Crowd pumps juniors

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

A day after playing before a packed house at the new downtown arena, members of Team Canada were still in awe of the rabid support they're getting from Winnipeg hockey fans.

"It's absolutely unbelievable," team captain Michael Richards of Kenora said yesterday. "The electricity in the building ... it was the best crowd I've ever played in front of."

Richards says the noise made by the crowd of 15,015 here in Canada's 6-0 win over Finland Monday easily drowned out the sellout crowds he experiences with the Kitchener Rangers in the OHL, not to mention the 14,000 who watched the Rangers take the Memorial Cup in Quebec in 2003.

"They seemed so excited for every goal and every hit," he said. "You get goose-bumps."

Particularly if you're playing in your hometown, as forward Nigel Dawes and defenceman Cam Barker were.

"It was awesome," Dawes said. "It was the biggest crowd I've ever played in front of. Winnipeg's a great hockey town, and they love the world juniors. You saw it in '99."

Goalie Jeff Glass says he couldn't believe how loud it got before the game even started.

Expect more of the same tonight, as the game between Canada and Switzerland, the final tune-up for the world junior championship, is also expected to sell out.

"Winnipeg has been such a great host," Barker said. "Wherever we've gone, everyone's been spectacular. The crowd (Monday) night shows their passion for hockey."

Barker says the warm reception more than makes up for the shots teammates are taking at the bitter cold here this week.

COMPLETE GAME: Barker was still glowing over the game he played against the Finns, too, when he was one of just two players to record a plus-3 rating.

"On this team guys can take turns being plus-3," Barker said. "I thought I played a pretty complete game. I played well defensively, and I just give it to our forwards and let them (create)."

Barker also scored a goal and assisted on another, while getting plenty of time on the vaunted Team Canada power play.

Not bad for the only 18-year-old on the team.

MAN DOWN: Canada apparently suffered an injury Monday, as forward Jeremy Colliton didn't practice yesterday and won't play against Switzerland tonight.

Head coach Brent Sutter would only say that Colliton was nursing a lower body injury, and that he hoped the winger would be ready for the opening game of the tournament, Christmas Day against Slovakia.

Colliton spent much of Monday's game on a line with Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron.

NEW 'TENDER: Glass, expected to get the call in Canada's WJHC opener against the Slovaks, will get tonight off, making room for Winnipeg's Reg Beauchemin between the pipes.

Glass predicted Beauchemin wouldn't get much more action than the 10 shots he faced Monday night.

"It's something different, that's for sure," said Glass, a member of the WHL's Kootenay Ice. "It's a mental battle."

If Glass does open the tournament, it'll mark his first official action in a Team Canada uniform. The Calgary product was never even invited to the summer evaluation camp.

Back then, if someone had suggested he'd be Canada's starter at the world junior ...

"I probably would have laughed at them," Glass said. "It was a longshot. Things have worked out very well. I'm just going to keep riding it."


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