Team WHL wraps up Super Series with win

By Glen Erickson

On the sixth and final game night of the 2009 Subway Series, a weary Russian team arrived with a chip on its shoulder after five straight losses to CHL teams across Canada. On the heels of its best outing of the series, a 2-1 loss to Team WHL in Victoria, British Columbia, the quick turnaround between games enabled the group to maintain its jump in the early going.

For Team WHL on this night, a total of eight players arrived in Kelowna near mid-day, a couple of hours later than anticipated after experiencing flight delays leaving Victoria. Subsequently, the morning skate in Kelowna featured only the 13 players who did not suit up in Victoria.

With the Team WHL coaching staff also delayed en route, Dan Lambert and Ryan Cuthbert, two of the Kelowna Rockets assistant coaches, put the charges through their paces during the morning skate. And they brought the Rockets goaltending tandem of Adam Brown and Chad Ketting, just for good measure.
Game Six – Kelowna, B.C.

Team Russia opened the scoring midway through the first period when Maxim Gorechishnikov converted a feed from Denis Golubev and Georgy Guryanov. Team WHL, which had just killed off a slashing minor to Craig Cunningham, had a decided territorial-play advantage throughout the first 20 minutes. But their 12-6 edge in shots on goal netted nothing on the score sheet as Bobkov was stellar, particularly late in the frame when he robbed Linden Vey from the top of the crease.

In the second period, an early Russian parade to the penalty box resulted in a two-man advantage for Team WHL. Just seconds into the power play, Stefan Elliott (COL) took a feed along the blueline from Travis Hamonic (NYI), hesitated just long enough for a defender to skate by and then blew a wrist shot past Bobkov. Quinton Howden (2010) also earned an assist on what almost looked like a set play from an attacking zone faceoff.

Two minutes later, Vey atoned for his first period miss when he stuffed a rebound past Bobkov from the top of the crease after some nifty work by Brandon Kozun (LA) and Brayden McNabb (CGY). Then midway through the period, Team WHL scored the goal that appeared to dishearten the Russians. Kelowna Rockets forward Brandon McMillan (ANA) brought the hometown crowd to its feet when he tipped in a shot from the point by Michael Stone (PHX).

However, the Russians showed some life late in the stanza, killing another 5-on-3 when Guryanov and Gorechishnikov took minor penalties 20 seconds apart. Team WHL looked disorganized, wasting a golden opportunity to put the game away.

Then, early in the third period, Petrov showed his offensive flair, dancing past a Team WHL defender, speeding behind the net and sifting a backhand pass in front where Maxim Kitsyn shoveled the puck into an empty net behind goaltender Martin Jones (LA). It was the offensive play of the night.

With just over two minutes to play, Willie Coetzee (DET) picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, waltzed into the slot and wired a shot high into the corner past a stunned Bobkov. The game ended 4-2.

Player of Game – Russia: Igor Bobkov
Player of Game – Team WHL: Brandon McMillan

Game Five – Victoria, B.C.

The star of this tilt was goaltender Igor Bobkov, an Anaheim Ducks third round selection at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’4, 192-pound Bobkov turned aside 40 of 42 shots on the night, many of the spectacular variety.

As one of only three drafted players on the Russian squad, Bobkov was expected to be a leader during the Subway Series. After a shaky outing in Game Two, where the Russians were drilled 8-3 by Team QMJHL, Bobkov gave the visitors a legitimate chance to win in Victoria. With the Russians carrying three goaltenders, Bobkov played well enough in Victoria to earn the start again in Kelowna, his third of the series.

Bobkov’s size made life difficult for the Team WHL target-seekers again on this night. When assuming the butterfly position, his legs cover the entire lower portion of the goal, forcing shooters to look at the top corners. Bobkov struggled on occasion with rebound control on shots directed at his body, but was able to make up for a couple of errors with his athletic ability.  He handled shots well with his glove hand, and was up to the test when he denied Levko Koper (ATL) on a breakaway in the second period.

Koper finally solved Bobkov early in the third frame, opening the scoring on a quick wrister from the slot. Brayden Schenn (LA), appeared to lose control of the puck in the attacking zone, but regained it in time to dish off to Koper. Jared Cowen (OTT) also drew an assist on the tally that brought 6,695 patrons out of their seats at the Save On Foods Memorial Arena.

Seven minutes later, Wacey Hamilton (FA) deflected a centering pass from Vey over Bobkov’s shoulder to give Team WHL a two-goal lead. Tyson Barrie (COL) also picked up an assist. Hamilton and Vey are teammates with the Medicine Hat Tigers.

Kirill Petrov (NYI) scored late for the Russians, with only 33 seconds to play, on a laser from the faceoff circle that eluded goaltender Calvin Pickard (2010). Pickard, the top rated draft eligible goaler in the WHL this season, faced 20 shots on the night.

Player of Game – Russia: Igor Bobkov
Player of Game – Team WHL: Levko Koper

News & Notes: Petrov is the only player on Team Russia to have won a gold medal in international competition, at the 2007 World U-18 Championship. Russia defeated the USA there, 6-5…Connolly has played only seven games this season with the Prince George Cougars, due to a nagging hip-flexor injury suffered in August at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial in the Czech RepublicDmitri Kugryshev (WAS, ’08; 2nd round, 58th overall) is a member of the Quebec Remparts and only played in the two games against the QMJHL…CHL teams won all six games of the 2009 Subway Series, outscoring the Russians 27-11…The Russians scored more than two goals in only one game, an 8-3 loss to Team QMJHL.