Team WHL finished off the Russian Selects in Lethbridge

By Aaron Vickers






With a 5-2 victory over the visiting Russian Selects in Lethbridge, ALTA<br />Thursday night, Team WHL secured not only a sweep of

With a 5-2 victory over the visiting Russian Selects
in Lethbridge, ALTA Thursday night, Team WHL secured not only a sweep of their
two-game series over the touring Russia squad, but also solidified the CHL’s
second consecutive victory in the ADT CHL Canada/Russia Challenge, winning the
series 4-2.

 

Icing a considerably younger team than the night
before in Red Deer, many expected a much closer game then the 6-0 drubbing that
was bestowed upon the Russian Selects the night before. Although the score,
5-2, may have indicated a closer battle, nothing could be further from the
truth.

 

Despite putting 13 shots on net in the first 20
minutes of action, Team WHL could not solve the goaltending of Andrei
Kuznetsov
(undrafted). Kuznetsov, who had been beaten for three
goals in the first period of the game in Red Deer seemed confident in net, was
only rattled by the sound of Team WHL forward Kyle Chipchura (MON) hitting
the post on a power play.

 

Perhaps the most talked about play in the first
period didn’t come as a result of an offensive chance for Team WHL, but rather
a defensive play. With Medicine Hat Tiger defenseman Kris Russell (’05)
in the penalty box, consensus 2005 NHL Entry Draft second overall selection Gilbert
Brule (’05)
absolutely levelled Russian forward Alexander Zhurun (undrafted)
with a clean open-ice hit at the Team WHL blueline. Zhurun was nowhere to be
seen the rest of the game.

 

Not to be outdone, Red Deer Rebel defenseman Dion
Phaneuf (CAL)
duplicated the Brule hit with 1:10 remaining in the first
period. Phaneuf wouldn’t finish there for big hits on the night.

 

Lethbridge Hurricane defenseman Brent Seabrook
(CHI)
opened the scoring in the second period, taking a pass from Moose Jaw
Warriors leading scorer Dustin Boyd (CAL), walking in from the blueline
and snapping home the puck, beating Kuznetsov blocker side as a penalty to
Russian Selects forward Nikolai Lemtyugov (undrafted) expired.

 

“Yeah, it was good,” exclaimed Seabrook
on the fact that he’d scored on home ice. “I think it’s one of my first ones of
the year so hopefully it gets the ball rolling.”

 

Lemtyugov, spent two minutes for an elbowing minor on
Gilbert Brule, a possible retaliatory response to Brule’s clean hit in the
first period.

 

Just 1:22 after Team WHL registered the games first
goal, Russian Selects defenseman Dmitry Megalinsky (undrafted) took
a holding penalty while his club was being swarmed by offensive chances. Not
even a minute into the power play, Chipchura made good from the post he had hit
earlier in the first period, and beat Kuznetsov for one of four power play
goals on the night for Team WHL.

 

Two goals in a span of 2:11 may have had Team WHL
riding high, but it was Nikolai Lemtyugov who was ready to bring the
celebrations to a close. The Russian Selects, who had gone nearly 27 minutes in
the game without registering a shot on goal, scored on their first shot since
early in the first period, after Lemtyugov was sprung by linemate Andrei
Stepanov
(undrafted), on a partial breakaway. Medicine Hat Tigers
goaltender Kevin Nastiuk (CAR) made the initial stop, but the forward
momentum of Lemtyugov knocked the puck behind the Edmonton, Alberta native.
Team WHL was quick to protest, as it appeared the puck was knocked in by the
skate of the Russian forward.

 

“I’m not too sure,” said Nastiuk of the goal after
the game. “I know I made the first stop, but I kind of lost it from there. It
went off the guy’s skate, but I haven’t seen the replay or anything, I’m not
sure, it kind of bounced around.”

 

It was the only action Nastiuk saw all period, as
Team WHL held the Russian Selects to four shots through two periods.

 

“I still had to be ready for anything that could
happen,” remarked Nastiuk, who saw only four shots in 40 minutes of action.
“The Russians have a few skilled forwards so any time they come down on the
rush you have to be ready. Overall the team did a really good job.”

 

Shortly after the goal, the intensity of Team WHL
picked up once again. With the score 2-1, Rebels defenseman Dion Phaneuf was
again the center of physical play, being called for checking from behind on
Russian forward Nikolai Lemtyugov, who was the center of commotion for the
Russian Selects all night. Phaneuf was not only assessed a minor penalty, but a
ten-minute misconduct as well.

 

With another successful penalty kill which held the
Russian squad to no shots, it was time for the power play to strike, which it
did several times. After defenseman Alexander Mikhalishin (NJ) was given
five minutes and a game misconduct for high sticking, the Brandon Wheat King
connection went to work.

 

With just over a minute remaining in the second
period, the combination of Ryan Stone (PIT) and Eric Fehr (WAS) struck
again. After receiving a pass from defenseman Shawn Belle (DAL) along
the boards, Stone began skating down around the goal line, and continued behind
the net. After sucking the Russian netminder into thinking he had the puck for
a wrap around attempt, Stone fed a beauty pass to Fehr the same way he had just
skated, leaving the Winkler, Manitoba native with nothing but twine to twinkle.

 

The start of the third period was delayed several
minutes, as off-ice officials plotted what to do with the Zamboni, which had
broken down several times while trying to clean the ice during the second
intermission. Eventually it was decided that the third period would be played
with the ice half-cleaned, something that didn’t bother to affect Team WHL’s
power play one bit.

 

Still with the man-advantage from Mikhalishin’s
five-minute major, Team WHL went right to work, scoring only 26 seconds into
the final frame. Caroline, Alberta native Kris Russell took a pass from fellow
Medicine Hat teammate Cam Barker (CHI) and snapped a seeing-eye shot
from the point that squeaked through the pads of Andrei Kuznetsov.

 

Only 1:01 later, it was Winnipeg, Manitoba native
Dustin Boyd who finished a three way passing play involving Shawn Belle and Red
Deer Rebel forward Colin Fraser (CHI), a play which saw Boyd simply
having to puck the puck in an open net.

 

The feisty play that had been seen sporadically
through the first two periods at the Enmax Center in Lethbridge seemed to pick
up in a hurry in the third. Both Andrew Ladd (CAR) and Andrei
Plekhanov (CLB)
had to be separated and each was given a two-minute
penalty, forcing the play to four-on-four action.

 

The rough action continued when Nikolai Lemtyugov ran
Team WHL captain Dion Phaneuf from behind with an open ice hit, an obvious
attempt at payback from the previous hit that the Edmonton, Alberta native had
laid on Russia’s most dangerous player in the second period.

 

With Dustin Boyd in the penalty box serving a
roughing call at 15:42, the Russians went to work on the power play, with a 4
on 3 advantage. The Russian Selects, showing off their impressive passing
skills with so much ice available, found the wide open Roman Voloshenko
(MIN),
who one-timed a pass passed Rejean Beauchemin (PHI), who had
relieved Nastiuk in a similar fashion to that of Jeff Glass (OTT) the
night before.

 

The third period was a busier one for the netminder
of Team WHL. The Russian Selects managed seven shots on goal in the third,
including a breakaway by Nikolai Lemtyugov. It was only the one power play
goal, however, that beat Beauchemin.

 

The physical play was taken to another level when a
frustrated Russian Selects squad began taking liberties with Team WHL forwards,
something that wasn’t well received by the Western Leaguers. With only a few
minutes to play, a full-ice scrum broke out, which resulted in the ejection of
Lemtyugov, and a minor penalty assessed to Prince Albert Raider Kyle Chipchura.

 

After starting the ADT CHL Canada/Russia Challenge by
sweeping the QMJHL, a tired Russian Selects team was clearly frustrated by the
size, strength and finesse of this Western Hockey League team.

 

“We just shut them down by not letting them in the
zone,” said Calgary Hitmen defenseman Jeff Schultz (WAS).

 

Brent Seabrook seconded the notion.

 

“It’s just the way our league is, to be defensive,”
he began. “The guys love defense and we’re having a lot of fun. With the way
the league has become I think it’s a (testament) to the amount of defensemen
we’ve been able to produce.”

 

Even forward Andrew Ladd grew to appreciate the
accomplishments of the defense in the two-game series, which held the Russian
Selects to a combined total of 28 shots.

 

“Look at our defense. They’re big strong guys who can
move the puck well and can really skate well,” smiled Ladd. “It doesn’t really
get any better then that.”

 

Defenseman Logan Stephenson (PHO), unable to
play due to injury, was more impressed with the way the club played
offensively.

 

“They were great,” he said. “They were just awesome.
That game shouldn’t have been 5-2, we could’ve easily blown 12 goals past them.
They played awesome tonight as well as yesterday, it was a great performance by
all of them.”

 

What possibly was most impressive throughout the game
in Lethbridge, however, was the effectiveness of special teams, something that
wasn’t lost on Head Coach Brent Sutter, who will be choosing who comprises Team
Canada when they head to the World Junior Championships, who opens the
tournament on Christmas Day against Slovakia.

 

“Well again, specialty teams is a big part of the
game. You always want your penalty-killing to be good, but you want your power
play to be outstanding. Again tonight, we got 3 or 4 goals tonight. Our power
play was good and it capitalized when we had to.”

 

Sutter, who is the bench boss of the WHL’s Red Deer
Rebels, also added that he was impressed with the style that Team WHL played in
the series.

 

“Again, the type of game you want to play, you want
to be on your toes and play ‘in your face’ type hockey. With that comes some
aggressiveness and some physical game. That should be second nature in our type
of game. The way we play hockey in Canada, we don’t like to sit back, we don’t
like to be on our heels and play a real trap. We always want to be on the go.”

 

Without basking in the glory of victory, Sutter knew
following the game that his attention had to be turned away from the game, as
he began to focus on who would and wouldn’t be invited to Winnipeg, Manitoba,
for Team Canada’s main camp.

 

“Well, I think anytime you get in a situation like
this where coast to coast you’ve got elite athletes and elite players. There’s
always difficult decisions, and that’s a great thing to have. We’ve got three
days to make up our mind as to what exactly we want to do. It’s always a great
thing to have when you have tough decisions.”

 

Decisions that may have some players sleepless the
next few nights.

 

“Its going to be tough to get an invite given how
many good players there are in the Western League, but hopefully I get it,”
exclaimed Boyd, who during the interview received congratulations from his
potential bench boss Darryl Sutter. “You can put me on the fourth or fifth line,
I don’t care, I’ll go work my tail off.”

 

With a goal, an assist, six stitches, and a ‘Player
of the Game’ nomination from the victory, Boyd may have done enough to earn
that invite.

 

“Most guys had two games to prove himself. I only had
one, and I had to come up here to show him what I had, and I had to step in
right away and play my game. I just wanted to go out there and show that I’m
willing to pay the price to play on Team Canada, or even just to get the
invite.”

 

Calgary Hitmen forward and Maple Ridge, British
Columbia native Andrew Ladd said he could only take in this experience and move
forward.

 

“You’ve got to do that,” said Ladd of putting the
announcement of the selection camp in the back of his mind. “We’ve got to go
back to our teams tomorrow and get back to work. You can’t be worrying about
other stuff. If it happens it happens, if not, I’ll be disappointed, but you
can’t do anything about it.”

 

Ladd’s teammate Ryan Getzlaf (ANA) welcomed
the announcement. After a strong showing in not only the series, but in last
year’s World Junior Championships, confidence is high for the Regina,
Saskatchewan native.

 

“Yeah, it’ll be nice to hear,” Getzlaf remarked, all
smiles. “It’ll be interesting. I’m sure a lot of picks will be surprises.
There’s a lot of guys in that room that deserve to be there but can’t, and
everyone will be a little nervous that day, with all the talent kicking around
the three leagues.”

 

Now the attention turns to Head Coach Brent Sutter,
who will announce the roster for Team Canada’s Selection Camp, held in
Winnipeg, Manitoba. For some, it’ll be a nervous couple of sleeps. For others,
it will bring them just one step closer to avenging the stinging loss of last
season.

 

Quotes and Notes

 

-Dustin Boyd of the Moose Jaw Warriors was named
Player of the Game for Team WHL

 

-Roman Voloshenko was named Player of the Game for
the Russia Selects

 

“I’m really excited. We get an opportunity to
showcase our league in front of the hometown fans and I think that it’s a treat
for them and they deserve it, they’ve been with us all along so it’s good.”

-Brent Seabrook before the
game, on playing in front of his Lethbridge Hurricanes crowd

 

“This is the game that everyone wants to play in,
everyone in the CHL. It’s an honor to be picked to this team, and to not be
able to represent your league when you’re chosen to, it was just crushing. It
was hard to bring myself out because of pain, but I didn’t feel like I was
going to help the team, so I decided it was best to sit out.”

-Logan
Stephenson on not being able to play in the game due to an injury.

 

“Definitely. The win tonight was as many as I’ve had
all year in Moose Jaw. Just getting that winning feeling back, feeling good
about yourself is a huge confidence booster. Hopefully it rubs off on a few of
the guys.”

-Dustin Boyd on winning
tonight, after winning only one of 28 to start the year with Moose Jaw

 

“It’s nice coming to the games, especially when you
don’t know the guys. It’s nice to play with someone who you are familiar with
and know where they’re going to be and have a little chemistry with them. It
was nice to have him there for the comfort and knowing what we can do.”

-Andrew Ladd on playing
with Calgary Hitmen linemate Ryan Getzlaf in the series

 

“Any time you can play with guys you are used to is
good. You’ve got the chemistry already, you don’t have anything to think about.
You just go out there and play.”

-Ryan Getzlaf on playing
with Calgary Hitmen linemate Andrew Ladd in the series

 

“The Western League kicked the shit out of them. I
don’t think they wanted any part of it physically. I think that after five
minutes, that’s all you had to see.”

-Calgary Flames Head Coach
and General Manager Darryl Sutter on the WHL’s 6-0 victory the night before in
Red Deer

“No,
not really. I know they’ve got a pretty strong team coming back, especially on
the back end. There’s not too many spots open. It would be nice to get one of
those spots in camp but I’m really not worried about it.”

-Brett Carson on if he’s going to lose any sleep in
the next few days awaiting the announcement from Brent Sutter on who will
attend camp in Winnipeg

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2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate
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