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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 10:38 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 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
Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 12:44 AM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Slovakia avoids scare from Latvia

CALGARY -- It was a bigger scare than Slovakia would have preferred in its 2012 World Junior Championship debut.

Tied 1-1 with Latvia after 40 minutes, Slovak forward Marek Tvrdon scored the game-winner 2:02 into the third period and goalie Juraj Simboch kicked out 25 shots en route to a 3-1 win at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday night.

"We had a really tough time at the beginning of the game," Slovak coach Ernest Bokros said through a translator. "It was really tough to get into the game. After the first period we talked to the boys and they played better. We told our guys to keep focused and keep going. It was an important game for us since we want to try to stay in the group. We don't want to get eliminated. We told guys to keep going."    

Tomas Jurco also scored for Slovakia and Michael Toman added an empty-netter with 37.3 seconds remaining to clinch the victory. Juris Ziemins had the lone goal for Latvia.

"Everybody tried hard," Latvian captain Kristians Pelss said. "One shot changed the whole game. It's a difficult game because we could win this game. Hopefully the next game will be better."

Tvrdon broke the tie when he lifted a third rebound attempt over Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis during a scramble to give Slovakia. It was only the second of 44 shots to beat Gudlevskis.  

Latvia tried to answer back. Ziemins had Simboch sprawling midway through the period, but couldn't beat the post. It was as close as the Latvians would come to tying the game before Toman hit the vacated net in the final minute.

Slovakia carried the play through the scoreless first period and into the second, it was Latvia that got on the board first.

Minutes after Gudlevskis turned aside Slovakia's second 3-on-1 attempt of the game, Ziemins put Latvia up 1-0 when the puck caromed off the end boards, under the stick of Simboch and onto the stick of Ziemins, who lifted it into the top corner at 6:41 to give Latvia its first lead of the tournament.

The combination of 2012 Draft eligible forward Zemgus Girgensons and David Straupe almost made it 2-0 on the next shift. Girgensons took the puck out of the corner and drove to the net but was denied by Simboch. Straupe then slid the rebound just past the far post.

After Gudlevskis stopped Vladimir Dolnik on a breakaway, Slovakia finally solved him on the power play. Jurco deflected Martin Marincin's blast from the point behind Gudlevskis with 4:32 remaining in the period to make it 1-1.

Both teams now turn their attention to Russia. Slovakia faces the Russians on Wednesday, while Latvia gets the day off before facing them on Thursday.
Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 11:36 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Latvia, Slovakia all even after two

Though Slovakia was able to carry over the jump shown in the final minutes of the first period, it was Latvia who managed to get on the board first Tuesday night in Calgary.

Minutes after Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevis turned aside Slovakia's second 3-on-1 attempt of the game, Juris Ziemins put Latvia up, 1-0.

The puck careened off the end boards, under the stick of Slovak goalie Juraj Simboch and onto the stick of Ziemins, who lifted it top corner at 6:41 to give Latvia its first lead of the tournament.

The combination of 2012 Draft eligible forward Zemgus Girgensons and David Straupe almost made it 2-0 on the next shift.

Taking the puck out of the corner and driving to the net, Girgensons was stopped by the Slovak goalie. Straupe slid the rebound just passed the far post, keeping Slovakia within one.

After stopping Vladimir Dolnik on a breakaway, Slovakia finally solved Gudlevis on the power play. Tomas Jurco deflected Martin Marincin's blast from the point behind Gudlevis with 4:32 remaining in the period to make it 1-1.

Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 11:12 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 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 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

Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 10:53 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Latvia, Slovakia scoreless after one

After a slow start from both teams in Calgary, Latvia and Slovakia managed to find their feet in a competitive first period that was scoreless despite a combined 25 shots.
It took Latvia until the 7:27 mark to mark its first shot on goal on Slovak starter Juraj Simboch, while Slovakia managed to get just two pucks on Latvia's Kristers Gudlevskis in the first half of the period.

Though it took them longer than they'd like to record their first shot of the game, the Latvians carried the pace through the first 20 minutes.

Robert Lipsbergs, who had a pair of goals in Latvia's opener against Sweden, almost put his country up near the midway mark of the first. Streaking in on his off wing, Lipsbergs fired a shot off the pad Slovakia starter Juraj Simboch, gathered his own rebound, but was denied again.

When Slovak defenseman Peter Bezuska misplayed the puck at the offensive blue line, Latvian captain Kristians Pelss was able to break in alone on Simboch, who also denied him with his pad, one of 12 first period saves.

Killing its third penalty of the period, Slovakia responded.

Stepping out of the penalty box with four minutes remaining in the period, Tomas Matousek jumped into a 3-on-1 rush led by Richard Mraz. Mraz dropped the puck to Matousek in the high slot, but was denied by Kristers Gudlevskis.

Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 6:38 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Bartschi has home-ice edge in Calgary

Calgary is more than 4,800 miles from Switzerland, but Sven Bartschi still has home-ice advantage.

Bartschi, selected by the Calgary Flames in the first round (No. 13) of the 2011 NHL Draft, said fans are making him feel at home as Switzerland tackles preliminary-round action at the World Junior Championship in Calgary.

But that doesn't mean there isn't added pressure for the native of Langenthal, who is the main attraction of Group A with Canada skating in Edmonton until after the new year.

"I want to enjoy the whole thing," Bartschi said. "I don't want to put too much pressure on myself because it's in Calgary. It's a big Christmas gift for me to come down here and play at the 'dome."

The "dome" Bartschi is referring to is Scotiabank Saddledome - home of the Calgary Flames. It was also the same place the boisterous crowd of 15,390 that was cheering on Bartschi and the Swiss in their tournament opener against Russia, a 3-0 loss.

But Bartschi wasn't willing to take all the credit.

Given the nature of Canada's rivalry with Russia coupled by Russia's come-from-behind gold medal victory over Canada at last year's World Juniors in Buffalo may have helped the Swiss, Bartschi said.

"I think the whole crowd was behind us and cheered us on because of the rivalry between Russia and Canada," he said. "Still, it was a lot of fun out here."

Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 5:42 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Girgensons already hearing Nino comparisons

CALGARY - Latvian forward Zemgus Girgensons is well aware of the comparison he’s facing at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

Two years ago, a draft eligible Nino Niederreiter grabbed headlines as he pulled Switzerland to a fourth-place finish at the World Juniors, the country’s best finish since 1998. Some five months later, Niederreiter was chosen fifth overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders.

Now, many expect Girgensons to have the same breakthrough performance that Niederreiter put together two years prior.

“It puts big pressure on me but it’s not a big deal,” said Girgensons, who scored in Latvia’s 9-4 tournament-opening loss to Sweden Monday. “I’m just going to do my best, that’s it. I just don’t try to think about it that much and try to play my game and do my best and help the team to perform good.”

Niederreiter exploded for six goals and 10 points in seven games at the 2010 tournament en route to being named to the media’s all-star team.

Girgensons doesn’t have to match Niederreiter’s outburst at the World Juniors in order to be a high pick in the 2012 draft. In fact, he’s already well on his way to accomplishing the feat, according to NHL Central Scouting's Dave Gregory.

"Zemgus is someone who's going to push being a real high-end rank for us all year," said Gregory in November. "We saw him at the Research, Development and Orientation Camp and he was impressive there with arguably some of the best available draft-eligible kids.”
Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 5:35 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 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 "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."
Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 1:13 AM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Sweden's Larsson exits game against Latvia

Forward Johan Larsson left Sweden’s 9-4 victory over Latvia in the first period for what the team is calling a precautionary move.

The team isn’t concerned with their captain, who assisted on Max Friberg’s first goal before leaving the game with what the team is calling a contusion on his thigh.

“He had a hit on his thigh in the first period,” said team doctor Bjorn Sandstrom. “That’s why he didn’t play anymore. I don’t think it’s a dangerous injury. I’m not very worried about him.”

Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg wasn’t about to take a chance with Larsson on tournament's opening day.

“He got a small injury in the first but we don’t take any chances this early in the tournament,” coach Roger Ronnberg said.

The team is already playing without 2012 draft eligible forward Pontus Aberg, who was knocked out of the World Junior Championship before the tournament got underway.
Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 1:06 AM

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

Canada's Devante Smith-Pelly fractures foot

A big opening-day win on Boxing Day before 16,647 screaming fans in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship proved a tad costly to the Canadian National Junior Team on Monday at Rexall Place in Edmonton.

The Canadians' 8-1 win over Finland was tempered when it was learned after the game that defensive-forward Devante Smith-Pelly would be lost for the remainder of the tournament with a fractured left foot. Smith-Pelly suffered his injury when he slid to the ice to block a shot from the right point by Teemu Pulkkinen.

In 26 games with the Anaheim Ducks in his rookie NHL campaign this year, Smith-Pelly had 3 goals, 5 points and 10 penalty minutes. The Ducks announced that Smith-Pelly would be sidelined 4-to-6 weeks.

Adding insult to injury is the fact Team Canada cannot replace him on its roster. The only situation that would allow a team to add another player would be in the case of a goaltender injury.
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