Yevhen Alipov, the Head Coach of Kyiv Capitals women`s team, discussed the team’s preparations for the upcoming season and revealed some details about the Ukrainian championship.

Yevhen, the start of the Ukrainian women’s team championship is scheduled for November 25. Can you provide some information on how long and in what mode the Kyiv Capitals have been training?

Considering the current situation, it is important to note that Kyiv was previously represented in the championship by the Ukrayinochka team, which consisted of older girls. However, shortly before the full-scale invasion, the team began rejuvenating its composition. These new players had to adjust and prove themselves as worthy replacements. Unfortunately, after February 24, most of them had to leave the country. Naturally, this posed significant challenges. Nevertheless, the men’s team remained in Kyiv, and conditions were created for the championship to take place. As for the women’s teams, it was challenging to gather enough players. Last year, the Kraken Sisters team was formed in Odesa. I visited their location and spent a week reviewing their training sessions, providing assistance when necessary. They have a strong team, which is advantageous as the girls already had experience in figure skating before transitioning to hockey. Learning how to skate is a crucial foundation for hockey, as I have observed during my 10 years of working in Kyiv. Previously, 90% of female players had to first learn how to skate before focusing on puck handling and shooting at the goal. It is a time-consuming process.

Regarding the formation of the team, the girls have started returning gradually, and there are also young hockey players in the Kryzhynka and Sokil youth hockey schools. This has allowed me to begin forming an idea of how the championship could be organized. We realized that it was possible to gather a team in Kyiv, as well as include girls from Odesa. However, at least one more participant was needed. Many girls were in Dnipro, so I contacted Oleksandr Lalomov, one of the first coaches of Dniprovski Bilky and mentor of the Korolevy Dnipra. After discussing the situation, he agreed to assemble a team. Subsequently, with the approval of the Hockey Federation of Ukraine, we received consent to hold the championship in the 2023/2024 season. Later on, the Kharkiv region team-Pantery joined the competition. As a result, this season’s championship of Ukraine among women’s teams will consist of four participants. The Kharkiv team faces more difficult circumstances as they don’t have access to ice. However, they are making efforts to overcome this challenge by training using roller skates or recruiting girls from other Ukrainian secondary schools.

In regards to our trainings, I would like to note the following schedule: on Mondays and Wednesdays, our trainings take place on the ice of the Sports Palace, on Saturdays and Sundays, we have training sessions at the VDNG Arena. Another important aspect to highlight is that the girls who train at the junior high school level participate in matches with boys in their respective age categories. On the other hand, the older girls participate in the amateur league. This arrangement allows the team to gain valuable game practice. Entering the season with sufficient game practice is essential for our success.

There are only 10 days remaining until the championship begins. Are you still looking for new players?

Occasionally, some players call and attend practice sessions. We still have 2-3 potential candidates who may join the team. Now we have three goalkeepers in our application. One of them is Iryna Zaichenko, who returned from the Netherlands this summer. Before the start of the main competition, she played for Ukrayinochka. We have also included Mariana Gamarnyk from Bohuslav, who is training at the local youth school, as well as Renata Sviatchenko. Both of these girls were born in 2010. Additionally, we have two complete lines of players and a third line consisting of three hockey players. Of course, injuries and illnesses may occur during the season, so our selection process is ongoing. We are hopeful that the first round will encourage others to return to hockey. We have considerable breaks between matches, allowing ample time for players to join the training process and prepare for games. It’s worth noting that the final matchweek is scheduled for March.

The championship will comprise of six rounds. Do you think this is sufficient?

There was a suggestion to convene all participants in a single location and conclude the championship within 1-2 rounds. This arrangement ensures an advantageous schedule with alternating home and away matches every 3-4 weeks. Perhaps, with the possibility of increased participants next season, playoffs can be considered.

Where will the championship matches be held?

The matches will take place in three cities. Kyiv Capitals and Kharkiv region team-Panthery will host their rivals in Kyiv Palace of Sports. Prydniprovsk team will hold their home matches in Dnipro, while the Kraken Sisters will share the Odesa Sports Palace with Dnipro from Kherson.

How significant is it to be part of the men’s team structure?

It is incredibly beneficial. During the summer, we reached an agreement that if the team is formed, we would move together into the 2023/2024 season alongside the Kyiv Capitals. The club has the potential to support us, and we are determined to perform exceptionally well under the brand. Our ultimate goal is to compete for the first place. If we achieve it, it would be fantastic. However, if we fail, we will make appropriate evaluations and learn from the experience. Being involved in men’s hockey makes it easier to implement necessary changes if needed. Currently, we have numerous talented players who are abroad now. Overall, being in a club structure that includes a men’s team and the Kryzhynka Youth Sports School is highly advantageous.

You are also the coach of the women’s national team of Ukraine. Tell me, what are the future plans of the team?

In December, we are going to organize a week-long training camp in Lithuania, where we have to scout and recruit young, talented girls. Last year, we focused on players born in 2007, and four of them have already showcased their skills and went to main team. This year, our goal is to evaluate younger girls throughout the course of a year, in order to enhance the level of competition within the team. Additionally, we are fortunate to have a championship where we can observe these young girls directly in gameplay, allowing us to make well-informed decisions about their potential.