Esmark and NAPHL alum Tkac making an impact at World Juniors
December 30, 2019
Former Esmark Stars AAA Hockey and NAPHL forward Daniel Tkac is making an impact for Team Slovakia at the 2020 World Junior Championships.
The 19-year-old, who was born in Pittsburgh, PA, and who currently skates for the Merritt Centennials in the British Columbia Hockey League, is a dual American-Slovakian citizen, and has had a great start to the 2020 Tournament.
Tkac scored the tie-breaking and game-winning goal with 2:56 left in the third period as Slovakia opened the event with a tough 3-1 win over Kazakhstan in T?inec, Czech Republic, on Friday, Dec. 27. Tkac rushed to the net and converted Michal Mrazik's feed. After the play was video-reviewed and ruled good, the Werk Arena crowd of 4,915 erupted.
"Michal Mrazik took the puck behind the net and he found me back door," said Tkac. "All I had to do was tap it in. It was a really nice play by him, a really good pass. All credit to him."
“Every kid growing up wants to make that tournament,” said Tkac. “It’s the biggest tournament in junior hockey. When you get that chance, you want to make it happen.”
This year’s World Junior tournament is taking place, Dec. 26 - Jan. 5, in Ostrava and T?inec in the Czech Republic, right near the Slovakian border, which means Slovakia should have plenty of support all tournament long.
“I think there will be a lot of fans there,” said Tkac. “It would be amazing to play in that kind of atmosphere. I’ll be really excited.”
Although he was born in the U.S., Tkac and his family moved back to Slovakia seven years ago and that’s the country he currently calls home. He played most of his youth hockey in Slovakia, but decided to come back to North America to further his hockey career. He skated for Yuri Kroivokhija's U16 Esmark Stars squads during both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.
Last year, he had 14 points in 46 regular-season games for the Centennials, but so far this year he’s the team’s third-leading scorer with 23 points in 29 contests.
Slovakia is in Group A of the World Juniors along with Finland, Kazakhstan, Sweden and Switzerland.