Ringing in the New Year

Dec 29, 2022 | Peter Rossi

Oliver Ozogány skates with the puck for 2009-born youth hockey team SPA Futures at the Champions League in Coral Springs, Florida.
Photo courtesy of Sergei Zak | World Hockey Hub

Fast paced action and high scoring at Champions League

SPA nabs top spot in Group A

The second day of Champions League play among 2009-born programs saw all eight participants complete their preliminary round schedules. Teams will be re-seeded based on their positions of group play with the playoff rounds beginning Friday, Dec. 30. 

One of the most impressive runs at this year’s tournament has been that of Seacoast Performance Academy Futures, who has gone 3-0-0. SPA opened their slate of games with a thrilling 6-5 comeback victory over Finland-based Kiekko-Espoo Blues. Down 4-2 at one point early in the second period, they tallied four unanswered goals en route to the win. Bolstering the offense for SPA were Pavol Strnadel (2G, 2A) and Oliver Ozogány (1G, 2A). Both players are tied with Max Malicerík (4G, 1A) for second in overall team scoring. 

Led up front by Juuso Frederiskon (1G, 7A), Toomas Reijonen (5G, 3A) and Luca Santala (4G, 2A), K-Espoo would get back in the win column in their next two games. Outscoring Mountfield HK and NA Stars by a combined score of 15-3 placed them second in the group. As an added note, all three players led Group A in scoring.

Kiekko Blues would finish second in group A with a 2-1-0 record, followed by Mountfield (1-2-0) and NA Stars (0-3-0). 

Tappara, Florida Alliance Battle for Group B Supremacy

While Seacoast ran away with Group A, the race for the top spot in Group B was much more of a dogfight. Tappara and Florida Alliance stood equal with 2-0-0 records heading into their final game of the round robin format, which just so happened to be against one another. 

Sent to an early power play, Tappara would open the scoring off a goal from Oliver Raimovaara. But just 23 seconds later, Kyle Hofelich would even the score at 1 thanks to a great individual effort. 

Then the Justin Fernandez show began.

Fernandez capped off a pretty passing play between Trevor Daley and Reese Tracy to put Florida up 2-1. Shortly after, he sniped home his second goal of the contest increasing the lead to 3-1. Daley would tally a goal of his own towards the end of the first period for a 4-1 advantage. At 12:49 of the second period, Fernandez beat Tappara netminder Kai Tummonen for the third time of the afternoon to cap off his hat trick. 

A strong performance that garnered Fernandez 10 points (5G, 5A), securing second in total scoring among all skaters at the tournament. The flashy forward currently sits behind Tappara’s Aleski Leinonen’s three goals and 11 points.

Tummonen finished with 24 saves on 29 shots, while Nello Torrio’s 22 saves on 23 shots helped backstop Alliance to the win. 

Tappara would finish group play at 2-1-0, followed by Geneva Futur Hockey’s 1-2-0 record and HC Slovan ending at 0-3-0.

SPA, Alliance ready to face off

After all is said and done with regards to re-seeding, SPA will be tasked with taking on Alliance in their next matchup. With these two squads ending up in first place of their respective groups, expect the goals and emotions to run high. It will be imperative for SPA to start the game on time, as most of Florida’s offense in the Champions League has come in the first period. Seacoast, on the other hand, has found the back of the net evenly across both periods up to this point. 

Also top of the list for SPA is to not be deterred by Torrio. Alliance’s saving grace between the pipes has statistically been the best goalie, racking up a 0.67 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. SPA will likely counter with Nicko Zack Havel in net.

Set your alarms and prepare the coffee because you won’t want to miss when these two teams drop the puck at 9:00 AM tomorrow morning.

Other matchups throughout the day are as follows:

NA Stars vs. HC Slovan – 10:00 AM EST

Mountfield HK vs. Geneva Futur Hockey – 2:15 PM EST

K-Espoo Blues vs. Tappara – 2:30 PM EST

For more coverage of the Champions League and other top youth hockey tournaments around the world, follow WHH on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube.

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