playing styles clashed on the ice, while cultural diversities meshed off of it. A bond — shared through the game of hockey — was formed instantly between American and Finn, Swede and Slovak. Language barriers couldn’t stop the friendships that were formed over the course of six days at the ice rink.
Finland-based Kiekko Espoo defeated Yale Jr. Bulldogs 3-2 in their opening game of the tournament. Less than 24 hours later, the Bulldogs stood along the glass and cheered their Finnish counterparts to victory, as Kiekko won in a shootout over Seacoast Performance Academy. Going from fiercely competitive to wildly supportive in a matter of moments.
“I was trying to do Google Translate on ‘em but they’re like ‘we can speak English,’” said Yale forward Aidan Gray. “So we traded Snapchats, Instagram, we’re pretty good friends now.”
Younger generations catch a bad wrap when it comes to socializing and their dependency on devices and technology. Yet it’s social media that will keep two teens from polar opposite ends of the world connected for years to come.
The tournament featured some of the best players in the 2008-birth year. Odds are likely this won’t be the last time participants from this tournament collide. Under-17 Five Nations Cup? USHL or CHL junior hockey? Under-20 IIHF World Juniors? the NHL even. It may seem wildly improbable on the surface, but it would hardly be a first for World Hockey Events. The tournament company — who recently announced a merger between Total Package Hockey (TPH) and World Hockey Group (WHG) — is the same team behind the World Selects Invitational series. The WSI has seen the likes of more than 350 NHL Draft picks and 1,000 NCAA players over the past 13 years; it’s likely that the Champions League will follow a similar trajectory.
New England-based Seacoast was at the heart of a lot of these international connections.
A unique moment was captured between them and HK Dukla Trencin when all participating teams had the opportunity to attend an NHL game between the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. On the concourse, Spartan players came across an unusual scene, as the Slovakian players and coaches gathered.
“When we went up the stairs, the Slovakian team was chanting a song and we just joined them and it was a blast,” said Levi Kossatz.
“I couldn’t understand [what they were saying],” said Seacoast defenseman Cameron Clark. “It was wicked fun though. I mean they started going and we just jumped in, and it was a blast.”
Competing against players from completely different walks of life is a memorable moment in its own right. Befriending those same opponents and forming connections beyond the rink turns ‘just another hockey trip’ into an unforgettable, life-changing experience. Championships, overall records, individual statistics all seemed to take a back seat as every participant was able to leave with an invaluable memory that’ll last forever.
Another shining example was later on in the week, as anxious Americans watched Finland’s Jone Mölsä score a nail-biting goal in the final seconds of regulation to tie the game and force overtime. One can be heard saying, ‘I’m nervous watching this,’ while others shriek with excitement, ‘Yes!’ and ‘Oh! It didn’t get out!’
Over time, memories of a championship or game result or dazzling play will fade. The day-to-day moments in youth hockey will fall by the wayside, whether they go on to become NHL superstars or accountants and engineers. Life experiences like Champions League, though, can certainly serve as memories that will last a lifetime. The game of hockey teaches athletes lessons like discipline, commitment and being a part of a team. Similarly, life experiences like Champions League can provide once-in-a-lifetime memories that will resonate for years to come.
If you want to take part in this life-changing tournament experience, submit the application below, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for announcements regarding upcoming Champions League events.
For the first time ever, youth hockey has a world champion.
The 2022 Champions League hockey tournament hosted 10 teams from five different countries in Miami, Florida, over the holiday break. Five programs from the United States, two from Finland, and one representative from Sweden, Slovakia and Kazakhstan. After a six-day, 36-game event, this invite-only event concluded with Los Angeles Jr. Kings being crowned as world champions of the 2008 birth year.
They entered the international tournament ranked as the No. 2 team in the U.S., behind fellow Champions League participants, No. 1 Windy City Storm. Through five games of pool-play action, the Jr. Kings maintained a 4-1-0 record, with a 2-1 victory over the top-ranked Storm, as well as victories over Slovakia’s HK Dukla Trencin, Sweden’s Järved IF and Finland’s Kiekko Blues. The only loss to this point in the week was a 5-3 decision at the hands of No. 3-ranked Little Caesars.
With a 4-1-0 record of its own, Caesars would claim the top seed in the playoff rounds, as it held 13 points in the standings as well as the tie-breaker over Seacoast Performance Academy, who also had 13 points.
The Jr. Kings entered the playoff rounds as the No. 3-seed in the tournament; Tyus Sparks (seven) and Noah Davidson (six) led L.A. in scoring, four and five points behind front-runner Artur Yanchalouski of Jäved, with 11.
The duo continued their tear into the elimination rounds. Sparks posted multi-point games in both the quarterfinals against Dukla Trencin and semifinals against Seacoast, while Davidson added four more points to his total, including a goal and an assist in the semis.
Sasha Pitaev elevated his game between the pipes during the playoffs as well, allowing just six goals against in the three-game run. He was credited with wins over Dukla, Seacoast and then avenged his only loss of the tournament with a 5-2 win over Little Caesars in the championship.
In the championship, Caesars held onto a 2-1 lead at the halfway point and a slight 14-12 edge in shots. The second half, however, was all Jr. Kings as they out-shot their opponent 2-to-1. Karsten Hirasawa — who scored six of his eight points in the playoff rounds — scored a pair of goals in addition to tallies from Davidson and Sparks to complete the 5-2 comeback win and secure the world championship.
The inaugural Champions League hockey tournament is an invite-only event to ensure all participating teams meet competitive standards required to play on the international stage. Originally expecting more than 40 teams to be in attendance for the first-year event, the global climate around COVID-19 significantly impacted travel plans for prospective teams. Teams from Canada and Russia, as well as several others from Europe and Scandinavia faced challenges that would ultimately keep them from traveling to Florida.
Of the 36 tournament games, half would be decided by two goals or fewer. Kiekko Espoo defeated Seacoast. Seacoast defeated Windy City. Windy City defeated Dukla Trencin. Dukla Trencin defeated Järved. Järved defeated Little Caesars. Little Caesars defeated eventual champion Jr. Kings. The transitive property alone would suggest just how competitive games were, and how volatile results proved to be. Every team in the tournament experienced at least one loss, and the top six teams were separated by just four points in the standings.
Future plans for 2023 Champions League involves significant expansion, including more age groups (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 currently in the works) as well as different site locations for each age group. Those host sites include fellow NHL cities like returning to Miami, Nashville and Denver, and also European locations where North American teams would get the opportunity to travel abroad.
For more information regarding upcoming Champions League announcements, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube. Or submit an application for your team below, and our team of advisors will contact you with more details.
Friday marked the fourth day of tournament action at Champions League in Miami this week. Some of the best 2008-born teams from around the world competed in their fifth and final pool-play matchups. Spots in the standings were solidified and by the end of the day, the field of teams would be whittled down to eight, with two teams being eliminated from contention by the night’s end.
Yale Jr. Bulldogs had Seacoast Performance Academy on the ropes in the first game of the day. Even-strength goals from Aidan Gray, Cameron Kovary and Caden Harvey put the Dogs on top at the halfway point. It was the third time in five tournament games that Yale was tied or leading at the halfway point. However, a four-goal performance from Jameson Glance would fuel a second-half comeback for the Spartans. He and teammates Sully Martin, Benjamin Clary and Hunter Chadbourne mounted an offensive attack that resulted in a 7-4 finish for Seacoast. Glance leads the tournament in goals with seven after pool play. The decision pushed Seacoast into a tie for first place in the standings, while Yale settled into the No. 9-seed for the playoffs and a play-in matchup later that day.
Artur Yanchalouski continued his Champions League hot streak with his fourth consecutive multi-point game of the tournament. Yanchalouski — who leads the tournament in scoring with 11 points — and teammate Nikita Klepov manufactured four-point performances in Järved IF 8-3 win on Friday. The game was symbolic in a way, as the Sweden-based program defeated its neighbors from back home, Kiekko-Espoo out of Finland. It is one of the most intense rivalries in all of international hockey, with the two countries sharing a 381-mile border in Scandinavia. Fortunately for youth hockey fans, it wouldn’t be the only Sweden-Finland matchup of the day. The game result put Järved in seventh-place, where they would earn a chance to play Kiekko Blues — the other Finnish team in the tournament — in the 7-vs-10 matchup later in the evening.
Two of the top teams in the U.S. wrapped up pool play, as Little Caesars and Los Angeles Jr. Kings clashed. The hotly anticipated matchup is the first time these two teams have met this season, and a natural hat trick from Caesars’ Donovan Durbin would complete a come-from-behind victory that pushed his team into a tie for first place. Durbin has goals in four of his team’s five tournament games, leading Little Caesars in goals (seven) and points (eight).
Barys has scored 12 goals in its last two games — both wins — and Zhakhanger Tleukhan has contributed on seven of those tallies. The team’s leading scorer, Tleukhan added a goal and two assists in Barys’ 4-1 win over Kiekko Blues, pushing the Kazakhstan team into fourth place heading into the playoff rounds on Saturday.
Windy City Storm narrowly escaped an upset in their final game against Dukla Trencin. The Slovaks quickly jumped on America’s top-ranked 2008 team, as Juraj Jonas Ďurčo and Adam Goljer game Dukla Trencin a 2-0 lead at the halfway point.
Nathan Hauad and Jack Hextall would take turns one-upping each other, rattling off four straight goals for the Storm before going on to win the contest 5-3, locking up the No. 5-seed in the playoff rounds.
All 10 participating teams qualified for the playoff rounds, with the bottom four teams having to compete in play-in games Friday evening.
The 8-vs-9 matchup featured Kiekko-Espoo against Yale Jr. Bulldogs, with both teams in search of their first wins at the tournament. Again, Yale would lead at the half, with goals from Max Stracar and Caden Harvey. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, that lead would again slip away as Jone Mölsä would score with just 10 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 2-2. There, Riko Salutskij would ice the game for Kiekko, giving them a Saturday morning date with Little Caesars.
Järved’s matchup with Kiekko Blues would be their second clash with a Finnish team at the tournament, and both contests would see similar results. This time, Elton Hermansson pushed the Swedes into the Round of Eight with a three-point performance and a 4-2 win over Kiekko.
Two teams have been eliminated from contention for youth hockey’s first ever world championship. Only eight 2008-born teams remain, and the action will continue with seeded matchups on Saturday morning. Follow WHH on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for continued coverage of the Champions League hockey tournament all weekend long.
The third day of Champions League play had a little bit of everything, as 2008-born teams competed for youth hockey’s first ever world championship. All 10 clubs were in action Thursday morning, and even with only five matchups on the schedule, the day was filled with stunning upsets and impressive individual performances. Once action at the Panthers Ice Den concluded, there was a scheduled break in the tournament to allow all participants the opportunity to take in an NHL game between the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Sweden-based Järved IF sent a shock to the system equivalent to submerging in an ice bath on a hot day. Held without a win to this point in the tournament, they took on undefeated — and for the moment, first-place team at Champions League — Little Caesars in the first game of the day. A pair of goals from Stephen King put L.C. out in front early in the game. However, a strong performance from Artur Yanchalouski helped pull Järved back into the contest. First, he assisted on Aleksandr Sementsov’s goal and then Yanchalouski knotted the game at two with a goal of his own.
A 2-2 score forced the game into a three-person shootout to break the tie. Two-of-three shooters would find the back of the net for Järved and earn the team its first victory of the tournament, while handing the No. 3-ranked team in the U.S., Little Caesars, its first loss of the week.
The Windy City Storm had hoped that was the only upset of the day, as the No. 1-ranked team in the U.S. took to the ice against Seacoast Performance Academy. Unfortunately for the Storm, every action they had prompted an equal and opposite response from the Spartans.
Luke Dubsky put Windy City ahead 1-0 less than 90 seconds into the game. Tyler Callander was quick to respond for Seacoast, tying it less than a minute later. And when Jack Hextall regained the lead for Windy City, Evan Ferraro quickly tied it up again at 2-2.
Goals from Patrick McCormick and Garrit Turcotte kept Seacoast ahead of the Storm down the stretch. Kamden Jackson — who stopped 38-of-41 shots total — turned away all 22 of the shot attempts that he faced in the second half. It was the Spartans’ third win of the tournament, and the 29th ranked team in the U.S. has now snuck into a tie for second place at Champions League.
Tyus Sparks became the third player in the tournament to record a hat trick, joining Timothy Kazda (Dukla Trencin) and Onni Kovalainen (Kiekko-Espoo) as the only ones to achieve the feat. Two of Sparks’ three goals came while his team was short-handed, giving the Los Angeles Jr. Kings a 6-3 victory over Kiekko Blues.
While one trifecta was being completed on Rink 1 at Panthers Ice Den, Zhakhanger Tleukhan was making a push of his own on Rink 3 for Barys. Tleukhan would become the fourth player to score three goals in a single game, just moments after Sparks completed his feat on the opposite end of the building.
Bookended by upsets, Thursday’s slate of games concluded by 3:30 p.m. local time, as planned by tournament directors. This break gave teams the evening off, and afforded participants the opportunity to take in a pro game featuring the host team Florida Panthers. They took on in-state rival and two-time, reigning, defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. For many of the international participants in attendance at Champions League — and even some American players — it would be their first opportunity to go to an NHL game and an unforgettable experience for all who made the trip.
Pool play at Champions League concludes on Friday, with elimination rounds to follow later in the day. Mixed in with New Years Eve celebrations, the action and excitement is growing closer and closer to the apex of the week’s festivities. For more coverage of the tournament, follow WHH on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube.
After the pleasantries and celebrations of day one at Champions League, teams really got down to business Wednesday, with 10 games in total on the schedule. Each team played two games, getting us past the halfway point of pool play with three of the five contests in the books.
Competition picked up, as the first five games of the day — and seven in total — were decided by two goals or less. Finland-based Kiekko Blues found itself in a tight matchup with Little Caesars to start the day. Waylon Rivet, Donovan Durbin, Camden Langfeld and Stephen King put Caesars out in front early, 4-1 after the first half of play. A pair of goals from Kalle Kuntanen and Emil Holopainen narrowed the deficit to just one goal in the final moments of regulation. Skating 6-on-5, L.C. was able to weather the storm brought on by the extra attacker and an empty-net goal from Durbin would secure a 5-3 win for the Americans.
Caesars would win again later in the afternoon; they are the only team undefeated in regulation and currently rank first in the standings.
Onni Kovalainen completed a hat trick in Kiekko Espoo’s morning game against Seacoast Performance Academy. His third goal of the game came with just 1:43 left to go in regulation and it tied the contest at 6-6. Riko Salutskij was the only one to successfully find the net in the tie-breaking shootout, winning Kiekko’s first game of the tournament.
There was a fantastic moment between combatants in the early-morning games. Less than 24 hours after Yale and Kiekko Espoo battled to a 3-2 final on Tuesday, players from the Jr. Bulldogs sat idle and watched their Finnish foes compete against Seacoast. After that thrilling ending, who would be standing there to congratulate the Finns but the boys from New Haven, Connecticut?
After falling to the Los Angeles Jr. Kings on Tuesday, Slovakia’s Dukla Trencin won a pair of games to climb into third place in the standings. Timothy Kazda, Juraj Jonas Ďurčo and Samuel Pisarčík scored three consecutive goals less than four minutes apart in a game against Järved IF that gave the Slovaks a 5-3 win in the morning. A six-point performance from Kazda in the evening would add another win, 6-1 over Kiekko Espoo. With five goals and eight points, the 5-foot-5 Kazda leads all scorers after three games.
In another game decided by shootout, Kazakhstan’s Barys was able to pull off a comeback victory over Yale Jr. Bulldogs. Alan Kenzhegali and Bexultan Makysh scored a pair of goals in the second half to tie the game, ultimately leading to a 5-4 victory in favor of Barys.
The top two 2008-born American teams faced off for the third time this season, and it proved to be the lowest-scoring contest of the tournament thus far. Windy City Storm carried a slight 1-0-1 edge in the series with Los Angeles Jr. Kings, and the most recent meeting felt more like a chess match than a hockey game. The two teams snuffed out each other’s offenses, and Windy City got a 41-save performance from Peter Chlebowski.
Seacoast split decisions in its pair of games on Wednesday. Right-handed forward Benjamin Clary had a monster day for the Spartans with a goal and an assist in the morning’s contest and a three-point game in the evening’s win against Kiekko Blues. Clary is one of eight players in the field to have recorded at least one point in all three games of the tournament thus far.
Järved IF looked to get into the win column for the first time Wednesday night. After losses to Seacoast and Dukla Trencin, the Swedes were determined in their second matchup of the day against the Jr. Kings. One of the top 2008-born prospects in Sweden, Artur Yanchalouski put together a three-point performance with two goals in the first half and an assist in the second half to give Järved a chance against L.A., 4-3 late in the contest. Starving for a victory, the Swedes swarmed in the offensive zone, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the net but Jr. Kings net minder Morgan Stickney was up to the task. Stickney turned away 18 shots in her first start of the tournament to give L.A. an undefeated record on the week.
Action has only just begun at Champions League, with teams slated to play one game each of the next two days and playoffs set to begin Friday evening. Follow WHH on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for continued coverage of the tournament, exclusive interviews, highlights, photos and more!
The clock hit 10:15 a.m. local time on December 28th at the Panthers Ice Den, and the puck dropped on the inaugural game of the inaugural Champions League hockey tournament. History was made as Järved IF and Seacoast Performance Academy squared off in the first of 40 games set to take place over the next five days at Coral Springs, Florida. Ten of the best 2008-born teams from five different countries around the world will tangle this week in an effort to determine youth hockey’s first ever world champion.
The first day of the tournament was loaded with five games on the slate, an opening ceremony filled with beverages and food for all participants and families, and a skills competition with two representatives from each team.
In the first matchup of the day, American-based Seacoast made quick work of Sweden’s top team, Järved, with a 6-2 win where the Spartans led the game in its entirety. Blake Cash scored the first goal of the game after a stretch pass from Tyler Callander sent him in on a breakaway. Both Cash and Callander would add another point apiece later on in the game, but Danick St. Pierre was the one with the hot hand. St. Pierre scored two goals and added an assist; he’s currently tied for second in the tournament in points.
The Yale Jr. Bulldogs scored with under five minutes left in regulation to tie their game with Kiekko Espoo 2-2. Keegan Kazan’s second goal of the game would only keep it deadlocked for just 1:12 of game action, as Finland’s Joona Virta took the lead back for Kiekko and won the contest 3-2.
Temirlan Aiboluly put Kazakhstan’s No. 1 team, Barys, up 1-0 nine minutes into their game with Little Caesars. The first half of action came to a close at 2-1, though, as Detroit-based Caesars rebounded quickly. Five goals from five different scorers in the second half would allow LC to pull away, as Stephen King, Dominic Pajkic, Ethan Garden, Landen Maltby and James Monks found the back of the net in a 6-2 win.
One of the top American teams, Los Angeles Jr. Kings, took Dukla Trencin (Slovakia) to task, as five players posted multi-point performances. Cooper Soller is the leader in points after day one, with two goals and four points. Jr. Kings teammates Alofa Tunoa Ta’amu (3), Kue-Gene Ethan Park (3), Noah Davidson (2) and Karsten Hirasawa (2) follow closely behind.
The main event of the evening was preceded by the tournament’s Skills Competition. Two members from each team took to the ice to showcase their talents in a variety of challenges, including speed skating and accuracy shooting. Windy City Storm’s Nathan Hauard won the honor of fastest skater, and Tyus Sparks of the Jr. Kings took the honor as most accurate shooter.
Kiekko Blues and Windy City Storm battled in Tuesday’s finale, as the top team from Finland and the top team from the U.S. clashed on the main stage. It certainly delivered, as the two skated to a 1-1 tie through the first 25 minutes of action. By the second half, though, the offenses had warmed up and any jet lag had quickly worn off. A total of nine goals in the second half provided plenty of drama, as Windy City won the contest 7-4. Nathan Hauad scored twice, while Luke Dubsky, Kalder Varga, Memphis Wilcox and Jack Hextall also added goals for the Storm. Emil Holopainen also had two goals, and teammates Oliver Torkki and Matias Koukkunen added a pair for Kiekko.
‘Don’t wake a sleeping dog’ or so the old adage goes. On the surface, some may look at Yale’s 11-17-3 record, and think the Jr. Bulldogs are just a friendly neighborhood stray with a good story to its name. The truth, however, is that this group of 2008s has had one of the toughest schedules in the U.S., having played 10 games against teams ranked in the World Hockey Hub Top 10.
Led by head coach Oktay Armagan, the Jr. Bulldogs open up Champions League action with matchups against Kiekko-Espoo and Barys. After that, tilts with Little Caesars, HK Dukla Trencin and Seacoast Performance Academy to round out pool play at the tournament. Can they keep up with top competition from around the world? Yale has a 4-5-1 in those 10 games against top-end teams, with all four of those victories coming in the last two months. So if ever there was a time for the Jr. Bulldogs to match up with top teams, it’s right now.
The field is small, but highly competitive. Just 10 teams will be at Champions League this week, but they’re the top three teams from the U.S., two top teams from Finland, a top Sweden organization, Kazakhstan’s premier team and one of the best programs in central Europe, among others. Who will come away as youth hockey’s first ever world champion? Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for continued coverage of the tournament, upcoming features, highlights and recaps, and so much more!
Located in the central region of Kazakhstan, Barys is based out of Nur-Sultan; a city with a metropolitan population of 1.2 million. The youth hockey program has made a name for itself in recent years, competing at elite-level international events such as the World Selects Invitational, and most recently, the inaugural 2022 Champions League.
They are one of five international teams competing at this year’s event, and Barys opens up tournament play with three straight American opponents. In order, they face Little Caesars, Yale Jr. Bulldogs and Windy City Storm before closing out action with two Finland-based teams in Kiekko Espoo and Kiekko Blues.
Barys represents the very best that Kazakhstan has to offer, going 5-0-0 in the first round of the country’s national championships earlier this year. The team out-scored its opponents 43-9 in those contests, and advanced to the final rounds of nationals slated to take place later this season. But how will they hold up to international competition?
“We are very happy to participate in this tournament and compete with some of the best hockey teams in the world,” said head coach Ramazan Kaidarov. “It is a great opportunity to gain valuable experience from playing with peers, as well as showcase our skills and team spirit. We will play our best and represent our club Barys and Kazakhstan in this international tournament.”
The defense is littered with lefties. Five, in fact, as Mansur Makeyev is the lone righty amongst Ilkhan Bolatov, Svyatoslav Evplov, Kirill Krutskiy, Mansur Oraz and Arman Tolen. They play in front of a pair of large goaltenders, in 5-foot-10 Arseniy Kuchkovskiy and 5-foot-6 Nikita Kulakov.
On offense, Barys carries the most forwards in the tournament with 11; almost four full lines. Temirlan Aiboluly, Anuar Akhmetzhanov, Yerlan Akhmutinov, Nar-Ulan Baiken,Tair Bigarinov, Alan Kenzhegali, Yegor Kim, Bexultan Makysh, Daniel Podvalov, Adilkhan Sattar and Zhakhanger Tieukhan can be explosive. Accustomed to playing on an Olympic rink, their game plan may change slightly playing on a smaller NHL-sized sheet of ice. If opponents give them time and space, it’s a group that can be dangerous with the puck.
Follow along with all the action at Champions League by following World Hockey Hub on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for continued coverage of the tournament, upcoming features, highlights and recaps, and so much more!
They are not the No. 1 team in the United States. In fact, Little Caesars enters the 2022 Champions League hockey tournament ranked behind two other participants in top-ranked Windy City Storm and No. 2 Los Angeles Jr. Kings. Now, it takes a stellar team to be ranked third in the country, with a 30-4-2 record so far this season. However, that ranking does allow Caesars to fly under the radar a bit as teams like Windy City and L.A. enter the tournament with a much bigger bulls eye on their backs.
Little Caesars will have an opportunity to play spoiler in next week’s event, opening up play with Barys on Tuesday before playing Kiekko Blues and Yale Jr. Bulldogs the next day. Games with Järved IF and Los Angeles will wrap up pool play. Can LC last long enough to make it to the elimination rounds?
The team has produced 167 goals for, while allowing just 51 against. They thrive in low-scoring games, with nine wins coming in contests with four or fewer total goals scored. Having a good-sized defensive group helps, with Colten Dwarzski, Drake Gram, Dominic Pajkic and Jona Zimbalatti all measuring at 5-foot-8 or taller. Keegan Jordan and Shawn Lane help round out the unit that does a fantastic job of containing opposing offenses.
Goaltenders Trevor Paden and Vincent Sabala have a combined 1.42 goals-against average and 12 shutouts on the season. At one point, the duo played 12 consecutive periods without allowing a goal.
Offensively, Caesars has a great balance of size and speed. Tyler Hatcher, Stephen King, Waylon Rivet and Brooks Rogowski ‘bring the boom’ with large statures and long reaches for the 2008 age group. Donovan Durbin, Ethan Garden, Camden Langfeld, Landen Maltby and Jacob Monks provide an element of speed and skill that makes this a very dangerous three-line team with depth and diversity in playing styles.
The field of teams is loaded with top talent from around the world. Little Caesars is in a position where they could very easily go undetected until the playoff rounds, and capable of being a dangerous ‘underdog’ type team.
Look out for Little Caesars at next week’s Champions League, and be sure to follow World Hockey Hub on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for continued coverage of the tournament, upcoming features, highlights and recaps, and so much more!
A city of roughly 55,000 people located in western Slovakia, Trenčín is home to 10 current and former NHL players. It’s the ninth largest city in its own country, and just the 118th largest country in the world, yet has produced the likes of Zdeno Chara, Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa. This small city in central Europe has seen Olympic champions, Stanley Cup champions and world champions come up through its youth hockey programs, and the next wave of Slovakian talent is coming to Coral Springs, Florida, next week for Champions League.
Led by head coach Martin Sojka, this HK Dukla team of 2008s has dominated youth hockey in Slovakia with a 12-0-0 record. With scores so out of this world, one would think it’s a typo; 14-2, 20-6, 30-4, 46-0, 55-0! Fifty-five to nothing! The 13 skaters that suited up for Dukla that night combined for 124 shots and every player scored at least one goal.
It is a baffling score, but it illustrates Dukla’s sheer dominance in the region. While the competition at Champions League will be night-and-day different from the double-digit victories they’ve accrued in Slovakia, opponents at next week’s tournament can be assured they’re facing the best that this country has to offer.
“My expectation is that we will compete in every game and every shift,” said Sojka. “I do want to see one-hundred percent effort and dedication from each player towards our team.”
It starts up front with powerful forwards like Geonhu Ra, Timothy Kazda and Juraj Jonas Ďurčo, who lead the team scoring. Michal Jakubec, Tomáš Miroslav Kubis, Michal Maršálek, David Franz Niederleitner, Samuel Pisarčík and Jakub Slováček give Dukla three solid lines of skill and speed offensively.
Adam Goljer is the lone righty among a defensive group full of lefties. Jakub Syrný leads the group in scoring, while Dominik Chudoba, Filip Kovalčík, Benedikt Alexander Stadlmann and Šimon Šuranyi round out the unit.
HK Dukla is the only team in the field to travel with three goalies, and will have plenty of options with Dávid Dvořák, Nicko Zakk Havel and Filip Vavro between the pipes.
“It is a huge honor for us to play at the event where we can play against the best teams of the world in the ‘08 age group,” said Sojka.
They open up with the Los Angeles Jr. Kings on day one of the tournament. Matchups with Järved IF and Kiekko Espoo on day two and then games with Yale Jr. Bulldogs and Windy City Storm to conclude pool play. HK Dukla Trencin faces its biggest challenge of the season next week at Champions League. Be sure to follow World Hockey Hub on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for continued coverage of the tournament, upcoming features, highlights and recaps, and so much more!