Canada and Russia advance to finals at WJC

By Simon Richard

Alexander Ovechkin chats with HF at the WJC

For the third time in the
last four years, the final game of the World Junior Championship will be
between Russia and Canada. In
2002, Russia won the
ultimate game 5-4 in the Czech
. Russia kept his title the following year with a
3-2 win in Nova Scotia, Canada.


For a decade, Canada and Russia have been by far the best
national junior teams in the world. They have respectively earned nine and
eight medals, including three gold each. 


"Probably, it is the best two teams who will meet
in the finals," said the Canadian coach Brent Sutter after the Russian win
over the U.S.


Sutter noted that Russia
played better and better after they lost to the U.S. in their first game of the
tournament. "We are going to continue to play our own game against Russia in the
finals," he said.


dominated the Czech


In the first semifinal yesterday in the Ralph Arena in Grand
, Canada
dominated the Czech
. Canada won 3-1,
but the score was far from reflecting what really happened on the ice.


Czech coach Alois Adamsczik went with Marek Schwarz in the net instead of Vladislav Koutsky who was the
best player of the precedent Czech game against Team USA. Schwarz played a remarkable
game yesterday, preventing his team from losing by a wider margin.


The Canadians outshot the Czechs 42-11. The latter had only two shots on
goal in the first and in the second period. Four of the 11 shots made on the
Canadian goalie Jeff Glass came from the red line area.


Overall, the Czechs had only
one real chance for scoring. It came from Rostislav
who capitalized on it while his team was
playing a man short, early in the third period. Jeff Glass was not very strong
on the play.


Olesz was the best forward yesterday in the Czech team, as
he was over the entire tournament. He ranks third in the scoring leaders with
ten points (7 goals, 3 assists).


Schwarz was named the best
Czech as defenseman Shea Weber earned
the same award for Canada.
Weber played well but Dion Phaneuf reigned on the Canadian blue line.


"We certainly are where we wanted to be for
sure," said Bergeron. "The Czechs obviously played a pretty good game, we knew that they were to come hard. We wanted to play
well defensively," added Bergeron.


Asked if he thinks the team can play a better game
than against the Czechs, Bergeron answered positively.
He also noted that the crowd was extraordinary. "We
felt like playing at home."


winger Clarke MacArthur
said "I thought we played pretty
tonight. Anytime you give up only 11 shots, you have to be proud of yourself."


"I think that we started a little too slowly,
maybe respecting Canada
too much," commented the Czech captain Petr


Was the game plan to play so much defensively, Vrana was asked. "We didn’t shoot enough, that
is probably the reason that we have lost," he replied.


Marek Schwarz was
still looking for his breath after the game. Asked if he was tired, "Yes,
I am," he replied between breaths.


"It was a horrible game for us, we had too few
shots on the goal," he shrugged.


beats an undisciplined USA


In the second game of the
day, Russia won 7-2 against
Team USA.


The best players on the ice
were the first NHL 2004 draft selections Alexander Ovechkin
and Evgeni Malkin.
Both scored two goals for a total of three points apiece.


The Russians scored three
power play goals. Two of their seven goals were scored in an empty net in the
last minutes of the game while coach Scott Sandelin tried it all.


Apart the great performance
of Ovechkin and Malkin, the
story of the game was the number of penalties taken by the Americans.


They had 12 penalties,
including a double minor and a five-minute major at the end of the game. They
played for 14 of the first 40 minutes a man short.


Enver Lisin, Sergei Shirokov and Mikhail Yunkov
were the Russians other scorers. Patrick O’Sullivan and Robbie Schremp replied for the Americans.


"We deserved to win, we outshot and outplayed them. Overall, our team played very
well," said Dimitri Vorobiev after the game the one who was officially named
the best Russian of the game.


said that the game against Canada
will be a very tough one for Russia.
"Canada has a very good
team but we will give them a fight," he commented, adding that to beat Canada, Russia will have to pass very well
and use all their skills.


"It wasn’t an easy
game tonight," commented Malkin. On the upcoming
game against Canada,
he said the Russians will have to play a reliable game if they hope to win.


"We were nervous in the
first game against USA.
Tonight, we finally got playing together and played our own game,"
commented Ovechkin.


The Russian assistant captain
Dmitri Pestunov
said the game wasn’t as physical as the first one played earlier in the
round robin against USA.


A few people remember that Pestunov is playing his third WJC along with Ovechkin. Having played the final Canada-Russia game in
2003 in Halifax, Pestunov
said that the final game against Canada will be exciting.
"These are always the best games," he stated.


A 2003 Phoenix third round selection and Magnitogorsk Metallurg member in
the Superleague, Pestunov
was asked to comment on the main difference between the type
of hockey played in this WJC edition compared to the one of the Superleague. "It is a lot more aggressive hockey here
than in the Superleague and the smaller ice rinks
make a lot of difference," he said.


"The loss against
Belarus didn’t matter for us, the loss against the Czechs is the one that
matters," stated Ryan Suter on the
American side as the lost forced them to play an extra game in the quarterfinals
game against Sweden. "That said, I think that this extra game didn’t
matter that much," added Sutter after a while.


"We lost tonight because
we didn’t make the little things, we didn’t play our game and beat
ourselves on penalties," commented Sutter. "I don’t know if we
deserved all of them," he concluded.  


The Russian coach Sergei Gersonsky said at the post
game press conference that the Russians were a little bit luckier than their
opponent. "We were fresher also," he said.


"We were in the penalty
box the whole game," stated Sandelin, adding
that the U.S.
team lost to a very good team. 



Richard is the author of La Serie du
siecle, Septembre 1972, a
book about the Summit
Series published in 2002.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of
the editorial staff.