• Jon Kohan

Europe to Johnstown

written by David Nicoletti

I've talked about the Canadian connection to the Tomahawks in a recent post. This time, I’m going to talk about the ties that Johnstown has with the continent of Europe throughout the history of Tomahawks hockey. There have only been 10 European players to take the ice in the Hawks uniform; three Russians (two of them are half American as well), two from Slovakia, two from Latvia, one player from Czech Republic, one from Switzerland, and one from Belarus. 

To start off this list, allow us to go back to the first ever season of Tomahawks hockey. The Hawks welcomed their first European player to the ice to start off the 2012-13 season Riga, Latvia native Kristaps Bazevics

The defenseman took to the ice for Johnstown in 30 games during the season, scoring three goals, and three assists. He was later traded by the Hawks to the Wichita Falls Wildcats on January 10th, 2013. In return, the Hawks gained Westmont Hilltop hockey alumni and Johnstown native Corey Schafer. Both players would go on to play the rest of the season for their respective teams. 

The Tomahawks would then go into the 2013-14 season without a European player, and would have to wait until the following season to welcome another one, or should I say, two. 

During the 2014-15 Tomahawks season, the team would welcome two more European players; Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia native Ivan Osko, and Jelgava, Latvia native Filips Buncis.

Winger Ivan Osko played in just one game with the Johnstown Tomahawks and came up empty on the score sheet. He, along with Garrison Sanipass, would be traded to the Michigan Warriors a couple weeks into the season.

Filips Buncis junior hockey time in Johnstown for the Tomahawks
Photo by: Gladys Bantly

Filips Buncis took to the ice for the Tomahawks for three seasons from 2014-15 to 2016-17. In his career 126 games with the Tomahawks, the center scored 22 goals, and 50 assists. Along with 8 playoff games during both the 2016 and 2017 NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs, tailing only five assists in all playoff appearances.

Buncis is also the only Tomahawks European player to be named captain for his team. He wore the “C’ for 46 games during the 2016-17 season. 

The Tomahawks would then welcome Minsk, Belarus native Daniil Bokun and Michalovce, Slovakia native Samuel Solensky for the 2016-17 season. 

Defenseman Daniil Bokun played in 51 games for the Tomahawks that season. Scoring four goals and 23 assists, along with one assist in three playoff games during the 2017 NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs.

Forward Sam Solensky’s run of becoming the greatest player in Tomahawks history started in 2016-17, and ran through the 2018-19 season. In a career 134 games with the Hawks, he holds the record out of all Tomahawks for the most points in a Tomahawks uniform, 155 points (50 goals, 105 assists). 

Solensky also played in 13 playoff games during the 2019 NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs. He registered three goals, and 10 assists. He was named to the NAHL All-East Division Team and NAHL Second All-Star Team in 2018-19. He also led the league that same year in assists with 62. This guy was also honored in Johnstown with his own bobblehead. The man did a lot during his time in Johnstown.

Three more European Hawks were added to the 2017-18 roster, Tachov, Czech Republic native Matyas Kacirek, Losone, Switzerland native Karim Del Ponte, and half Russian/American Pavel Kharin

Left Winger Matyas Kacirek took to the ice for 11 games during the 2017-18 season. He tailed only three assists for the club. He would later join the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings of the USPHL Premier League for the rest of the season after his time in Johnstown concluded. 

Swiss defenseman Karim Del Ponte played in 51 games for the Hawks that season as well. He scored one goal and tailed 11 assists. 

Pavel Kharin was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan but he does have some Russian tides from his family. He played in three seasons with the Hawks from 2017-18 to 2019-20. In his 152 games with the Hawks, he scored 20 goals, and 24 assists. Along with two goals and four assists in 13 playoff games during the 2019 NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs. He served as one of the alternate captains for the Hawks for the recent COVID shortened 2019-20 season. 

The final two European players would be welcome to the Tomahawks lineup during the 2019-20 season. Moskva, Russia native Malik Alishlalov, and half Russian/American Max Kouznetsov.

Defenseman Malik Alishlalov took to the ice in 47 games during the 2019-20 season. He scored four goals and tailed 22 assists. 

Finally, Max Kouznetsov was born in Voorhees, New Jersey but like Pavel Kharin, he gets his Russian tides from his family. In 45 games with the Hawks last season, the forward scored 15 goals, and 34 assists. 

Ladies and gentlemen, that is where the list concludes for all Johnstown Tomahawks players who have European ties. At least for the time being of course. Don’t forget to tell us out of everybody on this list, who your favorite European player who took to the ice for the Tomahawks was. Also, if you liked this article, be sure to read our other articles right here on hawks-daily.com. If you haven’t yet, go check out the report I did on Johnstown’s connection with Canada. Hope you enjoyed reading this one. Lets Go Hawks!!!

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