SASKATOON (CP) - Goaltending has been the big difference between Canada and Russia in the junior hockey Super Series, according to Canadian coach Brent Sutter.
While Canadian goaltenders Jonathan Bernier, Steve Mason and Leland Irving had goals-against averages of 0.50, 2.00 and 2.00 respectively through the first five games, none of Russia's three goalies have an average under 4.50.
"It's a lot closer than you think," Sutter said Wednesday prior to Game 6 of the eight-game series. "Our goaltending has been very good for us. I think that is what is separating the two teams right now.
"When you look at scoring opportunities, they've had as many as we've had, but our goaltending has really stepped up and made some huge saves for us."
While Canada has made handling the Russians look simple, Sutter's players say it's not as easy as it looks.
"We're not just going out for an easy skate out there," said defenceman Logan Pyett, who had a goal and an assist to help Canada win 8-1 and stretch its series lead to 5-0 Tuesday night in Winnipeg.
"We've been coming out on the right end of all the games but there has been a couple close ones where if we don't get a bounce here or they don't catch a bad break, maybe they win the game."
The sentiment may be more diplomatic than anything else.
But for a few isolated periods, the Russians have failed to mount much of a challenge for the Canadians, who have consistently played better as a team than the Russians throughout the first five games of the eight game series.
After the loss in Winnipeg, Russian head coach Sergei Nemchinov, who played more than 700 games in his NHL career, called his team's performance embarrassing, and lamented how his players didn't stick to the game plan.
The Canadians have stuck to business, avoding getting fancy despite their lead.
"I don't think Mr. Sutter will let us get too creative," said defenceman Luke Schenn, a Saskatoon native who plays for the WHL's Kelowna Rockets. "It will be pretty much stick to the system and keep on going out there an winning games here."
Pyett said the team feels a responsibility to please Canadian fans.
"The fans, they paid for their tickets," said the native of Milestone, Sask.
"They want to see good hockey so it's on us to put on a good show and make the games interesting and give the fans something to cheer about.".
The Super Series commemorates the 35th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series between victorious Canada and the Soviet Union.
The remaining two games are Friday in Red Deer, Alta., and Sunday in Vancouver.