Kostiantyn OSTAPENKO

Uverejnil: cjhl
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Kostiantyn OSTAPENKO, born in 2002, spent most of his career in Kharkov. Two season he participated with his team also in Carpathian Junior Hockey League. In 2017/2018, as a captain, he brought his team to a gold. He made 20 points (10G + 10A) in 18 games. In following season finished his team on 4.place, but need to be mentioned, that Kharkov had the youngest team in competition. Kostya finished CJHL season with 15 points (6G + 9A) in 24 games. Before the last season he moved his career to United States...

Do you remember your hockey beginnings? Where you made your first hockey steps? Who brought you to ice-hockey?

Yeah, of course, I remember. My parents brought me on ice. My mom taught me skating on the river in winter. I started figure skating when I wasn't even three years old. And a year later I moved to hockey. I'm '02 and at that time I've been practicing with the '98 team.

Do you remember your first coaches? Can you highlight some of the coaches who have or had a major impact on your hockey growth?

My first coach was Viktor Toryanik. He taught me a lot when I was young and when I grew up he let me practice with his 99-2000 team, that really helped me.

Then, my coach was Vladimir Kurakin. With him, we won bronze medals of Ukrainian Championship for 01s'. That was a great time.

And after I moved to the 2002 team, which was ruled by Alexander Panchenko. With who we won the most of my trophies: Carpathian Junior Hockey League, got bronze in Zell-Am-Zee, twice been silver and once gold in Ukrainian Championship, and won many other tournaments.

In 2017/2018 you brought, as a captain, your team to gold in Carpathian Junior Hockey League. How do you remember that season?

Oh, that season was great. We had many games and we won most of them.

You lost only one game. According to you, what was the biggest power of your team?

For that time we had a full bench of really talented hockey players who competed a lot and acted as a team. That's the key to success in any sport.

During the last round, there was also an ALL STAR GAME. Few days before it, fans of the CJHL voted for team captains. You got more than 6000 votes... How were your feelings when you saw this result?

At the beginning of voting, I'd been losing almost to everybody on the list and I won, wow. I didn't even think that I canmake more than a thousand. And then some people start texting me like: "I voted for you, and my parents, and my classmates, and my parents classmates, and my parents co-workers, and my grandparents, and my...". I was shocked. Thanks for everybody who supported me!

                   asg captains                      captains

In that game you played with players from different teams and countries. How you communicated on a bench? Did you enjoy it?

Yes, that was fun. Not every player understood English, but we all were from Europe, so our languages have a lot in common. I spoke English and if other players didn't understand me, I go Ukrainian or Russian. That worked.   

In next season (2018/2019) your team played in CJHL U19. Your team was probably the youngest in the competition. Was it a good experience for you to play against older guys?

Yes, it is always interesting to play against teams that are older than yours. We competed well, but not every game. If I'm not mistaken, we should win 1 or 2 more games to get 2nd place. But we didn't, so we are 4th. Anyway, that were a good tournaments.

Last season you played in the United States. How you got there?

I was lucky to get in touch with Neil Liston, who invited me there. Neil is a good man and probably one of the best scouts in the whole east coast.

Tell us something about your team. About organization, competition...

I played for East Coast Spartans. That was the best team I ever played in. I've become friends with all team and it was really sad to go home, knowing that I wouldn't see many of the boys next season. Trying to keep in touch with many of them.

The organization also was high level. Neil doing a great job ruling the team. We take part in two leagues. The East Coast Elite League and The United Tier 1 League. In ECEL we lost in finals and in Tier 1 we lost the last game and because of that didn't make the final. We had everything except fortune. Also, we took part in lots of showcases. I played more then 70 games in less than 6 months...

If we speak about junior hockey, the USA is one of the best destinations for young players. How big is the difference between conditions in the USA and Ukraine?

Oh, unfortunately for Ukraine, the difference is huge. Spartans home rink was small (one NHL-size rink and one half-size), and if I'm not mistaken, there are 42 teams. 42! From very young to U18s. And that excluding beer leaguers and some figure skaters who also have been practicing there.

You can just go on a highway and every 20-50 miles there will be another rink. Some of them have up to 3 full-size ices in one building. Just imagine the amount of teams and players there.

            kostya 3               kostya 4

What about the level of practice and games?

We didn't have many practices per week, and they were really short. But ice was empty before our practice, so I tried to come as early as possible, at least one hour before. To work on the improvement of my skills before the team practice started. And we never had team gym or dryland practices. Everyone was training by himself. So me, with some teammates were spending evenings in the Planet Fitness. I like this system, because, in the end, only hard workers get results.

And the game level was high. It took me almost a month to adopt. Americans play more physical. They are just throwing puck, running to hit you even without the puck, and shot, shot, shot on the net. That was kind of unusual, because here in Europe we play more "beautiful" hockey, trying to make good passes on the empty net. So I had to get rid of my old hockey habits and make new ones.

Are you satisfied with your first season in the US?

I would say yes. Statistically, it's definitely not the best of my seasons, but it's a big step forward. Now after I learned American game style, I found out plenty of my weaknesses. That's what I'm working on during my off-season. I'm 100% sure that my next season will be ten times better.

How you spent your free time there?

I can't say we had a lot of free time there. I was trying to put in hockey as much time as possible.

You lived in a hotel, or in hosting family?

Any of it. We were living in a billet house. The house was enormous. It had 2 floors and a big basement. There were leaving 12 players including me, and Neil. It was a kind of good team-building thing. I know that Neil was the one who enjoyed it the most (sarcasm).

The coronavirus pandemic prematurely ended last hockey season. Borders and airports were closed. Did you get home without troubles?

No, I was really lucky in this case. Our season suppose to end on 1st March, but finished week earlier. I flew Boston to Kyiv through Istanbul and I saw only one person wearing a mask. No checking temperature or anything like that. Once I was asked: "Were you in China for the last 2 weeks?", and I wasn't. So I come home 2 weeks before quarantine, without any problems.

Here in Slovakia was almost everything closed (shops, schools, sports arenas...). How it was in Kharkiv? How is the situation now?

From 1st June almost everything re-opens. With some limitations and rules, but opens. I finally went on the ice after more than 2 months. It was amazing.

How you spent your time at home?

When it was quarantine I was doing some workouts at home and luckily I have a shooting center, so I didn't forget how the stick feels. And also I was running. Doing sprints or long time jogging.

And now when ice open, I'm skating with some pro guys or with beer leaguers. Trying to have as much ice as possible. Gyms also opened on 1 June, so I'm working on getting back in shape.

What are your plans for the next season?

Can't say anything specific yet. I need to make a new visa but the Embassy is closed. And I also have some other obstacles, so I'm figuring them out.

I already mentioned season 2018/2019. The last round was played in Sanok, Poland. EC Spartans participated as a guest team there. Do you remember the game against them? To refresh your memories, you scored a beautiful goal in that game...

Yeah, of course, I remember that. It was a good game, I scored, made a 4:4 tie, but we lost on the last seconds. I know that it wasn't the best Spartans team, so we should win.

We also asked his coaches to tell us something about him...

Viktor Toryanik, Kostya´s first coach: "Kostianyn began his hockey trainings at the age of 4-5. He was the smallest one, but very hardworking player. He was in my team 3-4 years, than he moved to another coach and he became a leader of 2001 team. After, when there was an ´02 team, he became a captain and lead his teammates to lot of victories."

Neil Liston, EC Spartans coach and GM: "It was a pleasure to have Kostya in Boston for the season. He is hard worker who is dedicated to his team and putting in the effort to adjust to the North American style game."