Tuesday, January 01, 2008


World Junior Hockey Championships-2008

Happy New Year!

May the wind be always at your back, and may your ice conditions be perfect, and may you stay out of the penalty box a little more frequently this year!

The Canadian entry in the World Junior Championships has their work cut out for them this time around. The team allowed the Swedes to slip the puck into the Canadians’ net in the dying moments of the preliminary round game to lose 4-3.

Not a lot of shame in that. The Swedes were highly ranked going into this tournament, having conquered the world in the last “Under 18” Championships. The loss was definitely a wake-up call for the Canadian squad, as they had not lost a single game in this Junior Tournament for almost four years-a stretch of twenty games.

But these runs of winning and losing do not last forever, and a victory over the Finns will allow the Canadian boys a shot at the Americans in the semi-final. A loss in any game at this point in time means that you pack your bags and go home.

Team Canada has captured the gold medal at the last three tournaments. Naturally, expectations do run high.

Of local interest, there are two Belleville Bulls on this year’s squad. Shawn Matthias is a forward on the team, and logs a lot of ice team on the power play as well. In the four games played thus far, he has two goals and an assist, and leads the team with a “plus three” in the plus/minus category.

P. K. Subban plays defence, and has steadily improved throughout the tournament. The Montreal Canadiens draft pick was listed as the “seventh” defenceman, indicating that he would be used only if one of the other six faltered or got hurt. But he is getting more opportunity from Coach Craig Hartsburg, and making the best of it.

Matt Cooke of the Vancouver Canucks is now in the middle of his ninth season in the NHL. Long before he laced up the blades in the NHL, he also played in the World Juniors tournament. “Cookie”, a Stirling native, also honed his skills at the Dukedome as a member of the Wellington Dukes.

On the back of Craig Mills’ 1996 Upper Deck hockey card, he is described as “one of the unsung heroes in Canada’s fourth consecutive World Junior championship victory”. Mills played on high-flying line with Brian Secord and Daniel Cleary with the Belleville Bulls; however, with Team Canada, he was asked to play a more defensive role.

The current Junior team played the Finns in an exhibition game before the tournament. They defeated the kids from Helsinki 4-2.

By the time you get this edition of The Times in your hands, the result against the Finns likely will have been determined. Hopefully, the Canadian lads will have succeeded, and will have advanced to play the Americans.

The Americans advanced with victories over Kazakhstan, Switzerland, Russia, and Finland. The Russians also bested the Finns, 7-4.

A lucky bounce here or there, a deflection, a bad call. At this stage, anything can happen.

Following the championships, you can head to the Yardmen Arena in Belleville to catch Subban and Matthias in action, live, as they lead the Belleville Bulls into the 2008 playoffs in the OHL.

James Hurst

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