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Team Ukraine Earns Emotional Victory Over University of Manitoba Bisons

Photos by James Carey Lauder

Team Ukraine Earns Emotional Victory Over University of Manitoba Bisons

Canada Life Centre marked the final stop of the ‘Hockey Can’t Stop’ tour for the Ukrainian Under-25 National Team in its fundraising tour across Canada.

Serving as a way to earn funds to keep the hockey program afloat in a war-torn country that does not provide government funding to its hockey programs, the initiative – carried out heavily by TSN’s Good Miller – saw Ukraine’s U-25 team play games against the University of Alberta, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Calgary as it made its way east across the country, taking on some of the very best in U-Sports competition.

Monday evening at Canada Life Centre was no different, as the University of Manitoba Bisons hosted the Ukrainians in what was a memorable game for both sides. Skating at the home of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, both teams were given the opportunity to play in front of a significant crowd of 8,000 including that of over 4,000 Ukrainian refugees.

The Hoosli Ukrainian Men’s Chorus sung the national anthems of both Canada and Ukraine, while ‘Hockey Can’t Stop’ merchandise was available for purchase at Jets Gear. All proceeds from clothing sales and 50-50 went directly to the Canada Ukraine Foundation, much like that of profits from ticket sales. The Foundation will disperse the majority of funds to Save Ukrainian Hockey Dream, a charitable foundation operated by the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine with the assistance of the IIHF.

With the Ukrainians falling 2-0 to Saskatchewan, 3-1 to Calgary and 5-1 to Alberta, Monday’s game against Manitoba was extra special for the program and the tour, as Team Ukraine pulled off a 5-1 victory in front of a packed lower bowl in Winnipeg’s largest downtown venue.

As for the game itself, Ukraine’s Mykhailo Simchuk opened the scoring just 4:41 into the first period, jamming home a loose-puck rebound, brining those in blue and white to their collective feet early on.

Yaroslav Panchenko gave Ukraine a 2-0 lead just two minutes into the second period, before Hlib Kryvoshapkin gave the visitors yet another, this one a shorthanded tally midway through the frame.

Trailing 4-0 as the final period began, the Bisons scored their only goal of the game four minutes in, as Devon Skoleski picked up a Colton Veloso chip play and walked into the Ukrainian zone and scooped up his own rebound cutting the lead to three goals.

But just a minute-and-a-half later, Mykhailo Simchuk fired up the Ukrainian supporters with his second of the night as he finished off a two-on-one up ice, scoring the final goal of the game for either squad, as Ukraine powered its way to a 5-1 victory, despite rather even shot totals.

With many professional hockey players in Ukraine having taken up volunteer army positions following the attacks from Russia over the past 11 months, the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine continued to press on despite the loss of players and facilities, playing a six-team National Championship. Although most Ukrainian men aged 18-60 are unable to leave Ukraine (as a duty to serving in the military) the Hockey Can’t Stop tour gave these players the opportunity to travel away from the violence and continue playing the sport they love.

With the conclusion of the final match of the four-game set, the Ukrainian Under-25 National Team will now travel to Lake Placid, New York for the Winter University Games held from January 11-23.

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.

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