International Series: Team Ukraine - Junior Hockey News
Published: Monday, 7 May 2012
By: Matt Prosser
Melnikov, Ukraine - As we now enter into the third month of our cross-sub cultural examination of teams participating in the IIHF World U20 Junior Hockey Championships, some of the countries you may be a bit more familiar with will begin to pop up; the first being Ukraine. However, before we dive into the yellow and blue, we need to look at the threshold we've just crossed into. After all, you can't have dinner until you've set the table first...or at least taken out the TV tray.
Twenty-one International articles have been written thus far (see below for your favorite country!), and Division I play has now been reached starting with Group B. Here we will see a healthy mix of team abilities both good and bad, but like Moses seeing the land of milk and honey from a distance, the teams who are here can taste one of the ten Top Division spots. For some teams this is nothing out of the ordinary, just renewed frustration of being on the bump for so long. On the other hand, this is a place of redemption; a time to show that you belong. The latter is representative of Ukraine.
IIHF Record: 47-54-8
2012 Final Results: Division II Group A First Place with 5-0-0 record (Promoted to Division I Group A)
Head Coach: Alexander Godynyuk (UKR)
In years past, the Ukraine has had more than its fair share of struggles. Three years off their independence from the Soviet Union, the Ukrainians joined the IIHF in 1994 with an unheard of blowout 20-0 victory against Lithuania. However, what happened in their first game could unfortunately be considered the peak of their hockey existence and they've had to humble themselves year after year.
2004 was especially a struggle not only for the Ukrainian hockey team but for the country as a whole. Between a rigged election, high mortality rates, and financial instability, Ukraine was hardly fit to carry a team to the Top Division. In fact, they weren't fit at all considering they could only afford one jersey and hardly any gear; but they didn't want to pass on the opportunity to represent their country in need. So with hockey being one of the most inclusive communities in all of sports (especially at the junior level), other participating countries were willing to give gear donations so Ukraine could suit up.
But not all feel good stories end well, and this was one of those stories since Ukraine couldn't win a single game, were relegated, and haven't seen the Top Division light since. After that, they ended up falling back as far as Division II Group A but have now found their way back into Division I Group B. With that said, don't take this comeback as anything extremely significant until we see results. Ukraine barely squeaked their way back in with two overtime victories in 2012 to remain undefeated. What we will get to enjoy is seeing how well young phenom, Viktor Zakharov, can play at this level. Last year he topped DIIA with 7 goals and 9 points as an 18 year-old. Other youngins who will be fun to watch include Pavlo Padakin and Vladislav Kutchevich who also charted in the top ten. If the team can continue to score consistently and goaltender Pavlo Yachnyk can adjust to the higher-caliber offenses, we may just see Ukraine in D1 play for another season. Just don't expect a promotion.
Matt Prosser, Beat Writer for JuniorHockey.com and host of the upcoming show: Junior Hockey Central. Founder of Fifty8 Productions and freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Voice of California State University, Sacramento Hockey and host of The Sports Cycle with Matt Prosser on KSSU1580 Sacramento. For questions, writing ventures, or advertising/sponsorships for the show please e-mail Matt@Fifty8productions.com. Follow on Twitter @MattProsser58 or visit www.Fifty8Productions.com.
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