The Russians have certainly played the role of unwelcome house guests taking two straight wins against the CHL’s elite in the opening two matches against Team QMJHL — but in the first of two games against OHL opposition, the host club was hoping to be a little less hospitable as they opened a two-game set in London, ON.
In the end, the OHL squad shut out the visiting Russians 4-0, marking the CHL’s first victory in the 2010 Subway Super Series tournament.
Team OHL got off to an early start as Brampton forward Sam Carrick (fifth-round selection by Toronto in the 2010 draft) finished a beautiful two-on-one opportunity off of a pass from Michael MacDonald. The Canadian squad dominated the first period, both in terms of quality and quantity of play. The first-period shot count was 26-5 in favor of the OHLers and were it not for Anaheim Ducks prospect Igor Bobkov’s solid play in net — albeit compromised by his challenges in controlling rebounds — the score could have been much worse. The OHLer’s only accounted for one power-play goal in the period, despite having three significant two-man power plays.
“I thought we played a good team game today, considering that we only had a 30-minute practice before the game,” Team OHL captain Calvin de Haan (NYI) said. “We stuck to the game plan and stuck to what the coaches wanted. It was a lot of fun — it was awesome.”
Both teams seemed to take their respective feet off the gas in the second period — understandable in Russia’s case as this was their second game in a back-to-back after playing the previous night in Drummondville, then traveling roughly 800 kilometers (approximately 500 miles) to London, ON. Although the Russian club flew into Toronto, then bussed into London (about a two-hour drive), there was a noticeable lack of spring in their collective step — especially in light of the club’s impressive performance in the two Quebec-based games.
“Yeah, there was a little fatigue there,” said Russian forward Vladislav Namestnikov. “I think the time change, coming from Russia, caught up with the guys.”
However, Namestnikov refused to use fatigue as an excuse, saying that it was a factor for both clubs. “We played last night in Windsor, so we’re a little tired too.”
Team OHL coach and team architect George Burnett echoed those sentiments, saying that these back-to-back games are all part of the learning process. “Part of our program is to have some success early, maybe score early, and get momentum because of their travel,” he said. “I would expect maybe a much fresher club on Monday [in Sudbury] night.
“A lot of people forget that our guys were playing last night too — the Oshawa team was in our building, in Belleville, last night so four of those guys were playing too. They become used to it because there are so many times they have to do it over the course of the season. It takes its toll on you, but it’s all part of the experience — how to eat, how to rest, how to get some rest on the bus. It’s all apart of the experience that makes you better when you get the opportunity to get to the next level or be a pro.”
The third period got off to a quick start when the Guelph connection teamed up to put Team OHL ahead 3-0. Nashville product Taylor Beck scored 41 seconds into the game, with assists from fellow Predators’ prospect Michael Latta (who was selected just two spots behind Beck, 72nd overall, in the 2009 NHL draft) and Anaheim’s 2009 first-rounder Peter Holland.
While the glory days of the Canada/Russia rivalry may be long behind us since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Burnett said that the experience is still special.
“A lot of kids may not recall because they weren’t alive when it took place, but when you’ve ridden the bus as much as these kids have, you’ve probably watched it [on TV] a few times. You know people who were there, you have parents and family that were around during that time — and obviously with [honorary Russian captain and legendary netminder Vladislav] Tretiak being here it brings up a lot of questions from them.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that these guys — they do their homework. Everyone’s on the computer every day, so they’ve found out exactly what this rivalry means over the course of the last 40 years and they recognize how special it is to even have a small opportunity to play a part of it.”
The tournament moves to Sudbury for the second of two OHL/Russia games on Nov. 15th before heading out west to complete the six-game tournament.