ROXBURY, NJ – For the second year in a row, a youth hockey team that includes several Randolph players traveled to Europe last month to play some strong youth hockey teams in Europe.

The trip culminated with the team, Team USA Bulldogs, winning the bronze medal at the "Hvezda European Hockey Christmas Cup Tournament" in Prague, Czech Republic.

The tournament featured some strong youth hockey teams from Europe and the Bulldogs from the USA.

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The Bulldogs left New Jersey on the early morning of Dec. 24 and first traveled to Munich, Germany for practices and to play Germany’s Rosenheim Stars. They then traveled to Czech Republic to play in the hockey tournament.

The team returned to New Jersey on Jan 1. 

Team USA Bulldogs played the German champions of their Bantam (U14) league - the Rosenheim Stars - in a pre-tournament exhibition game. This exhibition was preceded by a practice at Munich's famous Olympiahalle located in the famous Olympiapark München complex which was the site of the 1972 Munich Olympics. 

Team USA Bulldogs is made up of boys from seven Morris county towns. Roxbury's Ryan Van Zile was a real offensive powerhouse in the tournament scoring a hat trick and a couple of assists in the semifinal game against the team from Austria: Weiden Blue Devils.

Forming an impenetrable defense was Randolph's Keegan Melly, Randolph's Robert Magnotta and Mt. Olive's Jude Hall. Randolph's Shane Melly led all players on all the tournament teams with 15 goals over the four games.

Roxbury's Nick Colatrella added a timely goal in that win and Stanhope's Ryan Puco attacked the net and put in a rebound that put the Bulldogs ahead for good while Mt. Olive's Ryan Hall tapped in a pass which secured the victory.  

Denville’s Jake McCloud and Jefferson's Hunter Parrillo added speed that the tournament teams had trouble containing. 

None of the team's success would have been possible without the steadfast play of Morris Plains goalie Andrew Nicholas, whose proper angles and calm composure in the face of bigger players firing shots at him served to give the whole team confidence.

As is the norm with Head Coach Robert Magnotta teams, the Team USA Bulldogs were well positioned which helped in their efforts given the opponents were older, bigger and often faster. Magnotta is a Level 5 certified USA Hockey coach, the highest level in the USA Hockey coaching program. 

The team traveled on their own "Team USA Bulldogs" bus to all events while in Europe. 

Taking in the Sights

While there, the boys did a much more than just play hockey. The travel group, which numbered 50 and included the youngest member - at 1-year-old - up to grandparents, uncles, aunts, sisters, cousins and friends, traveled to Dachau Concentration Camp, enjoyed a welcome dinner at the world famous Hofbräuhaus, took a tour of the world's largest castle and enjoyed an open skate at an outdoor rink with the locals.  

The team also visited the historical town founded by the Romans, Regensburg, Germany, where they were able to visit the oldest restaurant in the world: "The Regensburg Sausage Kitchen", founded in 1135 AD.

There was also Prague Castle, visits to Munich and Prague Christmas markets and a special trip to a Czech Elite Hockey Game between Sparta Praha and Mlada Boleslav.

The boys were featured on the jumbotron at the Czech professional game while the arena played "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen. 

The trip ended with New Year's Eve party on the top floor of the Hotel Pyramida overlooking the famous Prague fireworks.