By JOHN WAWROW
AP Hockey Writer
QUEBEC CITY (AP) — The boys’ hockey team of Ukrainian refugees extended its celebrated stay in Canada for a few more days, at least.
Maksym Kukharenko scored a power-play goal and Matvii Kulish earned the shutout in the Ukrainian Selects 2-0 victory over Team Romania Wolves in an elimination game at the International Peewee Tournament in Quebec City on Monday night.
The Ukrainians, who have been celebrated around town since their arrival some two weeks ago, are three wins from clinching a spot in the tournament Class AA championship on Sunday. They advanced to play the Vermont Flames Academy on Friday.
Appearing more accustomed to playing in front of large crowds after a slow start in winning their opening game two days earlier, Kukharenko scored 4:37 into the 10-minute first period off a shot from the left point that appeared to deflect in off a Romanian defender. The tournament doesn’t keep track of shots, Kulish’s save total is unknown. His best came a minute into the second period, when he turned aside a shot from Alexandru-Andrei Dan at the left post.
Ivan Bilozerov capped the scoring by converting a rebound with 61 seconds remaining.
The game was played in front of a much smaller crowd than the estimated near-capacity 18,000 blue-and-white flag waving fans who turned out for the Ukrainian’s 3-1 tournament-opening win over the Boston Junior Bruins on Saturday. The lower bowl was only half full, but mostly made up of Ukrainian fans.
A smaller contingent of Romanian fans were gathered in one section, and made their presence known with chants, songs and the banging of cowbells.
Tournament officials don’t release attendance figures, but the crowd on Monday was still far larger than the 20 or so people Selects forward Zahar Kovalenko said he was used to playing in front of in Ukraine. The nerves showed on Saturday, with Ukraine overcoming a 1-0 deficit by scoring three times in the final five minutes.
The Ukrainian’s presence has placed a larger global spotlight on the 63-year-old tournament with the war in Ukraine showing signs of once again escalating, a little under a year since Russia’s invasion began.
The Selects are regarded as symbol of peace for Ukraine and hope for a better future, and they’ve merited mention from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The team was cobbled together from a group of 11 and 12-year-old refugees, some of whom still live in Ukraine and others whose families have been scattered across Europe. At least five have fathers on the front lines defending Ukraine, while another player’s father died in battle.
The matchup of teams from bordering nations featured several coincidences. Romania is where the Ukrainians held training camp before arriving in Quebec City some two weeks ago. Romania was chosen because that’s where coach Evgheniy Pysarenko now lives, and began holding camps for players after watching many youth fleeing Ukraine with hockey equipment in tow.
And the Romanian team’s presence in the tournament stems from Pysarenko, who recommended to the nation’s hockey officials to seek sending a team to the Quebec City tournament four years ago.
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