[IN IMAGES] Pee-wee tournament: Ukraine's inspiring journey comes to an end

[IN PICTURES] Pee-wee tournament: Ukraine’s inspirational journey comes to an end


The faces were long in the locker room of the Ukrainian team after the 2-1 loss at the hands of the Vermont Flames, which officially ended their incredible epic at the Tournoi pee-wee de Québec, Friday at the Videotron Centre.

In a corner, a player was discreetly wiping away a tear. In the other, another gave free rein to the disappointment that inhabited him.

But what will forever be etched in the memory of coach Evgheniy Pysarenko, once the pain of defeat subsides, are instead the smiles he saw on the faces of his 18 charges over the two weeks.

Young teenagers who, for the most part, had to leave their country at war to take refuge in another European country. Others who still live daily with the fear of missiles, who worry about their father gone to fight or even who mourn their father killed in combat.

Some had not put on their skates since the start of the armed clashes, almost a year ago. 

Pysarenko also had a sad look in the minutes that followed this setback. His team had come to Quebec to win.

She struggled to the end, closing the gap to just one goal with 11 seconds left in Friday's game, to the sound of “let's go Ukraine!” which echoed in the stands, where a few hundred spectators had moved despite the storm to encourage them.

Their strength of character 

Except that the coach has said it from the beginning: this participation in the tournament went beyond hockey. And if Pysarenko was sad, he was also proud.

“They represented their country which is going through such a difficult situation. That's why they wanted to win so hard, he pointed out. Luck was not our luck on our side [Friday], but they fought. They showed their strength of character.” 

The Ukrainian pee-wee will still stay in Quebec until Monday, after which they will go their separate ways. A moment apprehended by both the coach and Sean Bérubé, the instigator of this beautiful project, nicknamed “uncle Sean” within the club. 

Touched by the welcome

But until then, young players will take full advantage of what the city has to offer. On the program, a possible outing to the sugar shack, ice fishing or even a day at Village Vacances Valcartier.

Various activities to which they had been invited in the last few days, but to which they did not had been able to take part, for lack of time. 

Pysarenko and one of his color bearers, Zahar Kovalenko, had a message for the people of Quebec, who have supported them since their arrival: “Thank you for your warm welcome. We even went to see an NHL game [of the Canadiens, last Tuesday],” rejoiced the pilot.

And, perhaps, see you next time.

Because the coach hopes to find the financial support to bring his little fighters together again in the coming months, or even in the coming years. 

“We are going back home, to different countries, but we would now like to play a tournament in Austria in the spring,” Pysarenko explained. to smile.