Surprising Finishes, Big Performances And A Break In The Action From Champions League

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.

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