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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 1:28 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Visentin back in net for Canada against Denmark

EDMONTON - So Team Canada coach Don Hay will go back to goalie Mark Visentin between the pipes on Thursday when the Canadian National Junior Team faces Denmark in Group B preliminary round action of the World Junior Championship at Rexall Place.

"Our reasoning is both goalies are playing well and we want to make sure everybody is sharp for the next game on New Year's Eve [against Team USA] and both guys are going good right now … we want to make a decision [on Saturday goalie] after tomorrow," Hay told the media.

Visentin was in net on Monday when the Canadians scored an 8-1 victory over Finland. He stopped 24 of 25 shots. Scott Wedgewood earned a 26-save, 5-0 victory, over the Czech Republic in Canada's second match of the tournament on Wednesday.

So what does Hay stress against the Danes, a team that has scored just three goals and allowed a tournament high 18 in two losses.

"Details and habits and playing as a team and not getting too far ahead of yourself and really focusing on doing the good things that make you a good team," Hay said. "When you get into pressure situations, both details and habits are really important in your game. If you're good at those, they come naturally. If you have to think about it, sometimes it's a little too late and you can't recover."

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 9:42 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Canada leads Czechs 3-0 after two periods

EDMONTON -- The Canadian National Junior Team got goals from Ryan Strome and Brett Connolly in the second period and have opened a 3-0 lead on the Czech Republic through 40 minutes in preliminary-round play of Group B of the 2012 World Junior Championship at Rexall Place.

Strome, property of the New York Islanders, gave Canada a 2-0 lead with 3:44 remaining when he took a pass from Freddie Hamilton low in the left circle before sweeping home his second of the tournament with his team on the power play. Goalie Scott Wedgewood earned an assist on the play when launched a pass to Hamilton from his end to the Czech blue line. Hamilton's attempt was denied at the right post but he alertly gathered the puck to set up the Strome goal.

Connolly's second of the tournament at 18:11 was a thing of beauty. He skated towards the net and took a shot that initially rang off the left post. The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect somehow managed to get his stick on the floating puck just before crossing the end line and tuck in the rebound.

Canada held a 27-20 advantage in shots through 40 minutes.

Mark Stone gave the Canadians a 1-0 lead with his fourth goal of the tournament in the opening period. The goal was typical Stone, as he gained position in the slot and jammed home a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau at 5:37. Stone had four of Canada's first nine goals in the tournament.

Stone missed an opportunity to put his team ahead by two when he was denied by Czech goalie Petr Mrazek on a penalty shot with 37.2 seconds left in the first. Stone got his chance after Czech defenseman Jiri Riha closed hand on puck in the crease following an initial save by Mrazek.

Stone attempted to go to his forehand from in tight but Mrazek closed the pads and stopped the attempt. He promptly pumped his arms in celebration after keeping his team within striking distance -- prompting plenty of boos from the Canadian faithful.

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 8:48 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Stone continues torrid pace for Canada

EDMONTON -- Mark Stone scored his team-leading fourth goal of the 2012 World Junior Championship to give Team Canada a 1-0 lead against the Czech Republic in preliminary round play of Group B at Rexall Place.
 
The goal was typical for Stone, as he gained position in the slot and jammed home a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau at 5:37. Stone has four of Canada's nine goals in the tournament.
 
Stone missed an opportunity to put his team ahead by two when he was denied by Czech goalie Petr Mrazek on a penalty shot with just 37.2 seconds left in the first. Stone got his chance after Czech defenseman Jiri Riha closed hand on puck in the crease following an initial save by Mrazek.
 
Stone attempted to go to his forehand from in tight but Mrazek closed the pads and stopped the attempt. He promptly pumped his arms in celebration after keeping his team within striking distance -- prompting plenty of boos from the Canadian faithful.
 
Despite giving up the goal, the Czechs did play a solid 20 minutes. The club came out physical and played at a high tempo -- something it will need to continue if it is to have any chance against the prohibitive favorite.
 
Canada goalie Scott Wedgewood, who is making his first start in a WJC game, turned aside 10 shots. The New Jersey Devils prospect also received plenty of defensive support, particularly when the Czechs were on the power play. In a 7-1 victory against Denmark on Tuesday, the Czech Republic finished 3-for-4 with the man advantage. The club went 0-for-2 in the first against Canada as Wedgewood and defensemen Scott Harrington, Brandon Gormley, Ryan Murray and Dougie Hamilton did a superb job.
 
Mrazek, who is making his second straight start between the pipes, turned aside 14 shots.

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 5:30 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Saad draws United States even with Finland

EDMONTON -- The U.S. was finally able to solve Finland goalie Sami Aittokallio just 19 seconds into the third to pull into a 1-1 tie in the 2012 World Junior Championship contest at Rexall Place. Brandon Saad cashed in from in tight after retrieving a pass from Emerson Etem for his first goal of the tournament. 
 
Despite being outshot, 24-9, through 40 minutes of play, Finland held a 1-0 lead over the United States.

The Finns opened a lead 1:21 into the second when Nashville Predators prospect Miika Salomaki controlled a pass from Joel Armia low in the right circle before roofing a shot over the fallen John Gibson. Less than a minute later, Aittokallio did the splits to deny Nick Bjugstad's quick release from left circle.

In their pursuit of squaring the contest, both T.J. Tynan of the U.S. and Simo-Pekka Riikola were send off for roughing behind the Finland cage at the 2:10 mark of the second. The penalties were the result of the U.S. forwards crashing the cage while Aittokallio was attempting to cover the puck.

Despite playing at a feverish pace in the opening 20 minutes, both teams had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.

The Finns, coming off an 8-1 loss to Team Canada on Monday, were determined to play physical and fast against the bigger and stronger Americans. The U.S., meanwhile, seemed to take away much of the middle of the ice, content on allowing their opponent to work along the boards. The U.S. scored an 11-3 victory in its tournament opener on Monday against Denmark.

Each team was penalized twice, and the Finns actually had a 4-on-3 advantage for 56 seconds that was denied by the United States. The U.S. entered the game having allowed three power-play goals in three times short against Denmark.

Both teams were able to generate some quality scoring chances but couldn't solve the opposing goalie. Aittokallio, property of the Colorado Avalanche, had eight saves and Gibson turned aside four. The start for Gibson marked the first time since the 2010 WJC gold medal game against Team Canada that three-time WJC participant Jack Campbell didn't get the starting nod between the pipes.

Gibson, drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round last June, is making his first appearance in a WJC game.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale



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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 4:15 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

U.S., Finland scoreless after one period in Edmonton

EDMONTON -- Despite playing at a feverish pace in the opening period, the United States and Finland had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard during their 2012 World Junior Championship matchup here at Rexall Place.
 
The Finns, coming off an 8-1 loss to Team Canada on Monday, were determined to play physical and fast against the bigger and stronger Americans. The U.S., meanwhile, seemed to take away much of the middle of the ice, content on allowing their opponent to work along the boards. The U.S. scored an 11-3 victory in its tournament opener on Monday against Denmark.
 
Each team was penalized twice, and the Finns actually had a 4-on-3 advantage for 56 seconds that was denied by the United States. The U.S. entered the game having allowed three power-play goals in three times short against Denmark.
 
Both teams were able to generate some quality scoring chances but couldn't solve the opposing goalie. Finland's Sami Aittokallio, property of the Colorado Avalanche, had eight saves and Team USA's John Gibson turned aside four shots. The start for Gibson marked the first time since the 2010 WJC gold medal game against Team Canada that three-time WJC participant Jack Campbell didn't make the start between the pipes.
 
Gibson, drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round last June, is making his first appearance in the World Junior Championship.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 1:58 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

John Gibson gets the start in goal for Team USA

EDMONTON - U.S. National Junior Team coach Dean Blais will give John Gibson an opportunity on the grand stage on Wednesday when the 18-year-old goalie faces Finland in the club's second game of the 2012 World Junior Championship at Rexall Place.

Gibson was named the top goalie at the 2011 IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship in Germany, going 4-2-0 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .926 save percentage as the U.S. garnered its third straight gold medal.

Gibson was a second-round selection (No. 39) of the Anaheim Ducks in 2011. He is currently in his first season with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. In six games with the Rangers, Gibson is 4-2-0 with a 2.34 GAA and .926 save percentage.

Gibson will be filling in for Jack Campbell, who earned an 11-3 victory over Denmark on Monday in the team's tournament opener. All three goals scored on Campbell, who is making his third tour of duty for the U.S. at the WJC, were of the power-play variety. In 10 WJC starts, Campbell is 6-2-1-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L).  

The U.S. is scheduled to play Finland at 3:30 p.m. ET (NHLN-US). It will mark the 31st meeting between the two countries, with Finland holding a slight series advantage. Despite the fact the U.S. is 11-2-0-15-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L-T) against Finland at the WJC, the U.S. has won six of its last seven outings against the Finns. That surge includes a 3-2 overtime decision in the preliminary round last year in Buffalo, N.Y., when forward Nick Bjugstad connected for the game-winner.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 1:09 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Wedgewood gets start for Canada vs. Czech Rep.

Canadian National Junior Team coach Don Hay announced on Wednesday that goalie Scott Wedgewood would be between the pipes for the club's second game of the 2012 World Junior Championship when his team faces Czech Republic at 8 p.m. ET.

Wedgewood, a third-round selection (No. 84) of the New Jersey Devils in 2010, is currently in his fourth season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. In 21 appearances this season, the 6-foot, 194-pound Wedgewood is 13-8-0 with a 3.08 goals-against average.

"Scott played good in the selection camp and we were impressed with what he did in the pre-competition games and that probably changed my mind a little bit in how I wanted to go about things [with rotating the goalies]," Hay told the media. "We're going to need both goalies going ahead. Mark [Visentin] played very well against the Finns and that was expected of him from his experience and summer camp and what he's done in pre-competition. I think we're in a good situation if they both continue to play like they have."

Visentin stopped 24 of 25 shots in an 8-1 victory over Finland in their tournament opener on Monday.

"We wanted both our goalies to play in a competitive game and this is going to be a very competitive game to test not only Scott but our team," Hay said. "I think we feel he's capable and ready to play and we have a lot of confidence in him."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 10:38 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

The start of something good

Ever wonder how TSN and NHL Network hockey insider Bob McKenzie got his start?

        Canadian broadcaster Bob McKenzie
Forward Mark Stone of the Canadian National Junior Team certainly does, although he wasn't even born when his father would ultimately have an indirect impact on McKenzie's rewarding broadcasting career.

Stone's father, Robert, was a sportswriter for The Sault Star (in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) before deciding to leave and give McKenzie his shot as a hockey writer.

"It was the summer of 1978 and I had gotten a summer job at the Sault Star during my second year at Ryerson [University]," McKenzie said. "It was a four-man sports department and Rob was there. I played on the Northern Plumbing slow pitch team with him."

As the story goes, McKenzie was told at the end of the summer that if a spot opened in the sports department, he would be hired.

"In January, Bob Stone departed Sault Ste. Marie for a job in Winnipeg and the paper called me in January and said Stone was leaving and there was a job in the sports department," McKenzie said. "So in April and May of 1979, I worked there."

When McKenzie broached the subject with Mark Stone, the youngster smiled and nodded his head when the inquisitive reporter asked him, "What exactly was the job your dad took in Winnipeg?"

"I really couldn't tell you," Mark said.

And what is the elder Stone doing now?

"He's selling aircraft engines," Mark Stone said.

Well, of course!

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 11:12 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Czech Republic scores 7-0 victory in WJC opener

EDMONTON - The Czech Republic received goals from six different players while Petr Mrazek needed to make just 12 saves en route to a 7-0 victory over Denmark in preliminary-round action of Group B on Tuesday during the 2012 World Junior Championship at Rexall Place.

Tomas Hertl, who was named the Czech Republic's player of the game, paced the offensive attack with a pair of goals and Radek Faksa, Petr Holik, Tomas Filippi, Dmitrij Jaskin and Jiri Riha each connected for one apiece. The Czechs held a 44-12 advantage in shots.

"I'm pleased I could score two goals and double pleased I could help the team win," Hertl told NHL.com through Czech interpreter Jan Wagner. "The strengths of our team is its speed and the camaraderie of the players."

The only previous meeting between the two teams in the U20 WJC was in 2008 -- a 5-2 win by the Czechs.

Hertl and Faksa, two players considered to be relatively high on the wish lists of many NHL scouts and general managers in June, had given the Czech a 3-0 lead through two periods.

"Hertl is still young and he's been helpful for us," Czech defenseman David Musil said. "He's used to playing on the bigger ice in the Czech. Hopefully, he can keep up his play against Canada [on Wednesday]."

The Czech Republic will play its second game of the tournament against host Canada at 8 p.m. ET (NHLN-US). The Czechs certainly do not want a repeat of last year when, after scoring a 2-0 victory over Norway in its WJC opener, the country was outscored by Canada, Sweden and Russia by a combined 21-8.

Goalie Mrazek, a fifth-round draft choice (No. 141) of the Detroit Red Wings in 2010, was barely tested but maintained his concentration throughout.

"This was a big game for us because it was the first … it was an important win," Mrazek said. "We have a lot of offensive players and good defensive players, so I think we can score some goals in this tournament."

The Czechs scored three power-play goals and one shorthanded in defeating the Danes, who have been outscored 18-3 in two games. The U.S. earned an 11-3 victory over Denmark on Monday.

Hertl scored his second of the game 2:44 into the second when he connected from an impossible angle after curling the net behind Denmark goalie Sebastian Feuk and ripping a shot from the goal line to the goalie's left. According to NHL Central Scouting, Hertl is rated No. 1 among skaters playing in the Czech Republic this season. Prior to joining the Czech National Junior Team, Hertl had 9 goals and 15 points in 23 games with HC Slavia Praha.

"I understand that to play in the U20 championship is the entry for big hockey but I still have this team on my mind right now," said Hertl, who likes to emulate Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin.

Radek Faksa extended the lead to 3-0 when he deflected home a shot from between the circles at the 11:13 mark. Faksa of the Kitchener Rangers is rated No. 4 among skaters in the Ontario Hockey League. In 27 games with the Rangers this season, Faksa has 14 goals and 27 points. Jiri Riha took the initial shot from the left point that Faksa deftly chipped home with his back to the goal cage.

The Czech Republic has outshot Denmark, 31-7, through 40 minutes. Feuk has made 29 saves.

The Czechs opened a 1-0 lead in the first when Hertl redirected a shot through the legs of Feuk from low in the left circle with his team on the power-play. Denmark is coming off an 11-3 loss to the U.S. in its tournament opener on Monday.

Jakub Culek took the initial shot from the top of the left circle. Defenseman Marek Hrbas also assisted on the goal. Feuk turned aside 15 shots, including a shorthanded breakaway attempt by Petr Straka less than four minutes into the game, to keep the Danes within striking distance.

The highlight for Denmark came with 9:49 left in the third period when defenseman Anders Thode threw a shoulder into the chest of Czech forward Tomas Hyka, who came off his feet before landing on the ice. Hyka returned to the bench on his own power.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 5:35 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Blais spends off-day working the penalty-kill

If there's one area of concern for U.S. National Junior Team coach Dean Blais following his team's 11-3 victory over Denmark in the 2012 World Junior Championship, it would be the team's penalty-killing.

After allowing 4 goals in 16 times short during three exhibition games prior to Monday's tournament opener at Rexall Place in Edmonton, the Danes connected for three power-play goals in as many attempts.

"That's not good," Blais told NHL.com. "Thank goodness we weren't taking a lot of penalties. We've got to move a little bit better. There were opportunities to get the puck out of the zone … it started with a lost faceoff. We've been really good on faceoffs, and you lose three and three pucks end up in the net instead of forcing them 200 feet back into our end."
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We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

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