Team OHL too much for Russia

This past week and continuing this week will be the SUBWAY® Super Series, which serves as a precursor for the World Junior Championships as the young stars try to impress coaches, scouts, and other staff, vying for a spot on this year’s junior team.

Last Thursday, Team OHL took to the ice in London, Ontario as they battled a highly talented Russian team who, earlier, were able to record a pair of victories over Team QMJHL. The Russian team may have felt a little extra pressure since Russian legend Vladislav Tretiak (three Olympic golds, 10 World Championships) was named their honorary captain and looked in on the action. Team OHL was led by Calvin de Haan, who was named the captain the day before the game. “It’s a real honour to be named captain of Team OHL. Everyone is a leader in there [the dressing room]; to be picked is a true honour when any one of the guys could have been selected,” de Haan said.

From the opening puck drop, it was evident that Team OHL wanted to hit the Russians to make them panic with the puck. Sam Carrick of the Brampton Battalion spoke of Team OHL’s game plan after the game, explaining, “We did not want to lose to the Russians. We knew our game plan was to throw the body on them and shut them down. They [the coaches] said to play your role out there; my role is a physical player and I knew I had to get in front of their goalie and screen him a little bit.” Carrick’s hustle paid dividends as he opened the scoring just 4:02 into the first period.

The physicality of Team OHL had the Russians on their heels in the first period and they were able to pepper goaltender Igor Bobkov with 26 shots in the opening stanza. This resulted in a 2-0 lead heading into intermission as the Russians looked fatigued from the beginning and penalties were a constant problem throughout the game.

The Russians seemed to find their legs in the second period as they shut down Team OHL but were unable to muster any offence and headed into the second intermission with the score still at 2-0. Erik Gudbranson, the Kingston Frontenacs’ defenceman and a prospect for the Florida Panthers, showed why he was drafted third overall as his physical play stalled the Russians at every opportunity—they looked hesitant to go to his side of the ice. Following the morning skate, fellow sports journalist Tieja MacLaughlin caught up with Gudbranson and asked him about how they plan to defend against the Russians’ speed: “You hit them, and you hit them hard. We obviously know that they’re extremely skilled and it’s a different style of game when we play them. It’s not a Canadian style of game, but we’re going to bring it… you’ve got to hit them hard and make sure they know what to expect from us.” Gudbranson lived up to his word as his physicality and his assist in the third period earned him player of the game honours for Team OHL. On the other side, Russian goaltender Igor Bobkov earned player of the game for the Russian squad, turning away 46 of OHL’s 50 shots on net.

Team OHL was able to score twice more in the third period as Taylor Beck and Christian Thomas rounded out the scoring securing the victory for Team OHL at 4-0. The shutout was split between Scott Wedgewood and Scott Stajcer as they were able to collaborate to turn away 27 shots in the victory.

Despite the poor performance and the loss, Team Russia still leads the series 2-1. Game four of the series takes place tonight in Sudbury as Team OHL will look to tie the series at 2.

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