GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Clarke MacArthur never used to pay much attention to what was going on in the defensive zone, but Willie Desjardins put a stop to that. Desjardins, the head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers, saw that MacArthur had something to offer at both ends of the ice and wasn't afraid to let him know what had to be done.
MacArthur took notice and his strong two-way play on the energy line has been key in helping Canada to 3-0 record in Group B at the 2005 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
"My coach kind of pounded that into my head last season and I'm kind of thankful for it right now," said MacArthur, who has been playing on an effective unit with Colin Fraser and Stephen Dixon. "My first year (in Medicine Hat), I was minus-27 (on the plus/minus scale) or something, I was strictly offence for sure. No back-check or nothing. You can't play that way."
Canada closes out the round-robin portion of the schedule this afternoon (3:38 p.m., TSN) with a meaningful game against Finland. With a tie, Canada wins Group B and advances to Sunday's semifinal. Canada blanked Finland 6-0 in an exhibition game at the MTS Centre last Monday, but is expecting a stiffer test this time.
"They've got good skill and we're definitely going to have to stay disciplined because they have a good power play," said MacArthur, a product of Lloydminster, Alta., who has 14 goals and 41 points in 30 games with the Tigers this season. "Every team is going to be coming after us, being Team Canada. We've got to be ready to go."
WHL'S BEST TWO-WAY FORWARD
MacArthur, a third round pick (74th overall) of the Buffalo Sabres, might not be a household name on the national stage but he's making people take notice of his ability.
"I would argue that Clarke MacArthur is the best two-way forward in the Western Hockey League," said Blair Mackasey, head scout for Hockey Canada. "Coming in, we thought he was a perfect 13th forward. One, he could play on an energy line, two, he's good defensively and three, if somebody got injured he could step right up and be on your first line, play power play. He could do a lot of different things for you."
When told about Mackasey's comments regarding him being the top two-way forward in the WHL, MacArthur was taken aback.
"Two years ago, he would have never thought that," said MacArthur, noting he's worked hard at playing more of a two-way game. "Luckily enough, in this tournament everything has been going in for me so far. I've probably only had five or six chances and (four) have gone in."
Team Canada captain Mike Richards, who suffered a charley horse late in the first period of Tuesday's 9-0 win over Germany, didn't skate yesterday but Sutter expects him to be in the lineup today.
The news was not as good for winger Jeremy Colliton, who is sidelined with a knee injury.
Sutter said Colliton would not skate for a few more days and wasn't sure if he'd be available for the rest of the tournament.
"I don't know, I can't answer that fairly," said Sutter.