Sunday, November 9, 2008

USA vs Canada in WJAC Final

It's been a long week in Camrose but it will all be over on Sunday night after the gold medal game which features the United States and Canada West.

The expression is: even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Well since Dean and I both correctly predicted this match up three weeks ago that must mean we're either geniuses or just that the expression needs updating to 'two blind squirrels'.

There were three games on Saturday, let's go in order.

Russia 8 - Germany 2

Russia dominated Germany pretty much from the outset of the game but it became clear to me that it was because they weren't having to pay a physical price like they did with their North American opponents. In this game the highly skilled Russians, and there are some beauties here let me tell you, they were able to do whatever they wanted to and the final score is indicative of that.

Jerome Flaake (TOR) actually got the Germans off to an early lead but like I said, from then on it was all Russia.

Kirill Kabanov had a strong game with a goal and two assists, Stanislav Bocharov had a hat trick but those weren't the guys I'm going to remember from this game.

#15 Evgeny Kuznetsov has the hands, vision and creative instincts of a 30-year-old veteran but my 4-year-old son could teach him a thing or two about maturity. I have never seen a player smack his stick on the ice, slam the door on the bench, shake his head at teammates or generally sulk and pout like this kid does. After every whistle this guy is whining. It's a shame because he's a super talent but man... what a cry baby!

#19 Alexander Burmistrov was phenomenal today. There was one shift where he started the play from his own end, lugged it the entire length of the ice and was able to control it in Germany's zone... about a 40 second span never losing control of the puck once. He's shifty and really quick. It was by far his best game and I wonder how much of that was because of who the opponent was, but today he was terrific.

#23 Maxim Kitsin has been really hot and cold in this event, at least to me, and that continued today. He has the great combination on size, speed and skill but doesn't always use them together. At one point he took a great pass from Kuznetsov, dangled his way to the front of the net but then fired it 2 feet over the crossbar. Later he was given a penalty shot and it might have been the worst attempted deke I have seen in the last 2 years (pictured). Still, whenever I'd talk to a scout about the Russians, it wasn't long before his name came up.

I have decided that Russian head coach Vladimir Plyuschev needs anger management. At every whistle a quick glance at the Russian bench earns a person a view of Plyuschev gesturing wildly as he rips into one of his players. It doesn't matter whether the score is 1-0 or 6-0, whether Russia is winning or losing... if your shift just ended there is a 1 in 5 chance that you're going to get an earful. It's comical and embarrassing all at the same time.

Germany goes home in last place but in a sense it was mission accomplished. To understand what I mean you'll have to hear it from assistant coach Jeff Tomlinson who I spoke with after the game.

USA 5 - Canada East 1

In my opinion, Team USHL is the best squad here and they are on a roll that I don't think will end without a gold medal. They have scored 18 goals in the last 3 games and have only allowed 6 against in that span. Today it was a rematch with CAN East who they beat 5-3 in the round robin.

Danny Kristo was back in the line up and his high ankle sprain (or flu!) didn't seem to affect him much. Matt Donovan (NYI) has a pair of goals including the game winner. One guy I haven't really mentioned this week is #8 Mike Cichy but he's been very good and was again in this one today.

In net Mike Lee was again very strong. Dean asked me a couple hours ago who my tournament MVP would be to this point and Lee's name was the one that came to the front of my brain (where there is ample room for it to roll around).

Canada East was a disappointment for me. It should be mentioned that the American squad is older, bigger and more mature and I think it was a definite factor. However, the Eastern Canadians were not much of a threat in this game and I honestly can't recall a stretch where they had momentum or any kind of pressure.

I spoke with head coach Mark Grady afterwards.

From the USA side, I had postgame chats with Matt Donovan (NYI-4th) and Max NiCastro (DET-3rd) as well as coach Mark Carlson.

Canada West 4 - Belarus 1

This game was a lot closer that it should have been. Belarus was not out of this game until midway through the third despite taking a ton of penalties. I give a ton of credit to goalie Vitali Bialinski who was named player of the game for Belarus after seeing 43 shots, many of them during Canadian power plays.

The Belarussians actually had some jump and resilience in their game tonight. #12 Mikalai Susla is the only 1991 born player on the team but he was one of the best on the ice and scored his side's only goal of the night. #15 Siarhei Drozd has been dynamite but was held off the score sheet in this one.

For Canada it was a pair of players who haven't gotten much mention yet who got rave reviews tonight. #23 Brodie Reid and #21 Curtis McKenzie had a ton of chemistry going and impressed friend of The Pipeline Show Peter Loubardias who took in the festivities with me tonight.

The game started to slip away from Belarus as the second period wound on. They had just tied the game then got into penalty trouble which got momentum back behind Canada. Once the hosts struck for a 2-1 lead the Belarussians looked a bit frazzled and when Canada made it 3-1 before the end of the period, you could hear the air being let out of their tires.

I give them credit, they hung in their as best they could and halfway through looked as legit as Canada did but in the end they ran out of gas.

Sunday Night Preview

You could make a case that there is more on the line that Canadian - American bragging rights. I asked both head coaches if underneath the National flags there was also a sense of American tier I vs Canadian Tier I... some USHL vs BCHL/AJHL/SJHL...

You can hear what they said here.

I also spoke with Canadian players Justin Schultz (ANH-2nd) and Derek Grant (OTT-4th) about the tournament and some player profile type stuff.

Game time is 6 PM and can be seen on TSN 2 with a tape delay later on TSN.

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