UCC Student’s Return from Russian Ice-Hockey Adventure
By: Stephen Walsh
Last February I brought the story to you that three UCC students Emma Hogan, Verginiya Hristova and Sonya McEneney from the UCC Inline Hockey Club were travelling to Russia along with UCC coach Vytautas Lukosevicius to compete in the Victory Cup at the world renowned Legends Arena.
The team was also joined by Cork’s Elena Fleming who is a member of the Cork Junior Wolf Pack team. At 16, she was the youngest member of the team. She was an assistant captain for the trip and was an experienced member of the Irish squad having trained in Finland last year for a week with numerous other girls from around the world.
The team knew competing in this tournament that they were going to be at a disadvantage to the other teams as they only had one training session up in the Odyssey Arena, Belfast before playing their first game against the St. Petersburg Panthers which they lost 4-0. They weren’t helped in the build up to the match having only arrived in Moscow at 2am that morning due to the long travel distance from Ireland to Russia. The game itself took place at 9.30am.
Club Secretary Hogan described the main difference in the player’s usual sport of inline hockey to ice-hockey. “Firstly the different surface was a big step up for us as we had little time on ice in advance of the tournament. Secondly the game was a lot faster due to the surface and it had a lot of rules that a few of us didn’t know of as it was our first time playing. However by the end of the cup we had got the hang of the sport and hopefully many of us will get the opportunity to play it again.”
The next day the Irish team lost to Ukhta 8-2 however they showed improvements in skill with Cork girl Fleming scoring in this game. Later in the day the improvement in the team became even more apparent when they managed to get a draw with Moscow Hail 2-2 with all the UCC students impressing in the game.
As a result the Irish squad qualified for the seventh/eight place playoff with Tolyatti Stars on the Saturday and they emerged victorious on a 4-2 score line to claim the seventh position. The Irish team built up a great rapport with the Russian teams and this was shown with a crowd of a few hundred coming out to support them for the playoff match.
The Irish squad appear to have left their mark on the Russian cup and they hope to be back there next year.
Lastly the Irish coach Vytautas Lukosevicius was approached by some Russian teams during the cup in the hope of him coaching their team as they were so impressed with the overall skill level of the Irish team. However Lukosevicius is content in Ireland and he is now looking forward to coaching UCC’s inline hockey team this September.