By Alan Adams
HALIFAX - Carlo Colaiacovo could not hide his disappointment.
Less than an hour after the Canadian National Junior Team had their dream of winning a gold medal on home soil crushed when they lost 3-2 to Russia, in a show of character Colaiacovo was one of the first players to face the media.
"You do not understand how hard it is to explain right now what we are going through," said Colaiacovo. "To see them celebrate on our ice is the toughest pill to swallow right now. Words can't describe what we are going through right now."
"I gave it all I got and I know I speak for 22 guys when I say we emptied the tank tonight. We gave it all we got for our country and for ourselves. But you have to give the Russians credit. They never stopped even when they were down a goal going into the third. We usually don't lose third periods but the bounces did not go our way. We accomplished a lot and we did a lot as a team. But we are so disappointed to see the way things turned out."
| Despite the tough loss in the finale, Colaiacovo had a solid tourney. |
Graig Abel Photography
This was the second time Colaiacovo lost to the Russians in the gold medal final at the World Junior Championship, and Sunday's result marked Canada's third loss to the Russians in a gold-medal game in five years.
The Canadians might be able to lay claim to the fact that they're the only country to win a medal in each of the last five years at the world junior level but that argument doesn't wash here in the land of the Olympic champions.
Suffice it to say there was no silver lining in winning a second straight silver medal.
But when the hurt stops and Colaiacovo and company think back of what they went through in a span of three weeks, they'll have nothing but fond and proud memories of representing their country in the pressure-packed World Junior Championship.
"We're family and we'll always be family," said Colaiacovo about the experience.
The Toronto Maple Leafs may wind up being one of the biggest benefactors of this experience.
The Leafs had five prospects on the Canadian roster, and nine in the tournament all together, which was the most of an NHL team. The five Canadians tied the mark for most Leafs prospects set in 1984, when Russ Courtnall, Gary Leeman, Dan Hodgson, Ken Wregget and Allan Bester wore Canada's colors on the World Junior stage
Barry Trapp, the Leafs' director of scouting, knows a thing or two about the benefits of playing in the World Junior Championship. Prior to joining the Leafs last summer, he spent a handful of years as the scouting director of the Canadian Hockey Association. It was his job to stock Canada's roster.
"It gives them a lot of confidence in themselves first for making the team and see how they handle the best competition in the world in their age group." says Trapp. "It is a valuable learning experience and there is no doubt these kids will go back from this tournament and be better players on their own teams and in their leagues."
Overall, Trapp was more than happy with the performance turned in by the Leaf prospects.
"We are tremendously happy," said Trapp.
That said, here's a look at how they did: Carlo Colaiacovo
, Canada (17th overall in 2001):
Colaiacovo finished atop the leader board tied in points with 10 in six games and he was one of five players in the tournament to hit double figures in offence. But that's only half the story. Colaiacovo was strong defensively and he logged more than his share of ice time and was used in all key situations. He played physical and gave the proverbial 110 per cent every shift.
"Carlo had a great tournament and his upside is tremendous. He is like any young defenceman. He has to become more responsible defensively and that comes with experience," says Trapp. Matt Stajan
, Canada (57th overall in 2002):
Stajan made the team as the so-called 13th forward and it didn't take Head Coach Marc Habscheid long to realize how versatile he was. Stajan was one of Canada's top penalty killers and Canada finished the tournament with the best efficiency rate playing shorthanded. They played short-handed a total of 40 minutes and 13 seconds through six games and allowed one shorthanded goals for a 95.65 per cent efficiency rate.
Stajan had a goal and an assist but his assist was a key one. He set up the winning goal in Canada's 3-2 nail-biting semifinal win over the United States.
"Matt Stajan we are very happy with," says Trapp. "Playing in the role he is playing in, he has accepted it and he has played very well every time he has been out there. He was one of their top two penalty killers." Kyle Wellwood
, Canada (134rd overall in 2001):
Wellwood is an offensive gift and emerged as one of the best passers in the tournament. He knows where to find holes and he can go tape-to-tape on a pass nine times out of 10.
"I call him Adam for Adam Oates. He is so smart and so shifty," says Trapp. "The first couple of games he was surprising the guys. The puck would be on their stick and they were wondering where it came from. He has a chance to play. He is a determined kid. He was determined to make this team and he has played well for them." Brendan Bell
, Canada (65th overall in 2001):
One of the best things anyone can say to a defenceman is say you never really noticed him make mistakes in his own end and that describes Bell's effort in the World Junior Championship.
It seems right that in a seaside city, Bell was - to use a naval term - "as steady as she goes." There was nothing fancy here, but he gave an honest and efficient effort every night.
"Brendan Bell has played well and steady. He has done everything they have asked of him and it is has been a great test for him because people have always asked a lot of questions about him," said Trapp. "He has done a great job." Ian White
, Canada (191st overall in 2002):
White finished third in scoring on his team, with two goals and six points in six games. Both goals came on the power play and he showed that he has a booming shot from the point. Defensively he was strong, but there is no doubt he could use some size and strength.
"Ian white is a guy I honestly think has a chance to play for us. Because of his size, he is a special 5 9 1-2 guy who is a strong skater and he has a great shot," says Trapp. "We are very pleased with the way he has played here." Alexander Steen
, Sweden (24th overall in 2002):
Steen isn't the reason the Swedes had a disappointing tournament and wound up in eighth place. He and draft prospect Robert Nilsson were, in most games, the only two Swedes who hustled from the opening faceoff. Steen had four goals and six points in six games. He goes to the net hard.
"I like Alexander Steen a lot. I am very happy with the way he played and he will be a player," says Trapp. "He does everything well. He shoots and passes the puck at high speed and he has tremendous hands and great vision and we will be careful that we do not rush this guy.
"What we would like to see him do is play another world junior and then maybe a world (senior men's) championship and then make a decision whether he is ready to come over. None of our European kids will come over until they are ready. There is no rush. The Canadian kids do not get that advantage." Ivan Kolozvary
, Slovakia (183rd overall in 2001):
The Slovaks were skilled and fast but as a country they're not quite ready to make the jump to the upper class of the World Junior pecking order.
Kolozvary has great offensive skills, but he lacks weight and strength.
"That is the thing with these kids, you have to get them on a program and you can't let them to it on their own," says Trapp. David Turon
, Czech Republic (122nd overall in 2002):
The Czechs were not a good team and Turon, with one goal in six games, didn't shine. Maxim Kondratiev
, Russia (168th overall in 2001):
The Russians may be known for their offensive flare but their blueline did a great job against Canada in the final and kept the Canadians from gaining any ground in the slot. Kondratiev is a stay-at-home blueliner who has a mean streak in him and he makes opponents pay a price for going to the net.
"I remember him from last year vividly because he was named the MVP in the game against us," says Trapp about the '02 World Juniors. "We like his upside and he is a good puck-handler. He has a bite to his game and he shoots the puck well. He just has to add some weight and strength."