Last week I boldly precicted that the gold medal game at the 2008 World Junior A Challenge would feature Canada West and Team USA. In response to that prediction both teams fell flat in their opening game and were upset by far weaker opponents.
Two days after Belarus downed Canada West in a shootout it was the Americans who got caught napping and allowed Germany to overcome a 2-0 deficit and skate away with a 5-2 victory.
The Germans actually looked pretty darn good at times although it should be kept in mind that their team is almost all 18 and 19-year-olds... only one player on the roster is draft eligible for the first time this year.
Still, Germany had solid performances from three players in particular, at least in my opinion. #22, Toni Ritter, had a great goal on a nifty slap shot from the side wall that caught the American goalie a bit by surprise. Ritter has nice wheels, good size and played with a bit of a jump.
#23 Steven Rupprich stood out for me today with his tenacity, speed and playmaking. He was creative, not always successful but I like to see players who think outside the box sometimes and he did that. He had 2 helpers.
I also thought David Wolf, #11, was pretty impressive. He too has size and speed to his credit. He didn't impact the scoresheet tonight but I thought he contributed plenty.
The Americans were not all that good, perhaps 4 days of waiting around for their first game was a factor?
Seth Helgeson is a force though; at 6'5 he's easy to pick out of a crowd and he plays pretty tough. John Moore had some good moments too.
I was a bit disappointed that Mike Lee didn't get the nod in goal but assume that it was the token game for Joe Howe and that we'll see the top draft eligible USHL goalie the rest of the way.
The late game saw Canada West take on Russia and it was a wild affair. Russia completely dominated at times during the opening period, had a big lead in shots at one point and carried a 1-0 lead into the second period.
Then things got a little ugly. The scoresheet has Russia taking 10 straight penalties in the middle frame and considering Canada scored 5 power play goals on the night... well you can see where this is going right?
The Russians were completely pissed off at the officiating and in some cases I think they had a right to be. One of Russia's star players, and I assume a favorite of Barry Manilow, Kirill "Copa" Kabanov was hit from behind and left the game early in the 3rd period... no call.
It was a very undisciplined game from both sides at times but much moreso from Russia. Still, there were some standout performances from the visitors too.
#23 Maxim Kitsin was dangerous all night. He's got really good size, speed and hands. Drives to the net, plays tough, sets stuff up and can finish too. He looks really promising already for 2010.
The first goal of the game went to #10 Vladimir Terasenko who dazzled with an individual effort by beating a defenceman one-on-one before lifting the puck passed Canadian goalie Kevin Genoe. Another fast and gritty forward but doesn't have the size that Kitsin or Kabanov have.
Speaking of Kabanov... he's getting a lot of hype for 2010 already, one scout I talked to tongiht suggested he's the best bet if you're looking for someone to push Taylor Hall as the #1 overall pick in 2010. Yet, another NHL scout I checked in with gave Kabanov a big thumbs down for his undisciplined and somewhat selfish play. His brutally late interference after a whistle directly led to Canada's second goal... the eventual winner. As I mentioned, he left the game in the third due to an undisclosed injury but as Millard pointed out, he was so far in the doghouse by that point he might not have played much in the period anyway.
Canada looked awful in the first period but got it going in the second. Boris Rybalka explained how in his postgame discussion with the assembled media.
BCHL goalie Kevin Genoe, a free agent if a WHL team is looking, played very well outside of a bad second goal to Russia. However, in the first when his team needed him the most, Genoe was a wall. Millard and I spoke with him after the game too about the tournament, how he got here and where he hopes the exposure will take him.
Player of the Game for Canada though was 16-year-old Jaden Schwartz. He was drafted by the Tri-City Americans whose GM, Bob Torrey, was in the building tonight and liked what he saw. Dean and I also spoke with the Notre Dame Hound after the game.
More as the week continues...
(PHOTOS COURTESY: LA Media & Hockey Canada)