IIHF World Junior Championship
Canada vs. Russia @ HSBC Arena
The rivalry is resumed when these two teams drop the puck. One of the richest of rivalries in the history of international sports/international hockey becomes richer with every second of play.
These two teams share 27 gold medals in the World Juniors; 15 for Canada, 12 for Russia. Canada lost to win silver, and Russia finished 6th in last year's tournament. Both want vengeance and they both want to do a hell of a lot better than last year. Which will be the most successful?
The first thing everyone was looking for was who the starting goalie was. And much to my glee, Olivier Roy of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL) gets the nod to start in net while Mark Visentin plays back-up for a night.
Canada started the game a little nervous looking, and that was to be expected. But as a result of some nervous play, Russia got their first goal of the game and the tournament. Yuri Urychev netted the first goal under 4 minutes in the opening period. The opening goal was a nice display of Russia's controlled and clean puck movement. The puck moved around so cleanly, so flat, and very quickly. It was no wonder why Urychev wasn't covered and scored. But the scorer was later changed to Maxim Kitsyn whom they believed got the deflection on it.
Canada's first goal was so nicely made and subtle. A little bump by Louis Leblanc against Igor Bobkov created some space between him and Marcus Foligno. Calvin de Haan sent the puck down to the front of the net and Foligno made a light back-hand shovel past Bobkov into the far-side of the net for Canada's first goal of the tournament with a little over 2 minutes before the end of the first period!
A little past the half-way mark of the game, Ryan Ellis took a shot from the blue and sent his shot intentionally wide of the net. I don't get how it got past three Russians, but it did and, after taking a bounce from the end-boards, bounces off of Bobkov's skate and into the back of his net. A little lucky, but very smart.
And then 1:16 later, Russia levels the ice with a goal from Nikita Dvurechenski. His shot snuck through the pads of Olivier Roy and gives Russia some life, but Canada gets some bite back into their game. Canada re-gained the lead with a goal from Erik Gudbranson! Who said this guy needed to gain some more offence? Well, there you have it, misters.
Russia didn't remain down for long before they gained a power play and then a power play goal 21 seconds into the PP. Russia's Danil Sobchenko got their second tying goal to make the game 3-3 with a little over 3 minutes left in the period.
Entering the third with another tie, Team Canada was awarded a PP after a tripping call was made against Russia's Sergei Kalinin. It didn't take long on the PP for Canada to make its mark. Power play specialist Ryan Ellis starts the great play by keeping the puck in play and in the zone with his body. The puck started to cycle down low and the steely determination and relentless puck support and handling ended up with the rubber on Ryan Johansen's stick and him scoring the go-ahead goal! And then another PPG from Brayden Schenn awarded Canada its first 2-goal lead.
Then with 26.1 seconds left on the clock, Brayden Schenn wins the face-off and Curtis Hamilton gets the puck and shoots on net and just bites the glove of Bobkov to give the final winning goal, to make it a 6-3 win for Canada.
It seems I haven't bothered to talk about the statistics. Canada's penalty kill was as good as the best! How many chances did Canada generate to score on the kill than Russia produced on the advantage? Canada did a lot more damage than Russia, which went 1-for-3 tonight. And Canada got 4 PPGs! For the past several years, the team with the best PP has won the tournament a majority of the time. I think we're getting off to a good start, eh?
Roy made the saves when necessary, and even though he let some through, he stopped a majority of what he faced. He may not have stood on his head, but who needs to when you're playing that well? Next, the Czechs...
Player of the Game: Ryan Ellis (CAN), Valdimir Tarasenko (RUS)
My 3 stars:
(1) Ryan Ellis
(2) Jaden Schwartz
(3) Casey Cizikas