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Semyon Varlamov stunned by Patrick Roy resignation

Team Russia goalie played three seasons for coach, who left Avalanche in August

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Like almost everyone else in the hockey world, goaltender Semyon Varlamov was caught off guard when Patrick Roy stepped down as coach of the Colorado Avalanche on Aug. 11.

Varlamov had just gotten off the ice after an offseason training session in Lancaster, Pa., when he heard the news.

"I was sitting in the locker room and I got a call from my agent and he told me Patrick left the team. So that was a big surprise for me," Varlamov said Tuesday following a World Cup of Hockey 2016 training camp practice with Team Russia at Yubileyny Sports Palace. "The next week I went back to Denver and asked what happened exactly and nobody knew he was leaving the team.

"That was a shock for all of us. For the team, for the whole organization, because we didn't expect that. That was a big shock."

It particularly was personal for Varlamov, who developed a symbiotic relationship with Roy during his three seasons playing for him with the Avalanche. He felt fortunate to have a Roy, a Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender, as his coach and mentor, along with goalie coach Francois Allaire.

Video: Varlamov on playing for Team Russia in the World Cup

Under their tutelage, Varlamov, 28, took his game to a higher level. He was a Vezina Trophy finalist and led the Avalanche to a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2013-14 with a League-high 41 wins. His .927 save percentage that season was the best of his NHL career, and he compiled it while facing the most shots in the League (2,013) and making the most saves (1,867).

"I was really enjoying working with Patrick," Varlamov said. "That was a big deal for me to have him as a head coach. He's been very helpful. … As a goalie, I feel like I was really lucky to have him and Francois Allaire as a goalie coach. I feel like I had two goalie coaches on the team, which has been really helpful for me."

Varlamov said he hasn't spoken to Roy since he resigned and still doesn't understand his decision.

"I don't know why he left the team, to be honest, because the team really loved and loved to play for him," he said. "I think he had really good communication with the boys. Seriously, it was a really big surprise for us. We didn't expect that."

Varlamov said he has spoken to Allaire, who was Roy's goalie coach when he played for the Montreal Canadiens, to make sure he wasn't going to leave too.

"I called [Allaire] this summer and I asked him if he was staying and he said he signed for one more year with the Avalanche so he's going to stay for one more year," Varlamov said.

Varlamov said he has yet to speak with Jared Bednar, who was hired as Avalanche coach Aug. 25.

"I was in Russia before they hired him so I didn't have a chance to talk with him yet," he said.

Varlamov arrived early in St. Petersburg to get ready for Team Russia training camp, which opened Monday. He is part of a strong goaltending threesome along with the Columbus Blue Jackets' Sergei Bobrovsky and the Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy.

"This is the biggest tournament of my hockey career," Varlamov said. "I've never played in the World Cup before, so it's very exciting."

Team Russia coach Oleg Znarok hasn't decided on a No. 1 goaltender, but has a history with Bobrovsky, who played for him at the IIHF World Championship the past three years.

"I don't know who is going to be No. 1, 2 or 3," Varlamov said. "All the goalies are looking good so far. I don't know who is going to be playing, who is going to be the starting goalie. I think the coaching staff, they have some ideas about it but they don't say anything to us. We're all going to be ready to play in the World Cup. It's a short tournament, so probably not all of us are going to play the whole tournament.

"The coaching staff is going to make a decision who is going to be No. 1 and then you have to take that and just be a good teammate."

Team Russia plays its first pretournament game against Team Czech Republic at Yubileyny Sports Palace on Thursday (12: 30 p.m. ET; ESPN 3, SN, TVA Sports). The teams play again Saturday at O2 Arena in Prague (10:30 a.m., ET; ESPN 3, SN, TVA Sports).

Its final pretournament game will be against Team Canada at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Sept. 14 (7:30 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports).

Znarok hasn't revealed his goaltender for the first game against Team Czech Republic, but Varlamov believes the plan is for Bobrovsky to start.

"I think [Bobrovsky] will start the first game and then we don't know about the second game and the game in Pittsburgh," he said.

Varlamov said he hopes all three goaltenders will see action in the pretournament games so they will have a chance to sharpen their skills before Team Russia's World Cup preliminary-round opener against Team Sweden at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Sept. 18 (3 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVA Sports).

"The last time I played was right before the [World Championship] in the Euro tour, so it's since the beginning of May that I [haven't] played any games," he said. "For sure you need to play at least one [pretournament] game to get ready."

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