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Ellis, Schenn help Canada cruise past Norway

by Mike G. Morreale
BUFFALO, N.Y. --  It was a record-breaking night for the Canadian National Junior Team on Wednesday at HSBC Arena.
While captain Ryan Ellis was establishing a new scoring standard for defensemen, teammate Brayden Schenn was equaling a mark shared by fellow Canadian greats Mario Lemieux and Simon Gagne when he erupted for four goals as Team Canada cruised to a 10-1 victory over Norway in preliminary-round play.
Ellis produced three assists to move into first place on the all-time scoring list for defensemen with 23 points (4 goals, 19 assists) in just 15 WJC games -- eclipsing Finland's Reijo Ruotsalainen (9 goals, 21 points in 24 games, 1977-80).
"It's a pretty awesome accomplishment," Ellis said. "That's something to enjoy afterwards, but it's really cool."
Meanwhile, Schenn, who has 5 goals and 10 points in his last two games, tied Lemieux (1983 against Norway) and Gagne (1999 against Kazakhstan) for most goals in one game at the WJC. Schenn finished with 4 goals and 5 points -- he had 1 goal and 5 points in a 7-2 victory over Czech Republic on Tuesday.
"That's some pretty nice company there," Schenn said. "Those are two great players and to be in the same company as those guys at a WJC, for one game, is a nice honor. But, for me, I just want to keep getting better game by game and take nothing for granted."
Surprisingly, defenseman Erik Gudbranson (2 goals, 1 assist) was named Canada's Player of the Game.
It was also a game that proved Canada's mettle as, in addition to being without the services of four players, including injured defenseman Calvin de Haan, injured forwards Jaden Schwartz and Cody Eakin and suspended defenseman Zack Kassian, Canadian coach Dave Cameron opted to give goalie Mark Visentin his first start of the tournament.
It didn't matter, either, as Canada opened a 6-1 lead in the opening period and never looked back in winning its third straight game while Visentin would finish with 31 saves. Canada (3-0-0) will meet unbeaten Sweden (2-0-0) in a possible first-place showdown in Group B on Friday at HSBC (NHLN-US, TSN, 4 p.m. ET).
"I think we're where we want to be (against Sweden)," Ellis said. "Obviously, we'd like to have the bodies we lost, back. Kassian won't be there, but we'll see if the other few guys will. Overall we played the game we wanted to play against Norway."
While it's certain Kassian will be sidelined against Sweden as he serves his second of a two-game suspension following his illegal hit to Czech Republic defenseman Petr Senkerik, it remains to be seen if the three other players return to the lineup. Eakin, in fact, was a late scratch against Norway. He reportedly suffered a hand injury against the Czech Republic and re-aggravated the ailment during warm-ups.
"There's nothing you can do about injuries," Canada coach Dave Cameron said. "We knew all along there would be some adversity, but we just hoped it wouldn't come in the numbers it did. But I think the team responded well and, like anything else, when numbers are depleted, it gives other guys an opportunity. An opportunity you wouldn't normally get if you were a healthy team."
One such player making the most of the situation was 2011 top draft-eligible prospect Sean Couturier, the youngest player on the Canadian roster. Couturier came through, too, scoring his first goal of the tournament and the ninth for Team Canada at 17:18 of the third period.
"It felt good to get the monkey off the back a bit," Couturier said. "It was just a question of time because I've had a lot of scoring chances, but I finally got it. I played more but I think we kept the shifts short and kept it going, so we'll be ready for our next game."
Schenn scored his fourth of the game to tie Lemieux and Gagne -- his team-leading sixth in three games -- with 3:25 remaining in the third period. His 12 tournament points are only six short of equaling the all-time Canadian mark of 18 set by Dale McCourt in 1977. Eric Lindros (1991) and Wayne Gretzky (1978) are tied for second with 17 points apiece.
"I can't really worry about (the scoring record) now," Schenn said. "I just have to worry about winning hockey games. If it happens, it happens. It would be nice, but the tough games are coming up now so I guess we'll see what I'm made of."
In addition to Ellis, Schenn and Gudbranson, Quinton Howden (2 assists), Ryan Johansen (2 assists), Marcus Foligno (1 goal, 1 assist), Louis Leblanc (1 goal, 1 assist) and Brett Connolly (2 assists) all finished with multiple points.
Casey Cizikas and Schenn scored goals in the opening 4:50 of the first and goalie Visentin turned aside 15 shots as Canada opened a 6-1 lead. In a bizarre twist, Norway outshot Canada, 16-15, in the opening 20 minutes. Norway had pulled within 4-1 when Rasmus Juell connected at 13:35 -- eight seconds after Leblanc had given Canada a 4-0 lead. That would be the closest the Norwegians would get.
"The boys looked forward to the game and we had high expectations," Norway coach Geir Hoff said. "But, somehow, the building and everything got to be a little bit too much for all the guys. Maybe it was a mistake by me to put the youngest goalie in net (Steffen Soberg, 7 saves on 12 shots), but he's been playing well all year so I think he deserved the chance. But, afterwards, we just maybe go with the old guy (Lars Volden, 26 saves on 31 shots). But it's done now."
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