Victories by the United States and Belarus have solidified the schedule for Saturday at the WJAC as the semi-final match ups are now official.
Canada East will take on USA while Canada West will hook up with Belarus in matches featuring familiar opponents. The Americans beat the East during round robin play and of course Belarus kicked off the tournament with a stunning upset of the host squad last Sunday.
Russia and Germany will meet at noon on Saturday to see who doesn't finish last in the tournament standings.
The Russians looked completely disinterested in their 8-2 loss at the hands of the U.S. during Thursday's early game. It was 4-0 after the first period and aside from occasional spurts of energy, Russia was outmatched and outplayed.
USA was without their top player, Danny Kristo who coach Mark Carlson said was "out with the flu". However, Kristo actually suffered a high ankle sprain near the end of the second period against Canada East on Tuesday night which is the true reason for his absence. He is questionable for the rest of the tournament but definitely wants to get back into the fray.
On the ice the Americans didn't really appear to miss him much as they had more than enough firepower to get passed Russia.
Remember goalie Dmitry Shikin, the backup who made the TSN highlights for saluting the Camrose crowd on Tuesday by using his stick as a make-shift penis? Well he got the start but lasted only 13:20 before getting the hook after letting in 2 very weak goals and a third that some scouts in attendance also felt he should have stopped.
Kirill Kabanov was decent and made a pretty nice pass on Russia's second goal but overall it was a pretty average performance by his team. Edmonton Sun scribe Derek Van Diest and I spoke with him after the game, you can hear an edited version of that conversation here. You can hear the full version this Tuesday night (Nov 11th) on The Pipeline Show - and you definitely do not want to miss it! How does he feel about the KHL? About the potential of playing in the CHL? On the difference between hockey in Russia and over here? Many eyebrow raising answers, I guarantee it.
Would you really be surprised to learn that talks have already begun with Patrick Roy and the Quebec Remparts? The Windsor Spitfires and London Knights are in the mix too. On Tuesday, find out why the Remparts are of particular interest to Kabanov.
Team USA had a strong performance from North Dakota recruit Mike Cichy, netminder Mike Lee as well as Pat Dullane and Craig Smith.
The Americans have momentum on their side and I'll stick to my pre-tournament prediction of a Canada West / USA final on Sunday.
Post game comments from Mike Lee and Calgary Flames draftee Nick Larson an be heard here. Larson is now a Pipeline Show favorite after he told me: "Hey, I listen to your show online!" Sounds to me like he's got the hockey sense and decision making skills far exceeding those of your typical 4th round pick.
I only stuck around for half of the Belarus/Germany game. Believe me, it was like watching two rec league teams go at it. There were a combined total of 13 shots on goal in the first period and the score was 4-2 for Belarus. A goaltending duel it was not.
Two notes though; German forward and Toronto prospect Jerome Flaake returned to action. I wrote a feature on him for Hockey's Future earlier this week which you can read here. Interesting that he's another European that really wants to play Major Junior in Canada - The Prince George Cougars own his rights.
The other note from this game was that Belarus forward Siarhei Drozd recorded the fastest hat trick in World Junior A Challenge history, scoring three times in 3:46 – all of the goals coming on the powerplay. Yes the tournament is only 3 years old but still... that's some quick sniping. Drozd also set tournament records for goals in one tournament (7) and powerplay goals in one tournament (5).
Saturday Game Times
Noon: Russia vs Germany
4PM: USA vs Canada East
8PM: Belarus vs Canada West