Playoffs set to begin on Friday, as both Czech clubs enter as undefeated top seeds
As mentioned earlier this week, the ‘09 and ‘10 World Selects Invitationals (WSI) are running concurrently in two separate European cities. While the international tournaments have been vastly different, the favorites to win both events may hail from the same club. The ‘09 Czech Knights completed pool play with a 5-0-0 record and are the top seed entering the 14U playoffs. Their ‘10 team is also 5-0-0, and they enter playoffs as the No. 1 seed as well.
The Czech Knights have proven to be a wildly successful club on the international stage. The organization has two WSI championships to its name already. They’ve also won the PeeWee Quebec in 2018 and 2020, as well as finalists in 2016 and 2019.
The ‘10 squad won last year’s 12U tournament, and is off to an undefeated start to the 13U event this week as well. If the Knights were able to claim two WSI titles simultaneously, it would be the first time since 2011 that one club won at multiple age groups in the same season. That year, CSKA Moscow won the 15U, 13U and 12U tournaments in the same spring season.
American Oliver McKinney leads ‘09 WSI scoring race
He played the ‘22-23 season for Chicago Mission, and now, Oliver McKinney is the front-runner to win the scoring title at the ‘09 WSI. As the top forward for Pro Hockey, McKinney has scored five goals and eight points through pool play. His performance, along with teammates Michael Tang and Tyler Lee have put Pro Hockey into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed with a 3-2-0 record.
While the Czech Knights are undefeated, Pro Hockey may stand the best chance at knocking off the Euros in the playoffs. The two teams began the tournament on Tuesday, with the Knights pulling away with a 7-4 win. Goals from McKinney and Tang gave Pro Hockey a 3-1 lead early in the game, which is the only time the Czechs have trailed in the tournament thus far. Three goals in a four-minute span allowed the Knights to escape defeat. However, can a championship rematch net a different result? McKinney and company will certainly hope so.
The Czechs will draw Barys in the quarterfinals, while Pro Hockey faces off against Finland Selects. Should chalk prevail, a championship matchup of the Czech Knights and Pro Hockey would be the first 1-v-2 finale since top-seeded CSKA Moscow defeated No. 2 WCAN in 2019.
Balanced offensive attack from ‘10 Slovakia Selects
The highest scoring offense at the ‘10 WSI is neither the No. 1 or No. 2 seed heading into the playoffs. Three-seeded Slovakia Selects has scored a tournament-high 42 goals in five games, with the top seven point producers. Patrik Šušoliak, Dominik Bičkoš and Dominik Domonkoš are tied for the tournament lead with 12 points apiece. Teammates David Macejka and Luka Križanovič are close behind with 10 points each. Simon Sisík (nine points) and Leonard Švajda (eight) add even more scoring depth to an already deep Slovakia Selects squad.
However, a 6-4 loss to top-seeded Barys has kept the Slovaks out of a top spot in the playoffs.
Miras Zhumabay recorded a hat trick in that game for Barys. As the team’s leading scorer, he has six goals and eight points in the tournament thus far. They’ll draw DraftDay in a quarterfinal matchup Friday morning; a team they beat 5-2 earlier in the week. A win there could set the stage for a potential Slovakia-Barys rematch on Friday evening with a trip to the championship at stake.
The ‘10 WSI has featured plenty of offense, averaging 8.1 goals per game. It hasn’t been favorable for the goalies, however, three have managed to post shutouts in the tournament thus far. None were more important than Yegor Togobitskiy’s 10-save performance for Barys. It may not have been an overwhelming workload in terms of shots, but the 2-0 result left little room for error for Togobitskiy in net.