Taunts motivate Canada

Jim Cressman -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

The sub-zero temperatures outside have nothing on the cold war already being waged by the Russians at the world junior hockey championship. The Russians were hard at it moments after beating the U.S. 7-2 on Sunday night to advance to tonight's gold-medal game against Canada.

And it continued yesterday when star forward Alexander Ovechkin was again asked about Canada being the favoured team coming into this tournament.

"It was the same in Halifax," he said of the 2003 championship, when Russia beat Canada 4-3 in the final and Ovechkin was 17 years old.

"People said Canada is champions, Canada is best here. We're going to try and prove Russia is better."

That was also his taunting tone after Sunday's semifinal win.

"Do you remember Halifax, when all people said Team Canada would win the championship but we win and we prove all people Russia is better? We think Canada is just a team, not a god . . . nothing else."

You have to give Ovechkin full marks for his honesty but Canada's Danny Syvret said Ovechkin's boasting has caught the attention of the Canadian players.

"He likes the mike, I guess," said the London Knights defenceman.

"We watched the game (Sunday) night and we really didn't approve of the taunting that was going on (by the Russians toward the Americans). There was a lot of that.

"I don't know if that's just the way they are (but ) that's not the style we play," Syvret said.

"We play a hard-nosed, gritty style and I don't think we have room for taunting.

"We obviously didn't approve of it (Sunday) night and maybe we'll use it as a bit of motivation to keep them off the scoreboard."

Syvret is looking forward to the challenge of playing against Ovechkin, the No. 1 pick of the 2004 NHL draft by the Washington Capitals.

The same goes for No. 2 pick Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We have to take away some time and space from Ovechkin because if you give him anything, he'll use it to his advantage and something good will arise from it," Syvret said.

"It's similar with Malkin. You can't give them any room or they'll create something. You've got to finish the body and hopefully you'll get the job done on them."

Canada has lost to Russia three times in the gold-medal game since the playoff format was introduced at the 1996 world junior championship.

"Hopefully the fourth meeting will be different, but I don't think you can go living in the past," Syvret said.

"We take one game at a time. We're playing every game, every period like it's our last.

"This is going to be lots of fun. Maybe tomorrow I'll talk to you about a dream come true. But obviously I've been pretty happy with myself, in the way I've been playing, and hopefully I can leave the tournament with something around my neck to prove it."

Syvret said the players are aware they're carrying the hopes of a nation and said it's not too much for a group of teenagers to shoulder.

"You play the game for challenges and that's what keeps everyone going. Every shift is a challenge and every game is a challenge, so I don't think the pressure will do anything to us."

GOLD-MEDAL GAME

- Canada vs. Russia, tonight TSN, 8 p.m.


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