Champions Collide

Dec 29, 2021 | Craig Peterson


The best 2008-born teams in the world clash in Miami at Champions League

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. 

Complete stats, standings and upcoming games are available HERE. For continued coverage of the Champions League, be sure to follow WHH on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube.

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