Category Archives: World Junior Championship

Not Quite For Canada

Congratulations to the U.S. junior squad for grabbing gold in Ufa after their 3-1 win over Sweden, and cheers to Russia for winning bronze, although I say it with a severe case of lack of enthusiasm after Team Canada fell to the home country 6-5 in overtime.

Canada clawed their way back a couple of times after being down by two, and throughout the third period and into overtime they had numerous chances, including ringing the rubber off goal posts not once but twice. But it wasn’t to be.

It’s always tough to see young hockey players lose a heartbreaker, especially when it’s your own country. But that’s sports. The agony and the ecstasy. And in the ecstasy department, the Americans, in their game against the Swedes, rebounded in the second period after being down by one, with little Californian Rocco Grimaldi scoring twice to put his team in the lead, a lead they never surrendered.

One player who caught my eye throughout the tournament was Mikhail Grigorenko, who went 12th in the 2012 entry draft, selected by Buffalo. Montreal, of course, chose Alex Galchenyuk third. Grigorenko is a big, long-legged smoothie, and has a chance of becoming a Jean Beliveau-type player, or on the other hand, maybe a Benoit Pouilot-type player. And believe me, it’s not easy to mention these players in the same breath. Please don’t misconstrue my Jean Beliveau analogy.

Next year the tourney will take place in Malmo, Sweden, which means another two weeks of extremely early games for us on this side of the pond. Malmo is the birthplace of siren Anita Ekberg, if you’re interested.

anita-ekberg

Anita

Yanks Spank Canada

The U.S. dominated throughout in their 5-1 crusher of the Canadians in World Junior semi-final action, and if there’s a solid reason why Canada just didn’t show up on this day, I’d like to know why. Was it coaching? Was it nerves, or lack of leadership, or lack of sleep? Whatever it was, the Americans blast through to the gold medal game against the Swedes on Saturday, while Canada and Russia sadly battle it out for the bronze after Russia fell 3-2 in a shootout against Sweden.

Not what Canadians from coast to coast wanted or expected, that’s for sure. Speaking as a Canadian, this is quite an obnoxious turn of events to say the least. We have two things to brag about in the Great White North – world-class comedians, and world-class hockey players. We hate it when the Americans try to put a dent in some of our best stuff.

Damn Yankees. And I say that with respect and admiration, because the U.S. squad was just way too good on this day. They seemed to want it more. Much more. I just don’t understand why. We always want it more. It’s what Canadian hockey players are best known for.

And it’s a tremendously depressing sight to see the number one guy between the pipes get yanked in the second period when it was 4-0 at that point. But no blame can be put on Malcolm Subban, or relief Jordan Binnington, who played well under difficult circumstances, like sitting on the bench from game one on. Maybe Subban didn’t have his best game and be miraculous when the going got tough, but it’s a team game, and the team in front of the two just didn’t show up.

There’s going to be a lot of questions from the Canadian side now. Like, what happened? Almost from the first minute of the first period, the Americans took advantage of Canada’s loose play, with pucks being turned over, missed passes, poor line changes, and ultimately, when Canada did get quality chances, particularly in the third period when Ryan Strome, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Dougie Hamilton all were close in, the U.S. goaltender John Gibson was there like a brick wall.

Can Canada win bronze on Saturday against the Russians? Maybe. But I hate bronze.

 

Important WJC Correction

Originally I posted that the World Junior semi-finals would be held on Friday, which is what I had read on certain sites. I’m not going to mention any names, but one in particular starts with T, and also has SN in the name. They were wrong and because I believed them, so was I. Unless I’m losing my mind. In that case, sorry TSN.

Canada plays the U.S, and Russia takes on Sweden, a day earlier, on Thursday, which is only a few hours away. I apologize for this error.

The gold medal game goes on Saturday. Unless I’m wrong about that too.

 

Russians Fall To Canutskys

Team Canada downed the Russians 4-1 on Russian soil at Unrestrictedfreeagentgrad, (Ufa) and although the Russian squad boasts a couple of players everyone’s talked about for a year or two – Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko, the Canadians have guys called Grit and Heart and Malcolm Subban in their lineup, with Subban playing great between the pipes and stopping all but one, including a penalty shot, although it was fired wide.

Too bad the young fellow belongs to Boston. It’s the only bummer I can muster right now.

Onward it goes. Canada earns a bye to the semi-final way off on Friday, which gives them good time to nurse their aches and pains and buy nesting dolls for their families, and will play the winner of the U.S./Czech contest, which will be held on Wednesday. Russia and Switzerland hammer it out on the same day for the right to take on Sweden in the other semi-final.

Canada and the U.S. would be an excellent match-up, as would Russia and Sweden. Who knows how things will unfold at that point. But I have faith. I’m a proud Canadian.

Wouldn’t it be weird to see Switzerland win the whole thing?

Canada Clips Yanks

Team Canada edged the U.S. 2-1 today and now hold a perfect 3 wins and no losses, while the Americans have put themselves in a bit of a pickle and must beat Slovakia tomorrow to stay alive. So at this moment, it’s good to be a Canadian.

Not so good for me personally though, was the lack of fire from Alex Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk was mostly quiet throughout, although he did earn an assist on the lone American goal. But as a Habs fan, I want the young fellow to dominate this tournament the way Jerome Iginla did in 1996, or Evgeny Malkin in 2006, or Brad Marchand most recently with the U17 ladies squad.

Galchenyuk for the most part was just an ordinary player against the Canadians. Not what I’d expected or hoped for. This wasn’t Guy Lafleur with the Quebec Remparts. It was more like Boris Borzakovsky with the Minsk Marauders.

But Canada won, and this is great if you’re a Canadian like me. So on one hand I’m ecstatic. On the other, a little disappointed.

Next up for Canada – Monday against the Russians, while Galchenyuk and his U.S. gang take on Slovakia.

Keep it going, Canada. Smarten up, Galchenyuk.

 

Canada Storms Back Against Slovaks

Team Canada found themselves down 3-1 to the Slovakians midway through the second period before switching to fourth gear, pumping in five unanswered big ones, and ending up with a nice, convincing 6-3 win over this somewhat disciplined Eastern European club that favours a bottling-up type of game that can often be effective, as shown in their 3-2 overtime loss to the Russians the other day.

It certainly didn’t work today, though, because Canada showed patience, wherewithall, and the proverbial intestinal fortitude to storm back. It’s what Canada does. Always has, always will. We’re proud of this.

Canada also showed a bit of an edge which will have Nail Yakupov saying “See, I told you so!” J.C. Lipon took a five minute penalty, plus a game misconduct, for a crisp elbow to a Slovakian noggin, and later on, Anthony Camara was sent off with a five and game for charging which saw Slovak Patrik Luza leave on a stretcher. Not good, but anyway……

Canada now meets the U.S.A. on Sunday (4:30 a.m. eastern), which should be fun, with Alex Galchenyuk suiting up for the enemy. Galchenyuk managed one assist in his U.S. team’s 2-1 loss to Russia, and hopefully on Sunday he shines in a losing cause..

Little Known Fact:

The city of Ufa’s original name was Unrestrictedfreeagentgrad, but was shortened to Ufa when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Unrestrictedfreeagentgrad was founded by Ivan the terrible, also known as defenceman Ivan Irvin, who played four games with Montreal during the 1952-53 season. Irvin ended up in what would become Unrestrictedfreeagentgrad after Montreal veterans Doug Harvey and Butch Bouchard hilariously decided to put the drunken rookie on a ship bound for Europe instead of the team train going to Chicago, as a rookie initiation joke.

Players back then were certainly a fun-loving bunch.

 

Galchenyuk And Co. Blast Germans

It’s been two games for Germany in this year’s World Championships, and the hardest working guy so far has been the goal judge behind the German net.

First, 9-3 Canada, and today, the Americans handed the beleaguered bunch an 8-0 spanking, with Montreal’s future star Alex Galchenyuk scoring a goal and adding two assists. Galchenyuk was told a couple of months ago by Montreal brass to shoot more, it’s been working like a charm with the Sarnia Sting of the O.H.L., and it was his quick wrist shot today that bulged the twine.

By the end of the tournament, look for Galchenyuk to be at, or as close as can be, the top of the list of leading point-getters.

I can’t say anything bad about Germany. All German fans have to do is remind us of how lousy Canada’s men’s national soccer team is, while their boys are world-class. So I’d better keep my mouth shut.

Once again, you could land a helicopter in the empty seats at the Ufa arena. (If there was no roof on it, of course). Attendance for the U.S.- Germany game was 1378 in the 8250 seat joint.

The Americans have a nice young defenceman in 6’4″ Seth Jones, son of former NBA player Popeye Jones. Seth goes in the the 2013 draft, and it’s too bad Sam Pollock wasn’t around to wrangle this fellow into a Habs jersey. Maybe it’ll happen anyway! One thing’s for sure – this guy’s going to be up or around the first pick overall.

Team Canada meets Slovakia early tomorrow morning, and several hours later, Galchenyuk and the US squad take on the Russians.

Team Canada Scores a Few

It’s the time of year to think of others less fortunate, and my heart goes out to Russian World Junior ticket scalpers, who might have to soon think about another occupation. How can they sell overpriced tickets to games in an arena where there were so many empty seats, elephants would be free to roam?

Although having said that, there probably aren’t a lot of elephants in the industrial city of Ufa, which is located 1169 km. southeast of Moscow and 7908 km (4914 miles) from Montreal if you’re interested.

The Ufa arena holds 8250 fans, with just 3618 warming the seats for today’s contest. Ufa isn’t Saskatoon. But then again, Germany isn’t Russia or the U.S.A. when it comes to hockey.

If you’ve recorded the Canada-Germany game and are waiting to watch it when you get home from wherever you were, you might not want to read this, because I’m about to tell the score. But think about it. Are you really biting at the bit waiting to see how badly Germany gets blown out?

9-3 Canada.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who should be playing for the Edmonton Oilers now if NHL people weren’t such morons, had a goal and four assists. Nugent-Hopkins’ linemates also had big days, with Jonathan Huberdeau adding a goal and 2 assists and Mark Scheifele two goals.

Malcolm Subban, in nets for Canada, didn’t stand on his head but didn’t need to, and is it immature of me to hope that young Subban, brother of P.K., doesn’t blossom into an NHL star considering he was Boston’s first-round draft pick? Am I bad for saying this?

But I am hoping that for the next couple of weeks, Malcolm shines. Is that better?

Canada doesn’t yet seem to be an overwhelming machine, but it is only game one of course. It remains to be seen how they play when it’s against some of the powerhouses who would like nothing better than flex their muscles against Canada. It’s always been that way. Even if you can’t win gold, if you can manage to beat Canada, you’re automatically a bonafide hockey nation. So we’ll see how things play out as we go along.

Of course, being a Canadian, my focus sits mostly with Team Canada. But as a Habs fan, I can’t help being excited to see Alex Galchenyuk with the American team. May he score buckets, dominate, have fans on the edge of their seats. Except when the Americans meet Canada. Then I hope he’s only second star in a big Canadian win.

Galchenyuk and his gang get going tomorrow, against this same German team we saw today, and here’s hoping he dazzles and, God-forbid, doesn’t get hurt. Canada hits the ice again on Friday, when it’s time to meet Slovakia.

Love this time of year, this tournament with hockey’s future strutting their stuff. Too bad, in just a few short years, many of these guys will be NHLers and become out of touch with reality and the common person.

 

 

Hoping It Works On Marchand

Just yesterday I wrote a small piece about Rene Bourque and right away he hurts himself (an abdominal injury during workouts) and is out for several months.

So if I have this weird power, I’d now like to talk about Brad Marchand. Brad comes from Halifax, played in two different World Junior Championships, and has a big nose.

There. I hope that’s enough.

Swedish Gold

It was the only goal of the game, scored by the son of an Iranian father and Swedish mother, and it brought to a close the 2012 World Juniors in spectacular fashion.

Mika Zibanejad scored in overtime to give Sweden the gold in this year’s World Junior Championship, their first gold in 31 years, and what a happy group they were as they celebrated on the ice. And what a sad bunch the Russians were at the other end.

Congratulations Sweden. A real nice-looking hockey team. But all the teams were mighty fine, and every year I ask myself how such young guys can play such great hockey.

Next year the tournament is in Ufa, Russia, located about 1500 kilometers east of Moscow and closer to Asia than anywhere else. Somehow I can’t see Ufa doing it up in style the way Edmonton and Calgary did, but maybe they’ll surprise us. It’s a city of a million people, and is the home of Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the Kontinental Hockey League.

But the way it’s always such a mega-hit here, am I bad to suggest, as others have too, that the World Juniors should be held in Canada every year?