Month: October 2018

World Juniors: Israel Junior Hockey News

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By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey,com

After winning the Gold in Division III of the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation’s U20 World Championship with a 5-0 record, Israel will play this year in Division IIB. IIHF reporter Ivan Tchechankov called Israel’s Gold “a historic day for Israeli ice hockey.”

No doubt the U20 national team would like to make history again in 2019. Head coach Derek Eisler will surely rely heavily on the core of his 2018 squad, which was anchored by top scorer, captain Mark Revniaga, a 1998 who’s eligible for the upcoming tournament. In the 2018 WJC played in Bulgaria, he scored 11 goals — nearly half of the team’s entire 25-goal output — and assisted on four in five games. His 15 points led all WJC scorers, so it was no surprise the center/right wing was selected as the top forward in the tournament.

Revniaga is now in his third season playing in North America. He is currently with the Northern Colorado Eagles of the Western States Hockey League, where he has three goals and a pair of assists in five games. He’s also played with the Point Mallard Ducks of the North American 3 Hockey League, and the New York Apple Core of the Eastern Hockey League.

Finishing eighth in scoring, and second on his team, at the 2018 WJC was Israeli defenseman Tomer Aharonovich, a 1999 with two years of U20 eligibility remaining. He recorded three goals and seven assists, and was named the tournament’s top defenseman. Aharonovich played 36 games in the EHL last year with the Philadelphia Revolution and tallied five goals and 17 assists.

The next three most prolific scorers were either full-time or part-time defenseman. Itay Mostovoy, a full-time blueliner, had two goals and five assists; 1999 winger-defenseman Marom Avraham, recorded a pair of goals and four assists; and Dan Hoffman, a defenseman-left winger born in 1999, had for assists in the tournament. Mostovoy, it should be noted, is only a 2001 who will continue to develop.

Center Tom Ignatovich, who finished sixth on the team with two goals and an assist, plays a tough game. He racked up 31 penalty minutes in five games in the 2018 WJC. This year he’s playing with Revniaga in Northern Colorado and is hoping to find a NCAA team after wrapping up his junior eligibility at the end of this season.

It’s no surprise that Israel was solid in goal at the 2018 WJC. Both netminders were in the top three in save percentage and both had outstanding goals-against averages.

“Our two goalies were really, really good. Without those two guys we wouldn’t be here,” Eisler told Tchechankov after Israel had wrapped up the 2018 title.

“Without good quality goaltending you can’t win gold medals. I have the luxury to alternate good goalies every game.”

Raz Werner, a 1999, played in three games and put up a 2.00 GAA, a .934 save percentage, and one shutout. Yonatan Reisinger, played in two games, allowing only five goals for a 2.50 GAA. The 2000-born goalie, who is in the net this year for the Hartford Jr. Wolfpack in the United States Premier Hockey League’s Premier Division, recorded a .904 save percentage. Werner is playing his junior hockey this season in Sweden in the J20 Elit division.

The 2018 gold these players helped win might be the spark Israel hockey needed to move the sport to the next level.

“I think with the success this U20 team just had here, the kids back home are watching it, everybody in Israel is seeing this,” Eisler said in the interview with Tchechankov. “There are more and more projects for ice rinks and there will be more people playing hockey. So I think just the sheer volume of interest will go up.”

The 2019 Division III WJC will be played in Croatia in January. Israel will be in a field of six that includes Mexico, the Netherlands, Croatia, Belgium, and Serbia.

From Kenya to Canada: The Story of Kenya’s Only Ice Hockey Team

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News provided by Tim Hortons

In Kenya, there is only one ice hockey team, and they have nobody to play against. Every Wednesday and Sunday, the Kenya Ice Lions take to the first-ever ice rink in East and Central Africa: a 1,400-square-metre rink at the Panari Sky Center Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. Located next to Nairobi National Park, is where the Ice Lions take to the rink and play the game they love.

n Canada, it is sometimes taken for granted that Canadians can always find someone to grab a stick, find some ice and play a game. Tim Hortons heard the story about the Kenya Ice Lions and decided to share our love of the game by bringing them to the birthplace of hockey.

“In Canada – and as a company – Hockey is part of our DNA,” says Jorge Zaidan, Head of Marketing, Tim Hortons Canada. “We are so inspired by the story of the Lions. Despite having no other teams to play against, the players on the Kenya Ice Lions’ passion for the game is unwavering. Their shared passion and love of the game knows no borders.”

Moved by their love for Canada’s favorite sport, Tim Hortons flew 12 members of the senior Ice Lions team to Canada to have the opportunity to finally play their first game ever against another team. After dressing in brand new CCM hockey equipment and personalized jerseys, they discovered they were in for an even bigger surprise: Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon were joining them on the ice as teammates.

“I was honoured to be able to join the Ice Lions as they played their first game against another team,” said Sidney Crosby, captain of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. “One of the things I love about hockey is how it’s able to reach so many people from so many countries around the world and bring them together.”

“While we played alongside the Ice Lions for their first game, we know it won’t be their last,” said Colorado Avalanche star, Nathan MacKinnon. “The team’s genuine passion and excitement for hockey is contagious – they were amazing teammates and it was great to play with them.”

“It is a dream to not only have the chance to play in Canada, but to play – for the first time – in full gear alongside two of the greatest players of the game,” says Benard Azegere, captain of the Kenya Ice Lions.” When we first started playing in Kenya, we didn’t even have full equipment, but now not only do we have that, we can say we’ve played a real game with some All-Star teammates.”

Tim Hortons made a donation to Kenya’s Youth Hockey League to help ensure that the Ice Lions’ passion for the sport lives on for the next generation. Check out full video of the Kenya Ice Lions hockey game with Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon,

Chinese ice hockey star Zachary Yuen feels weight of a nation as he forges his path in Russia’s KHL

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By Patrick Blennerhassett – South China Morning Post

China-born youngster talks about adapting to life playing hockey in Russia and his hopes for representing his motherland at the 2022 Olympics

Zachary Yuen did not get to choose his heritage, but as one of ice hockey’s budding Chinese prospects the National Hockey League (NHL) is hoping will help grow the game in the Far East, he has embraced the added attention and duty to the motherland.

Yuen, 25, whose father is from Hong Kong and mother is from the Guangdong Province, was born in Vancouver (which is 43 per cent ethnically Chinese) and now plays for the Beijing-based Kunlun Red Stars, the only Chinese team in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

Yuen, who was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, chose the KHL over the typical American Hockey League route (which houses the NHL’s feeder teams) to help grow the game in China.

This, of course, has placed a particularly bright spot on Yuen as the NHL tries desperately to bring forth a Chinese superstar to reach a new audience overseas.

Yuen has featured in multiple media outlets since heading overseas including GQ China twice, the Financial Times and recently walked the catwalk at a fashion show in Shenzhen.

“I definitely feel like there is a lot more responsibility and pressure being a Chinese player because I feel I have a responsibility to be a good role model for all the kids in China who have interest in hockey,” he said.

The NHL is hoping all the games it has hosted in China and the cash it spent flying in marquee draws like Wayne Gretzky and Phil Esposito will be able to piggyback off the country’s commitment to winter sports ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

State broadcaster CCTV has also televised a number of NHL regular season games and the play-offs hoping to entice more Chinese people to either play or take interest in the game.

China has literally built hundreds of ice rinks across the country and the International Ice Hockey Federation reports the game has grown from about 1,000 local players in 2017 to 12,000 today.

Yuen, who is in his third year in the KHL and is a much-coveted left-handed defenceman, is a pitch-perfect spokesperson given he is trilingual. He said even though he was born and raised in Vancouver, he was raised in a fairly traditional Chinese family.

“For me being able to also speak Mandarin and Cantonese, I’m able to really keep in touch and communicate with all the Chinese fans, and I feel like it’s a very important part to growing the sport in China.”

Yuen added his first season (2016-17) in the KHL was tough, noting it was like having “continuous jetlag”, but now he feels much more at home and knows all the Russian cities. Right now the Red Stars have five Canada-born players and eight China-born players on their roster. The team is currently 10th in the East Division of the KHL with five wins and nine losses in 14 games. Yuen has only played six games this season due to injury.

One of the points of upcoming contention between the NHL and China ahead of 2022 will be whether the league sends its players. The NHL bucked the trend in 2018 by announcing its players would stay put which boiled down to a money issue with the International Olympic Committee.

Yuen said it is “still too early to say” whether the NHL will allow its players to go to Beijing in 2022. If Yuen is still playing in the KHL it will be a no-brainer as he will definitely suit up, but if he is playing for an NHL team, the decision will be out of his hands.

“For me, I would love to be a part of Team China for the Olympics. I want to represent my mother country, and it’s definitely something I look forward to. So with regards to NHL participation in the Olympics I guess only time will tell.”

 

From the WJAC to the NHL

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By Jason La Rose – Hockey Canada

The puck dropped Wednesday night to kick off the 2018-19 National Hockey League season, and it did so with 70 alumni of the World Junior A Challenge earning spots on rosters across the league.

The United States led the way with 19 alumni in the NHL, followed by Russia (12), Canada West (12), Canada East (11), Sweden (eight), the Czech Republic (five), Denmark (two) and Switzerland (one).

The Canada West and United States contingents both included players who won gold at the World Junior A Challenge; 25 players in all – eight Canadians and 17 Americans – stood atop the podium, with U.S. forwards Craig Smith (2007 and 2008) and Kyle Connor (2013 and 2014) to only players to hoist the trophy twice.

The list of alumni also included eight players who earned MVP honours – Kyle Turris (2006), Scott Mayfield (2010), Devin Shore (2011), Vinnie Hinostroza (2012), Nick Schmaltz (2013), Nikolaj Ehlers (2014), Tyson Jost (2015) and Andrei Svechnikov (2016) – and 14 WJAC all-stars.

Twenty-eight of the NHL’s 31 teams had at least one alumnus on their 23-man roster, led by the Colorado Avalanche with five; Boston, Columbus, Detroit, the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Washington had four each.

In addition to the 70 who cracked the rosters, five alumni started the season on the injured list with the respective teams, and may or may not join the NHL roster once they’re deemed healthy.

WORLD JUNIOR A CHALLENGE ALUMNI ON SEASON-OPENING NHL ROSTERS

Oliver Bjorkstrand – Columbus Blue Jackets (Denmark, 2014)
Brock Boeser – Vancouver Canucks (United States, 2014)
Drake Caggiula – Edmonton Oilers (Canada East, 2011)
Dennis Cholowski – Detroit Red Wings (Canada West, 2015)
Kyle Connor – Winnipeg Jets (United States – 2013-2014)
Austin Czarnik – Calgary Flames (United States, 2010)
Evgeni Dadonov – Florida Panthers (Russia, 2006)
Jacob de la Rose (injured) – Montreal Canadiens (Sweden, 2011)
Casey DeSmith – Pittsburgh Penguins (United States, 2010)
Nic Dowd – Washington Capitals (United States, 2009)
Sheldon Dries – Colorado Avalanche (United States, 2012)
Ryan Dzingel – Ottawa Senators (United States, 2010)
Nikolaj Ehlers – Winnipeg Jets (Denmark, 2014)
Jesper Fast – New York Rangers (Sweden, 2009)
Tanner Fritz – New York Islanders (Canada West, 2008-2009)
Derek Grant – Pittsburgh Penguins (Canada West, 2008)
Vinnie Hinostroza – Arizona Coyotes (United States, 2011-2012)
Ben Hutton – Vancouver Canucks (Canada East, 2011)
Zach Hyman – Toronto Maple Leafs (Canada East, 2010)
Calle Jarnkrok – Nashville Predators (Sweden, 2009)     
Nick Jensen – Detroit Red Wings (United States, 2009)
Luke Johnson – Chicago Blackhawks (United States, 2012)
Tyson Jost – Colorado Avalanche (Canada West, 2014-2015)
Vladislav Kamenev (injured) – Colorado Avalanche (Russia, 2013)
David Kampf – Chicago Blackhawks (Czech Republic, 2012)
Ondrej Kase (injured) – Anaheim Ducks (Czech Republic, 2012)
Alexander Kerfoot – Colorado Avalanche (Canada West, 2011-2012)
Jujhar Khaira – Edmonton Oilers (Canada West, 2011)
Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay Lightning (Russia, 2010)
Dean Kukan – Columbus Blue Jackets (Switzerland, 2010-2012)
Dmitry Kulikov – Buffalo Sabres (Russia, 2007)
Sean Kuraly – Boston Bruins (United States, 2011)
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Washington Capitals (Russia, 2008)
Johan Larsson (injured) – Buffalo Sabres (Sweden, 2009)
Elias Lindholm – Calgary Flames (Sweden, 2011)
Hampus Lindholm – Anaheim Ducks (Sweden, 2011)
Scott Mayfield – New York Islanders (United States, 2010)
John Moore – Boston Bruins (United States, 2008)
Vladislav Namestnikov – New York Rangers (Russia, 2009)
Riley Nash – Columbus Blue Jackets (Canada West, 2006)
Patrik Nemeth – Colorado Avalanche (Sweden, 2009)
Valeri Nichushkin – Dallas Stars (Russia, 2011)
Joakim Nordström – Boston Bruins (Sweden, 2009-2010)
Dmitry Orlov – Washington Capitals (Russia, 2008)
Colton Parayko – St. Louis Blues (Canada West, 2011)
David Pastrnak – Boston Bruins (Czech Republic, 2012)
Matthew Peca – Montreal Canadiens (Canada East, 2010)
Neal Pionk – New York Rangers (United States, 2013)
Mike Reilly – Montreal Canadiens (United States, 2011)
Evan Rodrigues – Buffalo Sabres (Canada East, 2010)
Joakim Ryan – San Jose Sharks (Sweden, 2010)
Justin Schultz – Pittsburgh Penguins (Canada West, 2008)
Jordan Schmaltz – St. Louis Blues (United States, 2010-2011)
Nick Schmaltz – Chicago Blackhawks (United States, 2013)
Jaden Schwartz – St. Louis Blues (Canada West, 2008)
Devin Shore – Dallas Stars (Canada East, 2011)
Dominik Simon – Pittsburgh Penguins (Czech Republic, 2011)
Jaccob Slavin – Carolina Hurricanes (United States, 2012)
Brendan Smith – New York Rangers (Canada East, 2006)
Craig Smith – Nashville Predators (United States, 2007-2008)
Reilly Smith – Vegas Golden Knights (Canada East, 2008)
Libor Sulak – Detroit Red Wings (Czech Republic, 2011)
Troy Stecher – Vancouver Canucks (Canada West, 2011-2012)
Andrei Svechnikov – Carolina Hurricanes (Russia, 2016)
Evgeny Svechnikov (injured) – Detroit Red Wings (Russia, 2013)
Cam Talbot – Edmonton Oilers (Canada East, 2006)
Vladimir Tarasenko – St. Louis Blues (Russia, 2008)
Kyle Turris – Nashville Predators (Canada West, 2006)
Andrei Vasilevskiy – Tampa Bay Lightning (Russia, 2011)
Mikhail Vorobyov – Philadelphia Flyers (Russia, 2014)
Jakub Vrana – Washington Capitals (Czech Republic, 2012)
MacKenzie Weegar – Florida Panthers (Canada East, 2011)
Alexander Wennberg – Columbus Blue Jackets (Sweden, 2011)
Scott Wilson – Buffalo Sabres (Canada East, 2010)
Valentin Zykov – Carolina Hurricanes (Russia, 2011)

World Juniors: Mexico Junior Hockey News

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By: Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

In 1998, Mexico beat Turkey 28-0. Eleven years later, Hungary beat Mexico by the same score. No, they weren’t playing football. These were scores from International Ice Hockey Federation U20 World Junior Championship tournaments.

Mexico, which experienced both extremes in those four-touchdown shutouts, has been competing in international junior play since 1996, in what was then Pool D of the IIHF world junior championship. The team went 0-3 that year, scoring only five goals while allowing 40.

By 2005, though, Mexico won the Division III title, and then won it again in 2011.

The Mexican national team, will play in the 2019 tournament in Zagreb, Croatia, in Group B of Division II this January. The squad is likely to be led by Jorge Perez, a big 1998 center who was the top scorer for Mexico in the 2018 tournament, tallying three goals and three assists in five games. Perez has played in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (where he was the first Latin American player to reach Junior A in Canada), and in the Heritage Hockey League in Canada in Alberta; and for The Hill Academy in Ontario, and the Banff Hockey Academy in Alberta.

Maybe Mexico’s most interesting player is Luis Cruz, a 2000 winger who is still developing. He tied for second in team scoring in the 2018 WJC with one goal and two assists. But he truly shined in the 2018 U18 Division IIIA WJC, tying for the tournament scoring lead with 10 points on eight goals (by far the highest total in the tournament) and two assists.

Forward Carlos Ramirez, a 1999, also finished with three points in the 2018 U20 tournament, as did Luis Gil, a 1998 who plays both defense and wing. Gil played one game last year for Purdue’s American Collegiate Hockey Association Division III team, recording one assist.

Defenseman Gonzalo Hagerman, a 1999 playing for Lake Forest Academy in Illinois, paced Mexico’s blueliners with a goal and an assist in the 2018 U20 WJC. As captain of the U18 team, he scored one goal and set up six. He was the second-leading scorer on the team, behind only Cruz, and was ninth in overall scoring for the U18 tournament.

Also attending Lake Forest Academy is 2001 defenseman Jorge Ortiz. He had one assist last year’s U20 WJC and one goal and one assist in the U18 WJC. Only Hagerman put up better offensive numbers from the blueline for the Mexican U18 tournament team than Ortiz.

Mexico’s best option in goal could be Santiago Gomez, a 2000 who had a 3.00 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in one game in the U20 tournament, and a 2.14 GAA and .889 save percentage in the U18 WJC.

Other Mexican junior players to keep an eye on include Brandon Linares, a 2000 forward, who had two goals and four assists, and was a plus-2 in five 2018 U18 WJC games, and is now at the Ontario Hockey Academy; and 2001 goalie Marcello de Antunano, who played two games in that same tournament and came away with sterling numbers — a 1.32 GAA and .923 save percentage.

World Juniors: New Zealand Junior Hockey News

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By: Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

We recently featured the national junior team from a country where many would think hockey doesn’t even exist, only to follow up with a post on another nation that seems even less likely to support hockey.

Yet New Zealand has had a national U20 junior team competing in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s world championship play since 2004, and has twice been promoted to the next level.

Few New Zealand players have made it to the U.S. and Canada to play junior hockey, though. The short list of current players in North America includes 1998 forward Alex Egan, and defensemen John Lilly (2000) and George Hopkins (1998), all of whom are playing this season for the Bradford Bulls of the Greater Metropolitan Hockey League; and Max Hurring, a 2001 defensmen with the St. George Ravens of the GMHL.

Every player from last year’s IIHF U20 World Junior Championship team is eligible to return for this year’s tournament in Reykjavik, Iceland, in January, including top scorers Luke Hill, a 1999 center and team MVP who scored three goals and recorded two assists in five games, and 2001 forward Ryan Martinoli, who had a pair of goals and three assists in five games (and has already put up strong numbers — three goals, two assists — in five Swiss Elite Junior B games this season).

Egan finished the tournament with a pair of goals in five games while forward Felipe Aguirre, a 1998, had a goal and assist in five games. The defenseman with the best numbers was 1998-born William Morley-Hall. In five contests, he had one assist and was a only a minus-1 on a team that had several players whose plus-minus stats were in negative double figures.

New Zealand finished last out of six teams last year, putting up no wins and losing all five games in regulation. It was outscored 40-11, so goalies, defensemen, and forwards are all going to have to be more committed to playing defense in the upcoming tournament. Both the penalty kill and the power play, each of which was at the bottom in last year’s tournament, will also need tremendous improvement.

The good news, though, is last year’s team was rather young, with one 2002 (goalie Finley Forbes); three 2001s (Hurring, Martinoli, and forward Max Vesper); one 2000 (forward Matheson Graham); and seven 1999s (Hill, forwards Liam Kinraid, Mak Rawiri, and Zac Vince, defensemen Ryan Fraser and Moses Bygate-Smith, and goalie Taylor Goodall). If most of that team returns for the 2019 tournament (the roster won’t be announced for probably a month), another year of experience should allow them to be more competitive under head coach Justin Daigle.