Friday, November 19, 2010

Russians take home the trophy

How many coaches would yank a goaltender less than four minutes into one game and start him again the very next night? That’s what Team Russia head coach Valery Bragin, the tie-less one, did with goaltender Dmitry Shikin in the two Subway Super Series games that were played in Kamloops and Prince George on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Shikin gave up two goals on three shots and left Wednesday’s game with his side down 2-0 just 3:36 into the game. Emil Garipov came on and was excellent in backstopping the Russians to a 7-6 shootout victory.
Last night, the Russians stoned Team WHL 5-2 in Prince George to win the Super Series for the first time in its eight years and perhaps save what, prior to this month, had been a mediocre series, at least out west.
Going into this year, the WHL had won 13 of the 14 games it had played against the Russians in this series.
The Russians had always, for whatever reason, brought over a markedly weaker team than was needed to compete with CHL teams. Four years ago, the last time the series stopped in Kamloops, the WHL posted an 8-1 victory in what was a simply awful hockey game.
This year, however, the Russians brought over an older team that was stronger and more mature than what we have seen in past years. Every player on the 22-man roster for the game in Kamloops was born in 1991. Of those 22 players, 16 had played for Bragin at the U-20 Fourth Nations tournament in Sweden in September.
This bunch of Russians took every bump and then some. They were quick on transition, strong on the puck and they gave the WHL’s defence fits, especially in deep on the forecheck. The WHL defencemen really had have a tough time dealing with that pressure.
The WHL, which actually held a 6-3 lead in the third period of the game in Kamloops, carried over only six players to the game in the Prince George. And it took until six or seven minutes into the third period before the WHL team looked comfortable. By then, the Russians held a 4-0 lead and were on their way to winning the series for the first time.
This reminded me a bit of 1972 when the Canadians (NHL) and the then-Soviet Union met in the first Super Series. The NHL stars that year were caught off guard by just how good the Soviet players were. I would suggest that the WHL players were expecting less than what they got in these two games.
Through this series the Russian players are mostly nameless teenagers to most observers.
Which is why it was so wonderful to watch these players celebrate at the end of the game in Prince George. Watching them go to centre ice, shed gloves and sticks, and pose for one of those championship team photos with the trophy, well, it was just like watching a North American team celebrate a title.
If you don't think this thing meant something to them, you weren't paying attention.
So . . . what’s next?
Well, Hockey Canada will release the list of players invited to its selection camp on Nov. 29. From there it’s on to the camp in Toronto, Dec. 11-15.
The 2011 World Junior Championship will be contested in Buffalo, Dec. 26 through Jan. 5.
Nov. 8, at Saint John, N.B.: Russia 5, QMJHL 4
Nov. 10, at Drummondville: Russia 4, QMJHL 3
Nov. 11, at London: OHL 4, Russia 0
Nov. 15, at Sudbury: OHL 2, Russia 1 (SO)
Nov. 17: at Kamloops: Russia 7, WHL 6 (SO)
Nov. 18: at Prince George: Russia 5, WHL 2
Russia 4-1-1-22-21-12
CHL 2-3-1-21-22-6
OHL 2-0-0-6-1-5
QMJHL 0-2-0-7-9-0
WHL 0-1-1-8-12-1
(Note: Three points for regulation victory; two points for shootout victory; one point for shootout loss.)
With the Subway Super Series having wrapped up, it’s time to start thinking about the various World Junior Championships that will be held over the next six weeks.
F Kristians Pelss of the Edmonton Oil Kings will play for Latvia in the 2011 World Junior Championship, Division 1A, that runs Dec. 13-19 in Bobruisk, Belarus. Pelss, 18, was the 19th pick in the CHL’s 2010 import draft. He also was a seventh-round pick by the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL’s 2010 draft. Pelss has a goal and three assists in 20 games with the Oil Kings. . . . Latvia will compete against Belarus, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, two WHL players are on Germany’s preliminary roster for the 2011 World Junior Championship that will be held in Buffalo, Dec. 26 through Jan. 5. F Marcel Noebels of the Seattle Thunderbirds and F Bernhard Keil of the Kamloops Blazers are on the German roster that right now features four goaltenders, 15 forwards and nine defencemen. Noebels has 14 points in 19 games with Seattle, while Keil, who has struggled to adapt to the grind of the WHL, has one goal in 15 games with the Blazers. He has been a healthy scratch four times in the last eight games.
I was told late Thursday night that F Kyle St. Denis, 20, has been released off the injured list by the Kelowna Rockets. St. Denis has had multiple concussions and didn’t get medical clearance to start this season with the Rockets. From Trail, B.C., he had 22 points in 22 games in 2008-09 and 22 points in 26 games last season. Of course, the games played is the key statistic. Obviously, he has the skill to play in the WHL but the concussions just wouldn’t let him. . . . I also am told that his junior A rights belonged to the BCHL's Vernon Vipers, who have dealt them to the Victoria Grizzlies. St. Denis, however, wants to play with the Smoke Eaters, whose roster includes his brother Travis, who has 39 points in 22 games.
The Kelowna Rockets dealt D Antoine Corbin, 18, to the Prince Albert Raiders on Thursday. The Rockets got back a 2012 third-round bantam draft pick. Corbin, who is in his second WHL season, was a fifth-round pick in the 2007 bantam draft. . . . He had four points and 25 penalty minutes in 11 games this season with the Rockets. . . . Corbin, who is from Kelowna, is expected to play for the Raiders tonight against the Hurricanes in Lethbridge.
If you were wondering, it took the Pats 22 hours 30 minutes to get from Regina to Vancouver, where they open B.C. Division tour tonight against the Giants. . . . The Pats have three prospects with them for the next few days. D Kyle Burroughs, a third-round pick from Langley, B.C., D Nolan De Jong, a seventh-round selection from Saanich, B.C., and F Demico Hannoun, a product of North Delta., B.C., who was taken in the ninth round, have practised with the club the last couple of days. . . . The Prince Albert Raiders have added F Tyler Paslawski, 18, to their roster for their three-game weekend. Paslawski, was assigned to the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks almost a month ago and had two assists in eight games. . . . BC Hockey has selected Kamloops as the host site for the 2011 U-16 B.C. Cup. The tournament will be held April 27 through May 1 at Interior Savings Centre. . . . Marc Weber of the Vancouver Province reports on the Dub Hub that the Vancouver Giants are down to five defencemen Luke Fenske (shoulder) the latest of their players to be injured. The Giants are at home to the Regina Pats tonight but then don’t play for a week. F Brendan Rowisnki, who was acquired last week from the Moose Jaw Warriors, won’t play, either. He had major offseason knee surgery and played two games with the Warriors before being traded. But he hasn’t received medical clearance from the Giants’ staff. Fenske and Rowinski both may be back for that Nov. 26 game when the Giants meet the Oil Kings in Edmonton. . . .
More than a handful of former WHL players have been shuffled around over the last couple of days. . . . F James Wright (Vancouver, 2005-10) went from the AHL’s Norfolk Road Admirals to the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. . . . The NHL’s Vancouver Canucks returned F Mario Bliznak (Vancouver, 2005-08) to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. . . . The NHL’s Florida Panthers sent D Keaton Ellerby (Kamloops, Moose Jaw, 2004-08) to the AHL’s Rochester Americans and recalled F Michal Repik (Vancouver, 2005-08). . . . Repik was the Americans’ leading scorer, with 22 points, including 18 assists, in 17 games. . . . The NHL’s Minnesota Wild assigned D Justin Falk (Calgary, Spokane, 2004-08) to the AHL’s Houston Aeros. . . . The NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes recalled D Brett Carson (Moose Jaw, Calgary 2001-06) from the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers on Wednesday and returned him on Thursday.
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