Must-See Matchups over the Holiday

Dec 26, 2022 | Peter Rossi

Photo from Instagram | @cole.peters6
Photo from Instagram | @cole.peters6

Champions League, Marlboros Holiday Classic and Lindström Cup feature top teams clashing after Christmas 

Each week, World Hockey Hub highlights a few of the most exciting upcoming games in youth hockey. From the hottest rivalries to the biggest tournaments, we focus on matchups that will impact the landscape among top teams in the sport. This week’s action features plenty of international matchups from tournaments like Champions League in Florida, Marlboros Holiday Classic in Ontario and Folke Lindström Cup in Sweden.

Champions League gets underway in FLA

There will be plenty of first-time meetings and intriguing matchups when play begins at the second-annual Champions League in Coral Springs, Florida, this Wednesday. Eight 2009-born teams from Europe and North America will take to the ice in the hopes of being crowned champions. 

Day one will see one of the premier teams in Slovakia, HC Slovan, going up against Tappara

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Wednesday, December 28 @ 5:45 PM EST
Panthers IceDen

Pete’s Pick: This will pit top talent against top talent, with both programs being popular names in their respective countries. Tappara mainly has their players divided into different squads throughout group play, such as Tappara Sininen, Tappara Musta etc. Bringing the “cream of the crop” onto one team to go against the best from other European teams should be a recipe for success. I expect high offense and both goaltenders for each side to be working overtime in this one, an eventual 5-4 win for Tappara. 

Craig’s Pick: I’m very curious to see how the Finns stack up in this international tournament. Last year, Kiekko went 0-6-0 as the lone representative in the event from Finland. I think Tappara — and Kiekko in its return trip to the tournament — fares better this time around. However, I like Slovan to win the matchup here in a scrappy one, 4-2.

On the second day of action, Mountfield HK will battle Kiekko-Espoo in a game that is sure to keep the scorekeepers busy. Mountfield enters competition as one of the best youth hockey teams in the Czech Republic. Countering their top-tier talent will be a roster full of the best Finland has to offer. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mountfield.logo_.pngThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Kiekko-Espoo-Blues-Logo-1.png
Thursday, December 29 @ 8:00 AM EST
Panthers Iceden

Pete’s Pick: Kiekko-Espoo Blues I and II hold down the top two spots in the Top 10 of ‘09 Finnish teams. Compiling a team of the best players from those two rosters, as well as No. 8 K-Espoo EPS 1, and you are bound for success. If K-Espoo brings even just half the top scorers that make up those blues teams, Mountfield is in for a long morning. With both offenses possibly canceling each other out, this one will come down to goaltending. K-Espoo wins in a high-scoring 5-4 affair.

Craig’s Pick: The Czechs typically tend to play a balanced style of hockey between skill and toughness. Kiekko-Espoo may out-skill Mountfield in this matchup, but the Czechs are just a little bit grittier here. I’ll take Mountfield in a 3-2, grind-it-out type of game.

Sweden sets stage for U15 Folke Lindström Cup 

From Dec. 27 – 29th, 2008-born teams will take part in the 2022 Folke Lindström Cup. Some of the very best the country — and birth year — has to offer will be in action, as four clubs in the Top 10 will take to the ice. 

Overall, 10 teams will be split into two groups of five. Group A houses most of the premier teams like No. 5 Boo Hockey, No. 7 Djurgärdens IF, and No. 9 Mälmo Redhawks. The only ranked team in Group B is No. 6 Mäläro Hockey

Flemingsbergs IK and Rögle BK — two bubble teams — will also be participants in group A and B, respectively. A strong performance by either could increase their chances of cracking the Top 10. 

Here are a few matchups to keep an eye on this week…

Pete’s Pick: Back on Dec. 8, Boo edged out a 2-1 win over their current group opponent Djurgärdens. There is sure to be some carry over from that tilt, with the latter club wanting to get revenge for the loss. These two teams are the second game of the first day of the tournament, so early fireworks are to be expected. The winner in this one could get a nice boost in confidence for the rest of the tournament. Djurgärdens brings two of the top leading scorers in group play into the contest, Nick Travergård and Lexus Zahn. They nab a win in this one, 3-2. 

Craig’s Pick: Boo has won both games against Djurgärdens this season, albeit by one goal each time. However, they outshot DIF by a noticeable margin both times and Leon Andersson backstopped them to victory in September and again two weeks ago. Djurgärdens has to go prove to me they can get pucks past Andersson. Until I see it, I’m riding with Boo by a 3-1 finish. Also, keep an eye out for forward Dante Islercelik. He’s got an assist in four of Boo’s last five games and factored in on three of the team’s five total goals against DIF this season. 

Keeping things on day one of the schedule, Boo has their second game against Flemingsbergs.

Pete’s Pick: With this being both team’s second game of the day, this one will come down to whoever finds that last bit of energy in their legs. Flemingsbergs is off to a 6-0-0 start to their group, and come into the tournament feeling good about their game. Sharing a division with a split squad of Boo, there will be some familiarity between the two programs in regards to who they see on the ice. While a full squad of Boo’s top players may put up more of a fight, I expect Flemingsbergs to skate away with the victory here, 5-2.

Craig’s Pick: Yea, I like Flemingsbergs here too. They just beat Boo a week ago 6-3 in Group Play. While it was a split squad for Boo, it still featured names like Leon Andersson, Dante Islercelik, Erik Lanestrand and at least six other players that will also be skating in the Lindstrom Cup this week. Flemingsbergs for the win, but I don’t think they put up six goals a second time, 3-2 final.

For a full schedule and results of the tournament games, click HERE

Toronto Marlboros Host Holiday Classic

The Toronto Marlboros will be heating up the holiday season with their annual Marlboros Holiday Classic. Teams from the 2007 to 2010 birth years will be in attendance.

And with a tournament of this size, there are bound to be some exciting cross-border matchups that should keep fans on the edges of their seats. 

First up from the 2007 birth year is a U16 contest between No. 8 U.S.-ranked Buffalo Jr. Sabres vs. Canadian No. 4-ranked Don Mills Flyers

Pete’s Pick: Here’s the most interesting thing about this matchup…neither team has played an opponent on the other side of their border this season. With no previous head-to-head matchups, these two programs enter this one with some uncertainty about their foe. Things might start slow in a feeling-out process, but once the competitive juices get flowing, the fun will begin. This one could be decided by the flip of a coin, but give me Don Mills taking the win, 4-2. 

Craig’s Pick: The Jr. Sabres have lost eight of their last 10, and four have been to teams ranked ahead of them in the U.S. Rankings. They desperately need to get back on track, and I think they could rack up a couple wins in the tournament. I just don’t think it happens here against DMF. I’ll take the Flyers 4-1, with a strong showing in this matchup and the tournament as a whole.

In the 2009 birth year, No. 8 Canadian-ranked HuronPerth Lakers square up against Ottawa Myers Automotive. It will be the second time the two sides will battle, with the Lakers emerging victorious in a 3-1 game back on Nov. 27. 

Pete’s Pick: I expect Ottawa to play hard in this one, as they are sitting as one of the bubble teams just outside the Top 10. Like many teams across the tournaments listed here, a strong showing could do wonders for their position moving forward not only in HEO play, but in the world rankings as well. A fact that will not be lost on these players. It will be close and hard fought, but the Lakers snag a second victory, 4-1.

Craig’s Pick: Huron-Perth has proved to be the better of the two teams for the majority of this season. They proved so back in November, and I think they do so again here. Andrew Menlove and Vaughn Barr have a combined 1.65 goals-against average this season, and gave up just one goal to Ottawa Myers last time out. That tandem should force multiple offenses to struggle this weekend, and help HP to another 3-1 win

Stay up to date on the latest scores and information about the Marlboros Holiday Classic HERE
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