Myron Bytz for New Pathwayб New York.
The 2016 USCAK Hockey Tournament was held on Saturday, February 13th as part of the Ukrainian Hockey Weekend. The weekend also featured the NJ Devils Ukrainian Heritage Day on Sunday, February 14th. The tournament was organized by the Ukrainian Sports Federation of the USA and Canada (USCAK) and featured four teams battling for the “Alexander Cup” in a round-robin format: the Montreal Ukie Club, the New York Kozaks, the NY/NJ Kings and the Toronto Kontakt Kozaks. The games were held at the Prudential Center AmeriHealth Pavilion, practice facility of the NJ Devils.
In Game 1, the newly formed NY/NJ Kings took advantage of a Toronto team tired from their travels and jumped out to a 3-1 lead with goals from Michael Betley and Adam Gojdycz (2). But Toronto found their legs in the third period and fought back valiantly to salvage a 3-3 tie. Game 2 was a rematch of the Ukrainian Challenge Match in 2009 between the New York Kozaks and the Montreal Ukie Club. The fast paced game was a back and forth affair, before Bo Pryjmak scored the eventual game winner plus an insurance goal to seal a 4-2 victory. NY Kozaks player/founder Taras Odulak and captain Sev Palydowicz were particularly proud of the club’s first ever win against Montreal in their 25 year series history.
USCAK President Myron Bytz welcomed all four teams during the Opening Ceremonies and also thanked all the sponsors, which included Self Reliance New York FCU, SUMA Yonkers FCU, Selfreliance Ukrainian-American FCU (Whippany), Selfreliance NJ FCU, UNA, Tri-State Eye, Kontakt Ukrainian Television, TP Electric, the Irvington Ukrainian Center and Olympic Community Market.
Tournament organizers Mark Howansky and Bob Rad were recognized for their efforts. USCAK Board Members Ireneaus Isajiw and Walter Honczaryk and Roman Hirniak were also on hand and participated in the ceremonial puck drop. The national anthems of Canada, Ukraine and the United States were sung. Then after an intermission, which treated
the players and fans to a practice session of the Los Angeles Kings, the tournament resumed.
In Game 3, Toronto captain Yurij Rad and assistant captain Danylo Perciklijewicz tried to rally their team with early goals, but the superior firepower of the New York Kozaks proved too much to handle. NY eventually won the game 9-4, behind a hat-trick by tournament top scorer, Scott Esteyvich.
Game 4 was arguably the most exciting of the tournament with both NY/NJ Kings and the Montreal Ukie Club desperately needing a win to stay in contention for the Alexander Cup. Again, the young Kings team jumped out to an early lead behind goals from team captain Stephan Kobyleckyj and Alex Wirt – 2 each. And again, they almost let it slip away as Montreal scored three goals and were awarded a penalty shot with one minute left to give them a chance to tie the game. But NY/NJ Kings goalie Matt Betley stopped the shot to preserve the win and was selected as tournament top-goalie as a reward for his efforts.
Game 5 was effectively the championship game, pitting the two undefeated local teams against each other. The New York Kozaks saved their best for last and used their tournament experience to shut-out the younger NY/NJ Kings 5-0. The contest was much closer than the score line indicated though; with Kozaks goalie and tournament MVP Joe Burley making many timely saves.
The last game of the day pitted the Montreal Ukie Club against the Toronto Kontakt Kozaks. Montreal captains Stefan Holowka, Yuri Mytko and Andriy Lysowych made sure they captured the Canadian bragging rights and led their team to a 9-4 win, with a particularly impressive performance by tournament top-defenseman Jeff DeBelle.
Afterwards, all the teams enjoyed live music and a copious food spread at the Pub Night hosted by the Irvington Ukrainian Center. Replays of the games were shown in a side room as teams joked and reminisced.
All the participants agreed that the inaugural USCAK Alexander Hockey Tournament was a resounding success and looked forward to the next one.