Ottawa rumbled during the 2009 World Juniors Hockey Championship (WJHC) with one of the quickest and most entertaining competitions in IIHF history, mostly thanks to an exhilarating performance from Canada.
Enriched with a promising display of talent, the tournament has been touted as nothing short of successful by many. Every game at the Scotia Bank Place and the Ottawa Civic Centre has been filled with enough hitting, scoring and rude on-ice attitude for an electrify World Juniors atmosphere like never before.
As Canadians, it has been pleasing to witness the stability of Canadas development program and the size of each players heart willing to battle through every game up to the last possible breath. Right up to the point where longtime rivals Russia knocked on the door, Canada did not disappoint with blowout after blowout of everyone else in their way.
And against Russia, they managed enough after a late scare to clinch the semi-final tie 6-5, a familiar score between the two hockey giants Canada over the last few decades. The 1987 Canada Cup series saw three games ending with that very same score line. Canada took two of the three games to win the series.
How befitting it is that the Canada-Russia rivalry continues on to this day.
Russia head coach Sergei Nemchinov led a disciplined group of young players going into the tournament. No matter how tough the opponent, Nemchinov has successfully inspired his team to fight back game after game.
Hes a great young man, said Canadian head coach Pat Quinn during an after game conference. He covered our threats and he did a great job coaching his team against us. He should be proud of his team, they fought hard.
Undoubtedly, it was the most heartbreaking game of the championships so far, with Canada needing a shootout to claim victory.
Russia responded to every Canadian goal with a goal of their own minutes after. Russia finally took the lead near the end of the game until Canadian winger Jordan Eberle dished in the tying goal during the last seconds of the game.
It was a tough game and a tough goal to see go in the last seconds, said Nemchinov. It was really tough for all of us.
At press time, Canada is scheduled to face Sweden in the gold medal match.
This is the best group of kids they have seen since 81, said Quinn. We expect to find ways to improve our game for the gold medal match.
Its going to be another epic battle between two hockey dominant countries, both of whom adopt a rather similar style of play — grit and scoring, with inspiration drawn from a star centre. Canada boasts Mississauga-born John Tavares while the Swedes have Victor Hedman. Both players round off the top two NHL draft prospects.
Hedman holds the potential to grow into a Nikolas Lidstrom type defenseman — a solid and regular contributor. So far however, Hedman has put in a less-than-stellar WJHC performance.
Various scouts and general managers such as Detroits GM Ken Holland and Chicagos Assistant GM Rick Dudley believe there are a couple of other players to watch out for in the 2009 NHL draft.
There has been buzz about Canadian Cody Hodgson and his entry into the NHL next year as the 10th pick in the 2008 draft, but more on Canadian prospects Ryan Ellis and Evander Kane, who played as important roles as Tavares and Hodgson. Erie Otter’s Slovakian goalkeeper Jaroslav Janus has also been touted as a hot prospect, unfortunately, he’s not too consistent.
The rumor mill has been in full force as well, with talks of Pat Quinn coaching the Ottawa Senators and making the Scotia Bank Place a home away from home.
The tournament has seen record breaking attendances with a total of 456,000 fans from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. And this doesnt include the exhibition games. In a business portfolio, this was definitely a money grabber.
Its no surprise — weve seen Tavares slam pucks in the net from mid-air and possibly Canadas quickest and most dedicated team ever. Three players have scored double digit points thus far and Tavares is on course to break a scoring record stapled by Canadian Jeff Carter. And dont forget winger Jordan Eberles history-making tying goal in the last two seconds of the Russia game.