Sunday, January 04, 2009


Canada's Quest For Gold!

Never in Doubt.

Sure. What are you smoking?

With ten seconds remaining in regulation time, the Canadian entry at the World Junior Championships looked like they were toast. There was no sustained pressure at the front of the net, no disorganized scramble that often results in a goal. The team was one goal down, the clock was ticking.

With 5.4 seconds left, a tiny forward who plays for Regina in the Western Hockey League, Jordan Eberle, lifted the biscuit over the sprawling Russian goaltender and dented the twine. Game tied. Overtime inevitable.

Then the strangest thing happened. I asked Coach Pat Quinn about it right after the game. My question was related to the Russian strategy in the overtime period. With four skaters against four, and with a truckload of talented players on his bench, why didn’t Coach Nemchinov try to bury the Canadians in overtime?

“I was really surprised at that. They played like they were preparing for the shootout. (After the overtime period). That didn’t concern me. We have been practising shootouts every day. I knew we had the guys to put the puck in the net. I was a little concerned about keeping their pucks out of our net.”

In the final analysis, he needn’t have been concerned. The first Russian shooter, Kugryshev, clanked the first attempt off the left goal post, a tender’s best friend, and the second, Chernov, was stopped cold by Tokarski. Eberle and Tavares beat the Russian netminder Zhelobnyuk like the proverbial rented mule to move Canada on to the Gold medal game against the Swedes.

Quinn coached Nemchinov as a player in Vancouver. He had nothing but good things to say about the Russian coach. Nemchinov praised his team’s play in the semi-final game: “I am very proud of my team. Tonight we played the best game in the tournament.”

Up to this point in the tournament, the Canadians had scored on 60% of their power play opportunities. Against the Russians, they scored once in nine opportunities. Nenchinov modestly stated that his team had played their positions well to thwart the Canadian power play.

Belleville Bull defenseman, P. K. Subban, again turned in a fine effort for the Canucks. He has become a fan favourite at the tournament. Once he gets the puck in his own zone, there are whispers of ‘Soooooban” in the crowd. When given an opportunity to free wheel through the neutral zone, it builds to a very audible chant. He has moved the puck well, carried it well, and compensates for his mistakes with his speed.

He was thrilled with the win: “The smallest guy on our team gets the biggest goal of his life. We were a little bit flat in the third period. We bounced back. We found a way to win.”

P. K. lowered his head during the shootout, for both Canadian shooters. . “But I lifted it when they crossed the blue line, both times. I will do that for the rest of my life!” When asked if # 19 might not score in the shootout, he replied, somewhat indignantly: “Of course he wouldn’t miss. It was John Tavares!”

He admitted that he was afraid near the end of the game, a goal down. “We were on the verge of being kicked out of the tournament. We didn’t want that to happen. We relied on our passion and grit.”

A Happy New Year, indeed. One more fish to fry. The Muppets had a Swedish chef. Perhaps it is the Canadians turn to mind the skillet.

James Hurst

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