As if any heat needed to be added to the Russia-Canada hockey rivalry, many members of the Russian team entering its 2009 World Junior Championship semifinal game on Saturday night had revenge on their minds.
Eight members of the team Russia has in Ottawa were in Kazan, Russia, in June for the 2008 World Under-18 Championship. Canada routed Russia 8-0 in the gold-medal game.
Forward Evgeny Grachev
was one of those eight, and after Russia's win Friday against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals, he said that loss would be on his mind.
"The last game was 8-0 -- not for us -- so we really want revenge," he told reporters. "It will be a great battle."
He was right, as Canada needed a game-tying goal with 5.4 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, and then won 6-5 in a shootout.
"God was on Canada's side tonight," said a tearful Nikita Filatov
, another player who suffered through last June's rout.
, who coached that Canadian under-18 team, is behind the bench for Canada's team here, and he has five players from Kazan here with him, including Jordan Eberle
, who scored the memorable last-second tying goal and then scored in the shootout.
"We hit them and they seemed to shut down right away," Eberle said after Canada's morning practice. "We didn't want to quit. That game, I don't know if it was an 8-0 score because they were all over us, but we seemed to get the bounces and the pucks went in for us."
Russia was all over them again Saturday night, and the Canadian players admitted they were fortunate to emerge victorious.
"They played awesome tonight," Eberle said. "They came out and battled. Every time we scored they would come back and score one on us. We battled and fought and we were lucky to come out with it tonight."
Fan favorites --
Slovakia became everyone in Canada's second-favorite team over the last two days.
They were the overwhelming crowd favorites Friday against the U.S. and again Saturday against Sweden.
"It was like a home game," said Slovakia goalie Jaroslav Janus
, who stopped 90 of 97 shots in his two games at Scotiabank Place. "It was unbelievable. I love this crowd. I'm still surprised they cheered for us. It was pretty cool."
Slovakia coach Stefan Mikes also was appreciative of the crowd support, but felt they might have a more sinister reason for pulling for his team.
"I think the Canadian fans wanted to have little bit weaker team in the final," Mikes said with a laugh.
Power-less play --
It's no surprise that Canada has the best power play in the tournament, entering with 18 goals in 28 chances (64.3 percent).
But on Saturday against Russia, the Canadians went just 1-for-9.
"I think we played well positionally in our zone," said Russia coach Sergei Nemchinov
Team Canada coach Pat Quinn
saw it as far more, and was effusive in his compliments of the Russia effort.
"We couldn't score," said Quinn. "They did a terrific job there. They challenged us. All formations can be challenged. They looked at the 1-3-1 and they challenged the right people. (Cody) Hodgson has been the key on that and they were on him all the time. Johnny (Tavares) never got the puck on his side. … I don't think Ryan (Ellis) was as sharp as he has been, and they sent someone right out at him. He didn't have that nice time he's had against some of the other teams. That's good coaching. That's someone preparing a team to take away strengths, and for us our strength has been our power play."
Playing for Pat --
There isn't much Pat Quinn
hasn't seen in his 40-plus years of professional hockey as a player, coach and general manager. He played nine NHL seasons as a defenseman with the Toronto Maple Leafs
, Vancouver Canucks
and Atlanta Flames, and he's fourth all-time in NHL games coached (1,318) and wins (657) after stints leading the Philadelphia Flyers
, Los Angeles Kings
, Canucks and Maple Leafs. He's coached in two Stanley Cup Finals, won two Jack Adams
awards and guided Canada to the gold medal at the 2002 Olympics.
Dealing with younger players has been a bit of an adjustment, but Quinn has enjoyed the challenge.
"The way you coach depends on the level of maturity in your players, but the objectives are the same," he said. "The styles are similar, whether you're dealing with (players) 5 or 15 years old. You try to give them something they can succeed at and give them a style of play and ask them to be accountable to that system and to each other."
Quinn's resume earned him instant respect from his players.
"I think it's pretty special having a coach like Pat," forward Patrice Cormier
told NHL.com. "He's teaching us. Sometimes in the video, he says I don't want to bring down players, I want to teach you guys little things. I think it's very helpful."
Center Cody Hodgson
captained Canada's under-18 squad to the gold medal under Quinn in June, and has excelled again under his tutelage; Hodgson enters the semifinals tied for the tournament lead with 12 points.
"He's been unbelievable," Hodgson told NHL.com. "I've learned so much from him over the last few tournaments. Just an incredible person, a great guy; he has just a wealth of hockey knowledge."
While scouts and GMs are on hand to watch drafted players and future prospects, don't think they're not paying attention to Quinn. The 66-year-old lives in West Vancouver and is a part-owner of the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants; while he hasn't closed the door on returning to the NHL, it's not foremost on his mind right now.
"At the end of the day," he said, "I want to have a gold medal around my neck, too."
Familiar face -- Pat Quinn
and Sergei Nemchinov
have crossed paths before. Quinn was the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks
when he dealt Esa Tikkanen
and Russ Courtnall
to the New York Rangers
to get Nemchinov and Brian Noonan
on March 8, 1997.
"He's an outstanding young man," Quinn said after Canada's 6-5 shootout win on Saturday, "and I think he's done a really nice job with the program there.
"It was a terrific game. Sergei should be proud of his players because they fought all night long."
Bouncing back --
U.S. goalie Thomas McCollum
had sky-high expectations coming into the World Juniors. But he and the rest of his team were hugely disappointed with Friday's quarterfinal 5-3 quarterfinal loss to Slovakia.
While the loss is difficult to deal with, McCollum may get some benefits in the long run.
The Detroit Red Wings
made McCollum the final pick in the first round of the 2008 Entry Draft, and not long after signed him to a contract. The Red Wings make fewer mistakes than most teams when it comes to scouting young talent, and they certainly still believe in McCollum.
"They played awesome tonight. They came out and battled. Every time we scored they would come back and score one on us. We battled and fought and we were lucky to come out with it tonight." -- Canada's Jordan Eberle
"McCollum had a tough week," Red Wings Assistant General Manager Jim Nill told NHL.com. "He came here on a pretty good high, but the wheels came off and he struggled a little, but that's adversity. We talked to him and said this is part of the game; it's how you respond now."
McCollum has 16 wins, a 2.13 goals-against average and three shutouts in 30 Ontario Hockey League games with the Guelph Storm. Last year he was fourth with a 2.50 GAA and tied for the league lead with four shutouts. Because McCollum isn't really used to dealing with adversity, Nill said he's interested to see how he responds.
"You have to deal with it somewhere in your life, probably more than once," Nill said. "The quicker you react to it is how you become a better person on and of the ice. It's a big test for him, but he'll bounce back from it."
Shootout selection --
Russia coach Sergei Nemchinov
was asked why surprisingly opted to use Dmitri Kugryshev
and Pavel Chernov in the shootout rather than team captain Nikita Filatov
"Kugryshev was our best shootout guy in the practices, so we gave him the chance," said Nemchinov. "And Chernov, he was second-best shootout in the practice and in the (exhibition) games. He did shootout against Finland and the Czechs and he scored."
Record-setting event --
More fans will see the 2009 World Junior Championship than any prior tournament.
Saturday's semifinal between Canada and Russia put the total crowd between Scotiabank Place and the Ottawa Civic Center at 377,834 for the first 26 games, topping the 374,353 fans who turned out in Vancouver in 2006.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.