A victory in honor of fallen soldiers
“Tonight was even more than a hockey game.” Evgheniy Pysarenko stood before reporters Monday night after the Ukrainian team confirmed a 2-0 victory over the Romanian Wolves to continue their journey at the Tournoi international de hockey pee-wee de Québec.
But the smile didn't come easily to him.
“We had a very, very big motivation tonight,” he replied to a colleague who asked him if he had felt that his players were less nervous on Monday than last Saturday for their first match, which took place in a Videotron Center filled with spectators.
This motivation: to play for one of their teammates, whose father is in combat, but also for Yehor Kosenko, whose father died at the front a few weeks ago.
To forge the image , the Ukrainians had hung a flag of the country behind their bench. On the yellow portion of the latter was inscribed the names of the fathers of striker Mykyta Staskevich and goalkeeper Matvii Kulish, always at the front defending the freedom of their country.
Why on the yellow? To signify that they are still on the ground, alive.
On the blue part were written the names of Kosenko's fathers as well as the father of a young hockey player, friend of the group, who also died recently in combat.
“Blue, c is to represent that they are in heaven now,” says Pysarenko.
This flag was presented to the players before the game.
“When he [Kosenko ] saw his father's name, he started crying. Everyone stood up and gave him a hug. It was silent for a few minutes,” added the coach.
They did them proud
Despite the emotion of the moment, the young Ukrainians managed to continue to make their country proud by prevailing against the tough Romanians.
Maksym Kukharenko and Ivan Bilozerov scored for the winners, who will play their next game Friday morning, 8 a.m., against the Vermont Flames.
But this next game was secondary. What mattered was that Staskevich, Kulish, Kosenko and all the rest of the Ukrainian team managed, once again, to bring honor to their country and to those who defend it.
Kulish had a shutout for the occasion while Staskevich was complicit in the second goal for his team.
“Ukraine will win the war. It will end, and after it will be peace, ”launched the latter, after the meeting, recalling for the umpteenth time that their presence at the Pee-Wee Tournament goes well, well beyond hockey.
A necessary victory
On the other side, the young Romanians, in tears, saw their dream come to an end, and Pysarenko sympathized with them. A resident of Romania for 20 years, he knew the majority of young Wolves.
“I saw them crying after the game and I was really sorry for them because I work with several of them them in Romania. I know their parents and their coaches but, right now, we need this victory more than them.”
And by “us” he probably meant an entire country.