Team WHL dominates Russians in final match

By Glen Erickson

The ADT Canada/Russia Challenge came to a merciful end in Kamloops, British Columbia last night, both for hockey fans and for the upstart group of Russian juniors. Team WHL hammered the Russians 8-1, as the Canadian all-star teams went undefeated over the course of the six-game series.

For the second straight game, the Russians dressed a total of 14 skaters and two goaltenders, due in part to injuries and a pair of suspensions. However, the group produced a gutsy first period, one that could have established some doubt in the minds of an initially disorganized Team WHL. Alas, goaltender Carey Price (MTL) slammed the door on the exhausted Russian squad, buying his teammates the time they required to administer one final pummeling.

The Russians pressed early as Team WHL struggled to find their legs. Just 30 seconds in, Price was forced to making a sprawling save to quell a goalmouth scramble. Then, after stepping out of the penalty box, Dennis Kazionov (TB) took a pass at center ice and walked in alone on Price, who calmly directed the Russian’s shot from harm’s way.

Shortly afterward, forward Andrei Kuryuhkin took a nifty feed from Dmitry Zyuzin at the Team WHL blue line and proceeded drive down the left wing and blast a shot past Price on the short side from the top of the faceoff circle. The even-strength tally silenced a rambunctious crowd of 4,136 spectators at the Kamloops Interior Savings Centre.

Price faced 11 shots in the first frame, including another breakaway when Zyuzin was sent in alone with seven minutes left after a Team WHL turnover inside the Russian blue line. Price, who was a late cut from the Canada’s entry for the 2006 WJC, is expected to earn an invitation to Hockey Canada’s training camp in Calgary later this month. He also helped out defensively in the period, displaying his stickhandling ability as he moved the puck out of his own end on a pair of occasions to relieve pressure.

Team WHL disturber J.D. Watt (CAL), who did not dress for the game in Chilliwack, was a physical force for Team WHL in the first frame, as he made a point to initiate contact on the forecheck at every opportunity. He drilled defenseman Igor Zubov in the attacking zone, a check that seemed to give Team WHL a boost. Watt played with Darren Helm (DET) and Zack Boychuk (eligible 2007) on the night.

At 15:59 of the period, Brodie Dupont (NYR) took a nice dish from Spencer Machacek (eligible 2007) at the Russian blue line, split the defense and ripped a shot through the legs of goaltender Llia Proskuryakov. Scott Jackson (STL) also earned an assist.

Proskuryakov, who started in goal in five of the six games, faced a total of 43 Team WHL shots on the night and was named the Russian player of the game. He kept the game tied as the first period ended, robbing Ben Maxwell (MTL) from the slot after a sharp pass from Zach Hamill (eligible 2007). Brock Nixon (free agent) also skated with Hamill and Maxwell, which was arguable Team WHL’s most consistent forward group on the night.

Team WHL broke the game open in the second period, scoring four times to wipe out any notion the Russians had of keeping the game close. Cody Franson (NAS) jumped in from the blue line on a power play and deposited a rebound past Prosuryakov early in the period. Hamill and Maxwell picked up assists. Franson played with Vancouver Giants’ defense partner Brendan Mikkelson (ANA), who looked mobile on the night after season-ending knee surgery last season.

After serving a hooking penalty, Devin Setoguchi (SJ) stepped on the ice, picked up a loose puck and walked in alone on Proskuryakov. The Russian goaltender made a great save, stacking his pads as Setoguchi deked on his forehand. However, the play seemed to dishearten the Russian more than it may have helped, as their power play had been rendered ineffective by the aggressive Team WHL penalty killing.

The floodgates opened as Dupont scored his second of the game, taking a pass from Ryan White (MTL) and ripping a high shot past Proskuryakov. Keaton Ellerby (eligible 2007), the Central Scouting Service’s top-ranked WHL skater, also added an assist, much to the delight of his hometown crowd in Kamloops.

Shortly after the halfway mark of the period, Boychuk picked up a loose puck and showed good patience in outwaiting Proskuryakov before drilling a shot high on the stick side past the helpless Russian keeper. Three minutes later, Boychuk chipped the puck to Helm, who scored a highlight reel goal as he walked around the Russian defense and lifted a backhand past Proskuryakov to make the score 5-1.

It was evident the tank was empty for the Russians, who failed to register a shot on goal until the 11:39 mark of the period. Team WHL applied constant pressure, particularly the line of Setoguchi, Nick Drazenovic (STL) and Ryan Russell (NYR), who played together for the second straight night. Although unrewarded on the scoresheet until late in the game, the trio consistently kept the Russians on the chase throughout the evening.

Team WHL fired 16 shots at the Russian goal in the second stanza, while Price turned aside seven shots.

In the third period, Team WHL scored three more times, outshooting the Russians 17-5 to put an exclamation mark on a dominating performance.

Setoguchi and Ty Wishart (SJ) did all the work to set up Russell for what was basically an empty-netter. White made the score 7-1 with help from Dupont and Taylor Ellington (eligible 2007) and then Dupont completed his hat trick with a strange one in the waning moments. His hard shot from the slot was deflected over the net, hit the glass, came back toward the net and bounced in off Proskuryakov’s back. Dupont, who finished with four points, was named Team WHL’s player of the game.

Game Notes

A total of nine players were in the Team WHL lineup on both nights including Ellington, Jackson, Wishart, Boychuk, Drazenovic, Hamill, Maxwell, Ryan Russell and Setoguchi…Adam Hobson (CHI) was named to Team WHL but did not play due to a shoulder injury… Russell wore the ‘C’ for Team WHL in Kamloops after his twin brother Kris Russell (CBJ) did the honors the night before in Chilliwack. Kris did not dress for the game in Kamloops…Since the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge began in 2003, the Russians have won only three of the 24 games played. All three wins have come at the expense of the QMJHL, two of which came in shootouts…All tolled, Canadian teams have outscored the Russians 122-48, including a 32-12 edge this year…On Dec. 4, Hockey Canada will announce its tryout roster for the national junior team training camp in Calgary…The Montreal Canadiens were well represented as prospects Price, White and Maxwell were very good…The San Jose Sharks will be pleased as Setoguchi and Wishart were very good in both games…The Blues’ Drazenovic and Jackson were also solid on both nights…Dupont and Ryan Russell, New York Rangers prospects, combined for five points on the night.

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