The three leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League have renewed their yearly rivalry with Russia in the 2014 edition of the Subway Super Series. This year’s slate of games began out West with the WHL squad facing off against Team Russia, and has now moved eastward to Ontario where Team OHL will do battle with the Russians.
Russia comes into the first OHL tilt with two wins under their belt as they knocked off Team WHL by identical 3-2 scores, first in a shootout in Saskatoon, SK on Monday night, then in regulation time in Brandon, MB on Wednesday evening.
The series shifts to Peterborough, ON with the OHL looking to put the CHL in the win column. Team OHL captain Darnell Nurse and his teammates are eager to make that happen in tonight’s tilt at the Peterborough Memorial Centre.
“Yeah, I think we want to break that streak for sure tonight,” said Nurse. “Anytime you put on the pads, you want to come out on the right side, and I think we’re really hungry to go out there, play hard, and be on the right side of the scoreboard.”
Nurse is taking part in his second Subway Super Series, having played in both OHL games at last year’s event. Despite the fact that Nurse is a first round NHL Draft pick and has competed at other high-level tournaments, the chance to take part in this series is something that he still looks forward to.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Nurse said of competing in this series. “It’s a game that gets pretty heated and everyone wants to come out on the right side. I look forward to just going out there and battling hard, and enjoying the game with some really talented guys on our team.”
All six games in this series feature talent on both sides of the puck looking to claim bragging rights for next year’s competition. But there is also an underlying reason for the existence of this series, which is to help both Canada and Russia’s hockey brass evaluate players that could compete at the 2015 U20 World Junior Championship.
Team OHL head coach Scott Walker, who is also the head coach for the defending OHL champion Guelph Storm, knows the players will compete hard, but he also is mindful of the bigger picture surrounding these games.
“We’re trying to go out and play; I mean, they’re a competitive bunch, anytime they play a game, they want to win, and I’m sure it’s the same (for the Russians),” said Walker. “Ultimately, the goal is to win, but there is also a purpose behind things – it’s an evaluation camp, and there’s a process and we’re trying to get there. For me, it’s more about performance – if kids can perform well, play good, the outcome will take care of itself. But ultimately, you want guys to be able to perform at the level that they can.”
Much to the chagrin of some of those that had purchased tickets for the game in Peterborough, perhaps the most talented player will not take part in what was to be his lone appearance in this series. Erie Otters scoring star Conner McDavid, the player most likely to be chosen first overall at the 2015 NHL Draft, injured his hand while fighting the Mississauga Steelheads’ Bryson Cianfrone on Tuesday night. The injury will sideline McDavid for 5-6 weeks, definitely causing him to miss the Super Series game but also putting his availability for the World Juniors somewhat in doubt.
Guelph Storm forward Robby Fabbri, an alternate captain for Team OHL in the Peterborough game, expressed disappointment at not having McDavid as a teammate on the OHL squad, but did not disagree with how McDavid handled the situation that led to his injury.
“It’s tough to see a player like that that’s so big for Erie and for Canada go down like that,” said Fabbri. “I think he did the right play, you know, sticking up for yourself. You’ve got to fight your own battles sometimes, and it’s just unfortunate the way it happened. If he didn’t get hurt, then it would be a good story, a skilled guy sticking up for himself. But that wasn’t the outcome. He’s a strong kid, and I think he’ll be back and ready for the World Juniors, and I hope so.”