Six former Rochester Americans from five different countries will begin the quest for gold in hockey’s grandest spectacle at the 82nd annual 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships in Copenhagen and Herning, Denmark this weekend. The premier international event kicks off on Friday, May 4 as Team Russia, who claimed the bronze medal last spring, squares off against France in Group A from the Royal Arena. Group B’s opening-matchup features Team USA and rival Canada, last year’s runner-up, at the Jyske ank Boxen. The three-week, 16-team tournament will conclude with the gold-medal game on Sunday, May 20.
Set to make his third straight international appearance with his native Czech Republic, forward Michal Repik was a member of the Amerks for all of Rochester’s three-year affiliation with the Florida Panthers from 2008-11. Selected by Florida in the second round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Repik registered 147 points (52+95) in 188 career games for the Amerks. Repik ranked first on the team and tied for 12th in scoring among all AHL rookies with 49 points (19+30) in 2008-09, becoming the first Amerks rookie to pace the team in scoring since Peter Ciavaglia in 1991-92. He captured career-highs in goals (22) and points (53) during the 2009-10 campaign while helping Rochester clinch a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs and earned a selection to the 2011 AHL All-Star Game the following year. Repik also appeared in 55 NHL games with the Panthers during his three seasons in Rochester before eventually departing North America to continue his career overseas.
Despite finishing third in Group B in the Preliminary Round in last year’s event, the Czech Republic failed to make it into the semifinals in last year’s event after falling to the United States in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. The Czechs have failed to earn a medal in five straight years, marking the first time in the country’s history they have gone five straight years without a medal since 1993 in its first-ever appearance in the annual tournament.
During the 2017 event, Repik shared the team lead with three goals in eight games to go along with a pair of assists.
Winners of the 2014 tournament and the last two bronze medals, Russia enters the event as one of the top favorites to take home gold and features a powerhouse lineup with ties to five different NHL teams and six other KHL teams. The Russians have dominated the international competition over the last decade, earning a total of 11 medals over that span, including winning five goal medals since 2008 and gold at 2018 Winter Olympic Games back in February in PyeongChang, South Korea. Russia also medaled at four straight events between 2007 and 2010, including back-to-back first-place finishes, and finished third in each of the last two years. Russia is in pursuit of its 11th medal in 14 years at the annual event.
Returning for the fifth straight year is former Amerks forward Evgenii Dadonov, whose previous four stints with Russia’s top national team have resulted in medal-earning performances (gold in 2014, silver in 2015 and bronze in 2016 and 2017). Dadonov is no stranger to the international scene, having represented his country at both the 2009 and 2008 World Junior Championships as well as the 2007 U-18 World Junior Championships, medaling at all three events. During the 2017 event, Dadonov finished with eight points (3+5) in 10 contests.
In 100 career games in Rochester, the former Amerk collected 56 points on 25 goals and 31 assists. The Chelyabinsk, Russia, native posted his best season as an Amerk during the 2009-10 campaign, establishing career-highs in all offensive categories, including goals (17), assists (23) and points (40), to finish seventh on the team and 13th in scoring among AHL rookies. He also made his NHL debut that season when he appeared in four games for the Florida Panthers, whom he represented at the 2011 NHL SuperSkills as one of 12 rookies.
Also joining Dadonov is former Amerk Mikhail Grigorenko, who returns to the international stage for the second time in 2018. Grigorenko claimed his first gold medal while representing the Olympic Athletes of Russia at the 2018 Winter Olympics. The medal marked his seventh overall in his nine appearances at the international level, which also includes the 2011 World Junior Under-18 Championship and three consecutive years (2012-2014) competing at the World Junior Championship.
After making his Rochester debut in the spring of 2013, the former first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres played parts of three seasons with the Amerks amassing 40 points (14+26) in 52 career games in the red, white and blue. The Khabarovsk, Russia, native notched his best season as an Amerk during the 2014-15 slate, establishing career-highs in all offensive categories, including goals (14), assists (22) and points (36), to finish fourth on the team in scoring.
After sitting out last year’s annual event, veteran defenseman Andrej Sekera returns to the international stage for the seventh time in his 12-year professional career. The Slovakians have been regular participants in the tournament since 1996 but have only qualified for the medal round just once in the last 14 years. On the heels of finishing in 14th place at last year’s event, the Slovaks are looking for their first gold medal since 2002 and their first medal since winning silver in 2012.
Sekera, a resident of Bojnice, Slovakia, was taken by the Buffalo Sabres in the third round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the same class that featured Russian phenomes Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, who were claimed first and second overall by the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, respectively. The 31 year-old defenseman will serve as team captain for the second time during his World Cup Championship career.
Sekera, who made his professional debut with the Amerks during the 2006-07 season, finished his AHL career scoring 36 points (5+31) in 94 appearances. After the 2007-08 season, Sekera became a permanent fixture in the NHL and to date has recorded 232 points (45+187) and 172 penalty minutes in 683 career games for Buffalo, Carolina, Los Angeles and Edmonton.
Winners of the 2017 tournament after missing out on a medal the prior two years, Sweden will look to defend its gold medal. Former Amerk Johan Larsson returns to international stage for the first time since 2012.
The former Amerks forward posted 85 points (31+54) in 102 career games with Rochester from 2012-15. The Lau, Sweden, native enjoyed his best campaign with the Amerks during the 2013-14 campaign when he tallied a career-high 26 assists and 41 points while tying a personal-best 15 goals.
Larsson is no stager to the international competition as he was a member of Sweden’s 2010 World Junior U-18 team that claimed silver. Additionally, the 5-foot 11 forward earned a gold medal in 2012 as a member of the Swedish World Junior team.
Despite no direct player ties to Rochester, worth mentioning is the United States, which features former Amerk Dan Bylsma as assistant coach. Team USA placed fifth at last year’s event, marking their fourth top-five finish over the last five years.
Bylsma, who most recently served as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres from 2015-17, returns behind the bench on the international stage for the third time in his career.
In two games with Rochester during the 1992-93 season, the Grand Haven, Mich. native posted one assist. In 95 career games in the AHL between the Amerks, Albany River Rats, Moncton Hawks, Springfield Falcons, Lowell Lock Monsters and Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, Bylsma tallied 40 points (16+24).
Prior to turning to the coaching ranks where he won a Stanley Cup as bench boss for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, the Bowling Green State University product collected 62 points (19+23) in 429 games in the National Hockey League over a career that spanned nine seasons.
The United States will look to earn its first medal in three years after winning the bronze in 2013 and again in 2015. The Americans, however, haven’t won gold at the annual event since 1960 and has medaled just four times – all bronze – in the last 22 years.