Not many people can call themselves national champions. Zach Plucinski can do it in two countries.
Last month the 17-year-old from Eagle River scored the first goal in the Notre Dame Hounds' 5-1 win over Quebec's Cantonniers de Magog in the final of the Telus Cup, Canada's national midget hockey championship for players 18 and younger.
The victory was the second national championship for Plucinski, a member of the Mustang Hockey Association Alaska Blue Devils team that won a USA Hockey PeeWee Tier II national championship in 2012. Plucinski also has an Alaska state high school championship on his resume — Chugiak's 2017 Class 4A championship.
Although his two previous championships were pretty big deals, Plucinski said playing in the Telus Cup at the Sudbury Community Arena was a different kind of cool.
"It was just a great atmosphere," he said of the title game, which was televised nationally in Canada.
Hearing the likes of famed TV announcer Don Cherry talk about the team was a bit surreal, he said. So was the airport experience dad Tim Plucinski had on his way back home after attending the championship game.
"He's walking by this bar and he sees video of Zach shooting and scoring," said Heather Plucinski, Zach's mom.
The victory capped a 20-0 postseason for the Hounds, who won their record fifth national championship in 11 title game appearances.
Plucinski grew up playing youth hockey in Chugiak-Eagle River. His mom said he learned the game under the tutelage of Blue Devils coach Pete McEnaney.
Plucinski isn't the only Hound with Alaska connections — head coach Jeremy Mylymok, whose son Luke scored a hat trick in the championship game, was a hard-hitting defenseman for UAA from 1992-96, and his wife, Darlene, is a Service High grad. The family visits every summer to visit, said Mylymok, an avid fisherman who enjoys spending time on the Kenai River with the couple's two sons.
Mylymok said Plucinski was a key part of the team's success and praised the defenseman for improving throughout the season.
"His best hockey was at the end of the year and the playoffs," Mylymok said.
Mylymok described the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Plucinski as a physical defenseman and skilled skater who "turned himself into a true Division I prospect." Plucinski scored seven goals and had 28 assists while playing a team-high 44 games during the regular season.
"He was a difference-maker out there using his size and strength," Mylymok said.
Plucinski is still finishing his junior year of high school in Canada, where the school year runs through June. He said he plans to return to Eagle River for the summer and weigh his options at the more advanced Junior A level.
Wherever he ends up next season, Plucinski said he's proud of his accomplishments during his first season away from home.
"I was really happy with the way I played," he said.
Email Alaska Star editor Matt Tunseth at email@example.com or call (907) 257-4274. This is a condensed version of a story in this week's Alaska Star.