Who would have thought that a few days ago? A few days after the teams met for the first time, Team Green started the tournament with six consecutive wins in the preliminary round before seeing itself defeated by Team Black in the last game. Then they took revenge in the semi-finals with a 7-3 victory against Team Black and continued with a 10-4 victory in the final on the medal day against Team Red.
The Green Leafs – as the team called itself – set the tone at the packed Vaudoise Arena with an early lead. Patrik Dalen from Norway scored the second goal and after a penalty call against Team Red Volodymyr Troshkin from Ukraine made it a three-goal lead.
Luckily for the opposing team that’s not how the first period had to end. Mack Stewart from Belfast in the UK scored two goals in the same shift to cut the deficit to 3-2 before the short intermission.
Early in the second period it continued to be a close affair. Dalen scored another one to make it 4-2, Dutch player Dylan Wesseling brought Team Red back within a one-goal margin in the next minute but Italian Team Green player Alessandro Segafredo hit the back of the net to restore the 5-3 lead.
“We were feeling it, we were feeling the gold medal,” Segafredo looked back after the game. “We wanted to win, we were so motivated before the game, and now it happens! It’s unbelievable, best feeling ever probably until now, I hope it’s just the start for me.”
“Our team played very well,” Korzun said and enjoyed that there were four players who speak Russian on his team to make communication easier. “We had players who can speak English and also Russian, so that was very good for me.”
The team had a 55-31 shot-on-goal advantage and scored its eighth goal early in the third period. A few minutes later a surprise shot from the own defensive zone went in to make it 9-3. Team Red couldn’t recover anymore despite a goal through the five-hole from Peter Repcik.
After a last-minute goal Team Green won the game 10-4 and added the golden medals onto their green jerseys.
Many people from many countries were in the stands and first-hand on the ice or in the interview zone to congratulate the fellow countrymen. It was probably most special for the Potsinok family from Estonia.
“It was great to win this tournament. It was exciting,” said Marek Potsinok, who won gold with Team Green while his twin brother Erik won bronze with Team Brown. The two also play together on the Estonian U16 team that plays in the second U16 league of Finland and are number one and two in scoring.
Players in the tournaments came from all continents. On Team Green they were mostly from bigger and smaller European countries and one Asian player, Hong Konger Yau Yam, who took the first Winter Olympic gold medal for the Chinese island.
“It’s an honour. I never thought I was going to get a medal representing Hong Kong. There’s only two Hong Kong players represented here.”
“I can’t describe, it’s so good,” said Team Green’s Maks Percic of Slovenia. “We were like one big team from different countries, it was so amazing.”
“You need to make some tests and tryouts to qualify. It’s so amazing here. Not just playing at the arena, but even going to the (Youth Olympic Village) and having dinner is an experience. Players from so many countries came, guys from Mexico came, guys from Slovenia came, Chinese, Japanese, it was amazing.”
Team Brown, the “Brown Badgers”, finished in third place behind the two finalists and did so in dramatic fashion. After Hong Konger Chuo Xi Elvis Hsu had scored on the first shift, Team Black seemed to turn the game when Slovak player Adam Sykora tied it up and the line even took the lead. In the middle frame Lithuanian player Linas Dedinas made it 3-1 for the “Black Penguins” with a centre-ice shot.
However, Team Brown didn’t give up and had answers ready. They cut the deficit a few minutes later and with a top-right backhand shot French player Hugo Galvez tied the game before Erik Potsinok gave Team Brown the lead.
And then the clock ran down, just a few seconds were left when Czech player Matyas Sapovaliv netted the puck.
“It was a very tight game. We scored with three seconds left. I feel fantastic because I scored that goal and we celebrated the win. It was fantastic,” said Sapovaliv, who plays in the U16 team of Rytiri Kladno where playing club owner Jaromir Jagr is three times older than him.
“I became good friends with Slovak goalie Rastislav Elias because we speak almost the same language but with all teammates it was great, they are great people and we will be friends forever.”
Only three teams in the men’s tournament ended up winning medals with the IOC flag lifted and the IOC anthem played. For once there were players from over a dozen nations who won their ice hockey medals at the Youth Olympics but in the end everybody who participated in this event and wrote history was a winner and will go home with great emotions, new experiences and new friends.