2008 ADT Canada/Russia Challenge: WHL review

By Glen Erickson

If the CHL insists that this event must continue, one has to wonder if the Russians might lobby to start the tour in western Canada for a change.

Of course, the script that has been supplied over the years has the visitors playing the final two games of the six-game competition out west. And while the Russians managed a 5-1 victory over Team WHL in the first 2007 game, they typically arrive in western Canada as a tired and beat up group of weary tourists. Toss them on a North American-sized ice surface against a crew of behemoth prairie-born defensemen and the recipe tends to result in watered down entertainment value.

On the other hand, the nation-wide exhibition is said to serve a useful purpose for Hockey Canada as it auditions the best CHL talent in the land for the annual WJC. With the WJC scheduled for the upcoming holiday season in Ottawa, Ontario, the pressure is very real in these northern climes to defend the gold medal on home turf. To this end, nary a CHL player invited to compete in the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge can afford to take a shift off.

Game Five: Swift Current, Saskatchewan

Team WHL immediately jumped on the hapless Russians, forcing the play physically and making the visitors take penalties early and often. Just six minutes in, with a two-man advantage, Jordan Eberle swiped the rebound from a Thomas Hickey point blast past goaltender Sergey Gayduchenko. Jared Spurgeon also earned an assist on the power play tally.

The goal clearly demonstrated why Eberle’s offensive skills will land him a spot on the Team Canada roster for the WJC. The 6’5, 220-pound Gayduchenko handled Hickey’s shot, but directed an airborne rebound toward Eberle at the side of the net. The diminutive Eberle had to quickly corral the puck, shift to his forehand, maintain his balance and rip a shot into the goal. It was a goal-scorer’s goal, a brilliant sequence that confirmed Eberle’s elite hand-to-eye coordination. Without a doubt, the Hockey Canada brass has taken notice.

At this point, for all intents and purposes, game five of the Challenge was over. Less than a minute later, Zach Boychuk collected Team WHL’s second power play goal and the rout was on. Hickey and Jamie Benn picked up assists.

Eberle picked up his second goal of the game early in the second stanza from a nice dish of the stick of Brayden Schenn. Colten Teubert also collected an assist. Eberle, Schenn and Calvert worked well as a unit all night and appeared to be showcased on the power play.

Later in the period, again on the power play, Tyler Ennis beat Gayduchenko with help from Hickey and WHL scoring leader Jamie Benn. Team WHL scored the only even strength goal of the tilt less than a minute into the third frame when Calvert converted a feed from Eberle.

Team WHL Line Combinations & Defensive Pairings

Defensemen:
Jared Cowen (Spokane Chiefs) & Jared Spurgeon (Spokane)
Tyler Myers (Kelowna Rockets) & Travis Hamonic (Moose Jaw Warriors)
Thomas Hickey (Seattle Thunderbirds) & Colten Teubert (Regina Pats)
Keith Aulie (Brandon Wheat Kings) & John Negrin (Kootenay Ice)

Forwards lines:
Jordan Eberle (Regina)
Brayden Schenn (Brandon)
Matt Calvert (Brandon)

Colton Sceviour (Lethbridge Hurricanes)
Brett Sonne (Calgary Hitmen)
Dana Tyrell (Prince George Cougars)

Zach Boychuk (Lethbridge)
Jamie Benn (Kelowna)
Tyler Ennis (Medicine Hat Tigers)

Brandon Kozun (Calgary)
Jason Bast (Moose Jaw)
Kyle Beach (Everett Silvertips)

Goaltender:
Chet  Pickard (Tri City Americans)

Game Notes
…Team WHL outshot the Russians 40-16 and were full value for the victory…Player of the Game awards went to Eberle and forward Evgeny Dadonov…The Russians were assessed nine of 13 minor penalties…Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane will not play in either game due to a bruised heel. He has missed the last three Giants’ games, but is expected to play when Vancouver meets Chilliwack on Nov. 28…Kyle Beach was on the receiving end of a vicious slash that landed just above his glove and below the elbow pad…Defenseman Mikhail Pashnin was the best Russian rearguard on the night and the team’s most physical presence…Each team was awarded a penalty shot. Both Calvert and Anatoly Nikonstev were unable to convert…Chet Pickard made 16 saves for the shutout…Negrin and Aulie played together on defense. Both are draft picks of the Calgary Flames…Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger, Chris Mantyka and Brent Ruff were killed December 30th, 1986, when the Swift Current Broncos team bus crashed just outside of Swift Current on its way to Regina. The players were honored prior to the game, represented by Kruger’s brother Darren, who is now an assistant coach with the Medicine Hat Tigers…Attendance was announced at 2,800.

Game Six: Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Team Russia arrived in Prince Albert with much more jump than the previous night and were able to exert more pressure in the offensive zone.Team WHL arrived with only three defensive pairings.

Goaltender Dustin Tokasrski, who won a Telus Cup Midget National Championship with the Prince Albert Mintos in addition to his Memorial Cup last season with Spokane, got the start in goal for Team WHL in a homecoming of sorts. Tokarski faced 23 shots and was tested more often than Pickard the night before. The Watrous, Saskatchewan native made at least six huge saves on the night to keep his team in a tight game.

Zach Boychuk opened the scoring on the power play five minutes into the second period, pouncing on a rebound off a Colten Teubert shot from the point. Hickey, with his fourth point in two games, also collected an assist. Hickey was on the ice for six of Team WHL’s seven goals over the course of the two games.

Early in the third period, Kyle Beach dug the puck out of the corner, walked out in front and stuffed the puck past Russian goaltender Alexander Pechurskiy. Eberle, with his fourth point in two games, and Brett Sonne picked up assists on the tally that staked Team WHL to a 2-0 lead.

Pechurskiy, like Gayduchenko the previous evening, was outstanding. He turned aside 44 of 46 shots and displayed a quick glove hand. Both Russian goaltenders are huge and cover plenty of space. Up front, the chemistry was evident between Dmitry Kagarlitsky and Evgeny Dadanov. The pair were the only forwards who were consistently able to cycle the puck effectively in the ocnfines of two of the WHL’s smaller rinks against the huge Team WHL defensemen like Cowen, Myers and Teubert. The forward unit of Egor Dubrovskiy, Anatoly Nikontsev and Pavel Chernov maintained steady pressure in the offensive end  on the power play as well.

With less than four minutes remaining, Vadim Ermolaev picked up a loose puck at  the Team WHL blueline, skated in to the top of the face off circle and surprised Tokarski with a wrister to the stick side. It would be the nly goal surrendered by Team WHL in the t wo games.

Team WHL line combinations & defensive pairings

Defensemen:
Jared Cowen & Jared Spurgeon
Tyler Myers & Eric Doyle (Swift Current Broncos)
Thomas Hickey & Colten Teubert

Forward lines:
Jordan Eberle
Brett Sonne
Kyle Beach

Colton Sceviour
Joel Broda (Moose Jaw Warriors)
Dana Tyrell

Derek Hulak (Saskatoon Blades)
Dustin Cameron (Prince Albert Raiders)
Dustin Sylvester (Kootenay Ice)

Zach Boychuk
Jamie Benn
Tyler Ennis

Goaltender:
Dustin Tokarski (Spokane)

Game Notes…Hickey was the Team WHL captain for both games while Zach Boychuk, Tyler Ennis and Dana Tyrell were the assistant captains…Hickey and Teubert played together for most of both games. They represent the Los Angeles Kings last two first round picks…Vancouver Giants import forward Mikhail Fisenko joined the Russians for the two games. The 51st overall pick by the Giants at the 2008 CHL Import Draft has recorded six goals and 11 points in 22 games this season…Forward Dustin Cameron of the Prince Albert Raiders, Derek Hulak of the Saskatoon Blades and defenseman Eric Doyle of the Swift Current Broncos were added to the roster for game six as forward Evander Kane (injury), forward Brandon Kozun (injury) and John Negrin (flu) were unavailable…Over the course of the two games, the Russians were outshot in every period…Hockey Canada is expected to announce its WJC training camp roster by Dec. 10…Attendance in Prince Albert was 2,749…Team WHL has won 13 of 14 games in the seven-year history of the Challenge.

2008 ADT Canada/Russia Challenge scores

Game 1 – Monday, November 17 in Sydney, NS (QMJHL 5 – Russia 3)
Game 2 – Wednesday, November 19 in Saint John, NB (Russia 4 – QMJHL 3)
Game 3 – Thursday, November 20 in Guelph, ON (OHL 6 – Russia 3)
Game 4 – Monday, November 24 in St. Catharines, ON (OHL 3 – Russia 2)
Game 5 – Wednesday, November 26 in Swift Current, SK (WHL 5 – Russia 0)
Game 6 – Thursday, November 27 in Prince Albert, SK (WHL 2 – Russia 1)