Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Junior Gold-Again!

The Canadian Junior Hockey Team won the gold medals at the recently held “Under 20” tournament held in the Czech Republic. Hardly earth-shattering news, since it marked the fourth occasion in a row that they have come out on top.

However, in this instance, they emerged victorious by scratching and clawing and snarling all the way to their overtime goal over against Sweden. It was not pretty, and it was not easy. But it counted. The boys are home. Their arms are tired from carrying trophies, and waving flags. (There is a wonderful photograph of the Belleville Bulls’ P. K. Subban with the Canadian flag in Monday’s edition of The Intelligencer.)

There were two Bulls on the Canadian squad. Shawn Matthias also participated in the tournament, and often played a pivotal role. On the final goal, he managed to squeeze the puck, past the Swedish defender at their blue line, fought to control the puck, and swept it over to create the scoring opportunity. Matthias finished the tournament with points, on goals and assists.

During the tournament games, Subban was used sparingly; nonetheless, his role was also crucial. He worked hard in practices, became an integral part of the team, and emerged from the championships with the same medal as everyone else. Too often the lesser lights are under-appreciated.

Many chesterfield coaches questioned Coach Hartsburg’s decision to start goaltender Steve Mason in the last two games. The pundits from the peanut gallery had all sorts of reasons why Mason should have been riding the pines. They were wrong, again.

Mason proved his worth by being selected as the tournament’s most valuable player, top goaltender, and all star. He started the trip as a member of the London Knights, but was traded to the Kitchener Rangers half way through the tourney. The Rangers, as hosts of the Memorial Cup, will be one of four teams vying for supremacy of junior hockey in Canada. Mason will play a pivotal role on that squad.

The top defenceman of the World Championships was Drew Doughty of the Guelph Storm. He was also selected to the All Star team. The Canadians began the tourney recording two shutouts, reflecting the emphasis on defence.

Coach George Burnett of the Belleville Bulls is justifiably proud of the accomplishments of Matthias and Subban. “I told both of the boys before they left that it is a tremendous honour just to be selected as one of the twenty-two players representing Canada. It is also a wonderful honour for our program.

I spoke with both of the boys briefly after the tournament. They indicated that the experience was bigger than they had anticipated, in terms of pressure and exposure.”

Burnett added that he watched the entire final and that he would be speaking soon with Coach Hartsburg. “It was great to see Shawn Matthias as part of the final outcome on the winning goal. It was nice to see the tremendous confidence that the organization showed in Shawn.”

P. K. Subban has a shot at making the team next year. Burnett had this advice for both of them before they left. “You are part of an exclusive group. If they ask you carry the puck bag, do it as best as you can.”

Burnett realizes that the tournament is draining, both physically and emotionally. “A victory like this hopefully will have an impact on their play when they return. They have learned a great deal in such a short period of time.”

Both players will return to action within a week. They will be suitably recognized by the team at an upcoming game. Be there. It will be most worthwhile.

James Hurst-sportslices.blogspot.com

You bet! See you at the game!

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