After all the hype, all the predictions, all the prognostications…the big day finally arrived. Who would take home the hardware for the 2024 Season. And the buzz on the streets was, would this be the year that ended the Rukavina Curse!

But first, the “Kiss your Sister” battle for third place….


The Bronze Medal Game featured two teams who harbored Gold Medal dreams during the season but came up short. Both teams looking to have some fun in this one and finish the season with something to celebrate.

Ireland’s Peter Freeman broke the ice in this one after 10 minutes of end-to-end action, both goalkeepers looking very sharp. Ireland took a 2-0 lead when Robin Flumerfelt snuck one past the solid Tony Cioffi. But it took Dwayne Tygesen only 23 seconds to get the Slovenians back within a goal, giving them the shot in the arm they needed. Sniper Paul Riopelle tied the game at 2 goals a piece going into the second period. Great action for the opening act on this Champ Day.

The goalies tightened things up again in the second period with no goals until more than halfway through when another Freeman goal, this one from brother Tim, put Ireland up 3-2. But once again the Slovenians strike back quickly with a goal by Joel May 39 seconds later, and then ANOTHER by Tygsen moments later to put Slovenia ahead! Slivovitz fans losing their MINDS in this one, but the second period was far from over. With less than a minute to go in the second period, ANOTHER FREEMAN GOAL FROM YET ANOTHER FREEMAN! Dad Bruce bulges the twine to tie the game and make it a 3 for 3 Freeman night! And before the public address announcer could even get out the Freeman name for a third Freeman time, and with only NINE SECONDS TO GO in the period, SLOVENIA SCORES AGAIN with a goal from Scott Wilson!!

The roof was coming off the place at PCMA with fans wondering how the big show would top this one.

5-4 Slovenia going into the third period and that’s when Ireland backstop Stew Henderson and Slovenian keeper Tony Cioffi said, Th-th-th-th-th-that’s alllll folks. Both goalies absolutely STONING the other side for a no-goal third and a BRONZE MEDAL for the Slovenian Squad!

A great game with classic PCOHL camaraderie afterward. Congratulations to both teams for a great season!

Ireland Player of the Game goes to their intrepid goalie, Stew Henderson, while Slovenia’s Dwayne Tygesen takes the honours for the winning squad.

Ireland POG Stewart Henderson
Slovenia POG Dwayne Tygesen


On to the show with a year of blood, sweat and tears on the line for the powerful Italians and the never-say-die Portuguese. Everyone was wondering about it. Everyone was talking about it. Would this be the year? Would Team Portugal 2023-24 break the Rukavina Curse??? A packed house at PCMA would soon find out if they were watching history!

Both teams battled for 6 minutes without a goal until Italy’s rookie John Levac broke the ice with the first goal of the game. A minute later Paul Harty bulged the twine for Italy who were now up 2-0 only seven minutes into the game. Twitter headline: “Harty beats Arty and the Italians party.”

The next goal was critical. Enter Portugal’s journeyman forward, Murray Russell. After years in the “A” and some 4th line duties in smaller markets, Portugal picked up Russell’s contract this year, seeing something in the veteran that they thought would help their squad. And the clutch forward brought the Portuguese bench to its feet when he airmailed one past the Finnish Fence, Tomi Niemenen to bring Portugal within a goal.

But this Italian team is hard to play against, and only a couple of minutes later stalwart D-man Bryon Wright showed off his offensive chops to recover Italy’s 2-goal lead. It was looking like this is how the first period would end until handsome Frank Arruda came through for the Lisbonites with mere seconds to go to make it a 1-goal game going into the second period! The Rukavina dream was still alive!!!

The second period was all Tomi Niemenen though, coming through when it mattered and absolutely blanking the Portuguese attack while his countrymen Marcelo DiLuzio and Leo Brideau put Italy ahead 5-2 going into the third period, leaving the Portugal in a hole to dig out of if they had any hopes of hockey glory on this afternoon.

Portugal fans put on their rally boleros and held hands as their heros dug deep. For seven minutes both goalkeepers stayed solid, fans from both sides wondering if this game would end 5-2. But Portuguese spirits soared at 12:39 when Arruda scored his second goal in a row to bring his squad within 2 goals! With new life the Portuguese team pressed hard against the Italian defence when only a minute later Portugal’s Dave Wodar beat Niemenen to bring his team within a goal of the Italians!! Italy 5, Portugal 4 with only 11 minutes to play!

Furious puck battles for the next three minutes, the Portuguese looking to tie this one up. But Italy isn’t first place for no reason. Deciding it was time to claim the big prize, the Romans turned on the afterburners and scored FIVE TIMES in only seven minutes to turn this nail-biter into a 10-4 rout. Jay Cummings marker was followed by singles from Eric Fletcher and Dave Vincelli, with league icon Leo Brideau notching 2 more for the hat-trick.

In true Portuguese style, the red team didn’t give up and beat Niemenen one last time with a minute to go off the stick of Mike Russo. But that’s how this one ended folks. Italy 10, Portugal 5.

The curse continues.

Portugal’s MVP goes to Mike Russo, who had a fantastic playoff and is pictured here with Dave Woodside’s mom who lent her skills to create Portugal’s trademark POG hat this year. Thanks Mom!

Portugal POG Mike Russo with Mrs. Woodside

Italy’s POG is shared by Marcelo DiLuzio and Leo Brideau. Marcello is taking next season off to get his back fixed but will be back in 2025.

Italy POG’s Marcello DiLuzio and Leo Brideau

Absolutely fantastic Championship Day with two great games for the memories.