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Reflecting on the WJC

by Kristi Hennessy / Calgary Flames

Flames prospect and Swedish defenceman Tim Erixon, has played his final games for Sweden at the U20 WJC tournaments. The 6-foot-3, 198-pound will have his 20th birthday on February 24th. Erixon was actually born in Portchester, NY while his father Jan was playing for the NY Rangers back in 1991. The family soon moved back to their native Sweden to raise their son after Jan retired.

Erixon, who donned an "A" on his Tre Kronor (Three Crowns) sweater, picked up a goal and a pair of assists in his six games played and finished with a plus minus of +2. He led his team with an impressive 23 shots on net by the end of the tournament.

The strong Swedish team looked perfect early in the tournament. They were able to beat Canada to earn a bye into the semi-final game however they dropped to Russia in a heartbreaker game. They couldn't find their game again as they then fell to the US for the bronze medal.

"Of course it's a disappointment," said Erixon of the end result for Sweden. "We thought we had a good team. We beat Canada, it was a tight game and we thought we could beat every team so it's very disappointing to go out this way."

Nevertheless, dispite not receiving a medal this year, Erixon was happy overall with his personal performance as well as the efforts of his teammates.

"I'm pretty happy with my performance. Our team is really close. We have good team spirit and we've had a lot of fun together and have been together for over a month now. We had a great time. It was my last junior national team game so of course it was a dissapointment."

For the Team USA captain John Ramage, although the defending gold medal champions did not win gold this year, Ramage is very pleased with the play of his group overall.

"It was a great experience," said Ramage. "The bond you get with these guys in three weeks is indescribable. It was awesome to play here in Buffalo on our home soil. It was just a great tournament. It's a great feeling especially being in the US this time, too bad it wasn't a gold but I think we're still pretty proud of the bronze."

The favoured American squad played brilliant up until they hit a wall against Canada. Canada dominated the game in every way, even in the crowd. The Americans lost the chance to play for gold however they found a way past Sweden to win the bronze.

The 6-foot, 201 pound defenceman from the University of Wisconsin was held pointless through the tournament. He had four shots in his six games played and finished with a plus minus of +2.

Finland's goaltender, Joni Ortio had a very strong tournament personally. He finished just shy of being the top goaltender as far as stats go, coming in second behind USA goaltender, Jack Campbell. Ortio posted a 1.86 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. He allowed 11 goals and saved 149 in the six games he played in.

"It was a disappointment for us but I'm proud of the guys in the locker room," said Ortio. "They worked hard throughout the tournament. The way we played is something really good, it just wasn't enough this time to play for the medals. We tried everything we could.

"I was confident throughout the tournament but the last one, I let in four goals so I'm not happy about that because we lost," said Ortio. "We win as a team and we didn't win.

Ortio continued: "We have a great team with great guys. We all knew each other before this tournament and I think that helped us. We had fun together and we played well so I have nothing to complain about. Of course I am disappointed that we did not win a medal but still proud of our team."

Ortio and Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff have a few things in common. One very notable similarity between the two goaltenders is that they both lift their masks up on top of their heads everytime they let in a goal or just need a drink of water. Their goaltending style is also very much a like. This is not just because Kiprusoff was Ortio's idol growing up. The two shared the same goalie coach in Turku, Finland, the hometown of the two goalies.

"I've heard a lot that we are a lot a like as far as playing style," said Ortio. "I think that comes because we had the same coach. I have the same coach right now that Kipper had when he played in Finland. I think most of it comes from there."

Ortio commented that he tries to watch as much of Kiprusoff and the Flames as he can back home. He watches his style and is always trying to improve his game.

"I follow a lot of Flames hockey for sure. Of course they are not playing that well this season but I think it's going to turn around and they're going to bounce back."

The young Finnish goaltender has every intention to become a goalie in the NHL and it would be a dream come true to play behind Kiprusoff. He also realizes that he is still a few years away from being ready for the opportunity.

"Of course it's my goal to be a Flames member but maybe in three or four years," Ortio said. "Right now I'm just focusing on the rest of the season and we'll see what the future has planned for me. I'm not thinking about that too much."

Author: Kristi Hennessy

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