Ukraine’s youngsters ready for action
by Andy Potts|25 APR 2022
The Ukrainian players sing their national anthem after starting with a victory against Poland in the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group B.
photo: Serena Fantini
In an emotional end to weeks of travel, uncertainty, and anxiety, Ukraine’s youngsters took to the ice against Poland in the opening game of the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group B. 

Following the invasion of their homeland by Russian forces on 24 February, the Ukrainian youngsters have been based in Czechia, then Switzerland, as they prepared for this week’s tournament further south in Asiago, Italy.

Now after an impressive 6-1 win against Poland they will next face off against Italy, Slovenia, Hungary and Austria in a bid to return to the Division IA after suffering relegation in 2019, the last tournament before the pandemic.

The team assembled from around the world. Some players came directly from Ukraine, others joined after completing their seasons with clubs in Poland, Slovakia, Czechia, Canada, and the USA. A huge, and hastily-assembled effort enabled Olexander Bobkin’s team to gather in Brumov-Bylnice, Czechia to prepare for the championship.
The Ukrainian team after arrival in Czechia.
photo: FHU
The Ukrainian youngsters were there for almost a month, playing three exhibition games in that time against local Czech opponents. Forward Nikita Sidorenko, who comes from Donetsk, one of the regions most heavily affected by the fighting, was impressed with the progress he and his team-mates made as they returned to their game after – in many cases – a long enforced break.

“I think we did a good job at the camp in Czechia,” he told the FHU website. “First, we had four sessions each day, two on the ice and two off. Then, in the second cycle we added another on-ice workout to the load.”

The hard work paid off, with the U18s winning all three of their warm-up games: 4-1 and 4-2 victories over the U19s from Berani Zlin and an 8-4 success against Vstetin’s U19s in between.
The Ukrainian U18 national team poses in front of the legendary Curva Nord fan sector in Lugano.
photo: FHU
Then it was on to Lugano, Switzerland, and a change of emphasis.

“We gradually eased off on the workload, going down to one ice session per day,” Sidorenko added. “We put more of an accent on our tactics. Things are going to plan and we feel great!”

That optimism only increased after a 6-2 victory over Switzerland’s U17s in the team’s final preparation game in Biasca before traveling to Asiago. However, head coach Bobkin pointed to some concerns in his team’s defensive play during the warm-up games.
Joint team photo of the Ukrainian U18 national team and the Swiss U17 national team that was assembled to play an exhibition game in Biasca.
photo: FHU
Overall, though, Bobkin added that his players had acquitted themselves well in difficult circumstances.

“All the candidates for the national team worked hard and conscientiously,” he said. “Each tried to show his best qualities. The attitude at the camp was top class and the strongest players earned their place on the team.

“Our entire delegation has fighting spirit. Everyone knows the nightmare that is unfolding in Ukraine and understands the responsibility on the shoulders of Ukrainian athletes. We must show courage and succeed in our hockey war.”

Simchuk junior joins the family business

The youngest player in the U18 squad is 15-year-old Gavryil Simchuk. His father, Kostyantin, was a distinguished goaltender who played for Ukraine in the 2002 Olympics and his older brother Mikhail is with the Ukraine’s senior team preparing for its World Championship campaign in Poland. Unlike his dad, young Gavryil is a forward more interested in scoring goals than stopping them. He marked his first game for the U18s – albeit an unofficial one – with a goal in the 4-2 victory over Zlin and was on target again against Vsetin.

“Mykhailo and I found out that we were going to be called up to the national teams two weeks before the camp,” Gavryil told the FHU website. “We couldn’t play and train on the ice, so we had to keep in shape at home. We ran cross-country every morning and worked out in the house in the evenings. So I can’t say I came to the national team completely unprepared, but it was hard for three or four days on the ice.”

There was also a change in styles, with a new head coach to impress. “The tactics are very different, I’ve had to rethink,” Simchuk admitted. “With Bobkin we focus more on battling on the boards. 

“In general, I’ve found a common language with everyone, on and off the ice. Yes, the other kids are older, but we knew each other before this camp. There were only a few who I met for the first time in Czechia.”
Face-off between Ukraine and Poland to start the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group B.
photo: Serena Fantini
Note: All games from Asiago can be watched live and for free. The stream link will be available around game time on the event page.

Ukraine U18 roster

Goalies: Andri Malykhin (Motor City, USA), Savva Serdiuk (Ogdon Mustangs, USA).

Defenders: Volodymyr Volkov (Slovan U20, SVK), Olexi Dakhnovsky, Arseni Kiselov, Artem Kozlovsky, Volodymyr Troshkin (all Bilyy Bars Bila Tserkva U20), Oleksandr Kurzenkov (Ldinka), Serhi Nikulin (Spartans, USA), Ivan Shamardin (Kharkiv Beserkers).

Forwards: Ilya Dubsky, Ilya Kryklya, Platon Melnichenko, Mykyta Sydorenko, Veniamin Trandafilov (all without a club), Mykhailo Kovalchuk (Unia, POL), Nikita Moyseyev (Mlada Boleslav U17, CZE), Ihnat Pazi (Anaheim Ice Dogs, USA), Gavryil Simchuk (Sokol), Serhi Stetsyura (Liptovski Mikulas U18, SVK), Demian Tychenko (Motor City, USA), Anton Yatsishin (Calgary Hitmen, WHL).

Head coach: Olexander Bobkin.
2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group B