The creation of a Joint Team of the Junior Hockey League (MHL) has become one of the most important points of the League's development strategy which was adopted in the summer of 2010. It was envisioned that the team would bring together the League’s best players to represent the MHL in the international arena. Prior to the beginning of the season, the League's management conducted intensive negotiations with North-American junior teams in order for the Joint MHL Team to hold a series of contests with their peers from overseas during the break in the Championship Series.
In September, 2010, preliminary agreements were reached on several games in the USA, and already in October the Joint MHL Team gained its future mentors. Mr. Alexander Semak, Coach of Ufa "Tolpar", was appointed Head Coach of the Joint Team. Mr. Vyacheslav Butsaev, Coach of "Krasnaya Armiya" [Red Army], and Mr. Alexander Sokolov, Coach of Nizhnekamsk "Reactor", became Assistant Coaches. By the time the coaches formed their team, the Joint Team gained its name, "Krasnye Zvezdy" (Red Stars), and equipment was designed using the colors of Russian flag with a large MHL emblem on the chest.
On December 28, 2010, the Red Stars team announced their arrival in the United States by winning a game against the Army Black Knights 11-4 in sold out Tate Rink. Pavel Dedunov led the team with a hat trick while Nikita Tochitskiy added two goals of his own.
The second game of the tour featured the Red Stars team taking on the No. 1 ranked NCAA Division I team in the country, Yale University. The Bulldogs pulled out a 5-3 win with an empty net goal despite being outshot 38-30 and playing without their top four scorers.
The Red Stars continued their tour in Canada playing back-to-back games against the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (“GOJHL”) GoldenHorseshoeConferenceAll-Starson December 31st and January 1st. The Red Stars made a statement winning 7-4 on New Year’s Eve and 11-3 on New Year’s Day. They played the final game of their inaugural tour against theWellingtonDukes. The Russian team overcame fierce resistance to win 5-2.
Now, the Red Stars are set to make their second consecutive trip to the United States during December and January. This year they have lengthened their schedule and have chosen to take on two North American Hockey League (“NAHL”) opponents rather than facing the GOJHL. As of December 5th, four of the teams are currently ranked in the Top 20 of USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll so not only have they made their tour longer, but tougher as well.
Here is the schedule for the Red Stars’ 2011-2012 tour:
December 17, 2011 – University of North Dakota
December 19, 2011 – Alexandria Blizzard (NAHL)
December 21, 2011 – Bismarck Bobcats (NAHL)
December 27, 2011 – University of Vermont
December 29, 2011 – Yale University
December 30, 2011 – Northern Michigan University
January 3, 2012 – University of Notre Dame
January 5, 2012 – University of Massachusetts-Lowell
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)