TORONTO – The second annual Alexander Cup International Ukrainian Hockey Tournament was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on February 18-19. The tournament is hosted by the Ukrainian Sports Federation of U.S.A. and Canada (USCAK). Tournament participants included five teams: Kontakt (Toronto) and the Toronto Kozaks, the Montreal Ukie Club from Quebec, the Edmonton U.A. Lions from Alberta and the New Jersey Kings from New Jersey, U.S.A.
On Saturday, February 18, the tournament held five round robin games where teams picked MVPs from the opposing team. MVP medals were awarded during the reception on Saturday evening at Baby Point Lounge, where festivities lasted into the wee hours of the morning. MVP recipients were especially honoured as they felt their selection by competitors from peers of their opposition was the most prestigious form of recognition.
On Sunday morning, February 19, at 10:30 a.m. the Toronto Kozaks and the New Jersey Kings fought for the right to move on to the semifinals. New Jersey drew first blood, but Toronto rallied with six straight goals. New Jersey fought back in the third period with two more goals but had to settle for fifth place with a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Kozaks. In the first semifinal, Edmonton Lions easily handled Montreal Ukie Club with a 5-1 win, advancing to the gold-medal final. In the second semifinal, Kontakt also easily handled Toronto Kozaks with a 6-2 win, advancing to the final.
The bronze-medal game appeared to be a foregone conclusion as the tired Toronto Kozaks entered the rink to play a back-to-back game after losing to Kontakt. A fresh Montreal team scored first but Toronto responded to end the first period 1-1. In the second period, Montreal scored two unanswered goals entering the third period with a 3-1 lead. Midway through the third period, Toronto made it interesting, closing the gap with a goal making it 3-2. With less than two minutes left in the third period, Toronto scored two goals to take a 4-3 lead, to the dismay of the Montreal team and stunning fans in the stands. But Montreal was not done yet.
With 24 seconds left in the third period, Jeff Debelle scored an unassisted goal to tie the game and forced an overtime period. The arena was silent as everyone tried to catch their breath and figure out what just happened during the last two minutes of play in the third period. At the 2:24 mark of the “sudden death” overtime, a scramble erupted in front of the Montreal net and Lucas Bender of Toronto scored the game-winner. The Toronto Kozaks shocked everyone earning the bronze (third place).
The gold-medal game had the makings of a Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final. Edmonton was laser-focused to taking the Alexander Cup back home with them to Alberta. Kontakt exhumed confidence after defeating Edmonton 5-0 in round-robin play the day before. Both teams dominated the tournament during round-robin play and this game was “for all the marbles.”
The fans were treated to some of the finest amateur hockey at a junior “A” level. The game was fast-paced and gritty. No team was prepared to give an inch. Just as the fans were treated to an exciting finish in the bronze-medal game, the gold-medal game proved to be just as exciting. Kontakt attacked first, but laser-focused Edmonton came back to hold the lead. With 1:03 left to play in the third period, Kontakt was down 3-6. Within 24 seconds, Kontakt scored two unanswered goals making the score 6-5. With only 27 seconds left on the clock Kontakt pulled their goalie rallying six Kontakt attackers against Edmonton’s wall of defense. Edmonton held off Kontakt’s relentless attack for the remaining 27 seconds, which felt like a 27-hour battle to win the Alexander Cup 6-5.
With the second Annual Alexander Cup in the books, all visiting teams have thrown in their hat to host the third annual tournament. Edmonton has committed to send two teams to the next tournament and ice three teams should Edmonton get the nod to host the tournament. With potential teams from Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Winnipeg and Calgary, the Alexander Cup has given rise to an exciting revival of Ukrainian Hockey in North America.
A special thanks goes to Myron Bytz, president of USCAK, for the foresight in initiating the Alexander Cup in 2016 as part of the Ukrainian Hockey Weekend at the Prudential Center. This event included the NHL New Jersey Devils’ Ukrainian Heritage Day, showcasing Ukrainian culture and heritage before the New Jersey Devils took to the ice for a regular NHL season game against the Los Angeles Kings.
Most Valuable Players
Montreal – Jeff Debelle # 6 D
New Jersey – Matt Betley # 1 G
Kontakt – Mike Hladin # 14 D
Edmonton – Billy Feculak # 37 G
Montreal – Andrew Wolczak G
Toronto – Tor Pedersen #7 F
New Jersey – Andrew Denderis #19
Kontakt – Marko Borszcz # 12 F
Edmonton – Orest Boyarchuk # 55 D
Toronto – Simon Artymowycz # 1 G