Junior gold pals drop mitts

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

It's obvious the euphoria surrounding Canada's glorious victory at the World Junior Hockey Championship has finally died down when members of that team are going toe-to-toe.

In a move perhaps contrived to show everyone there are no friends on the other side of the ice -- even if they were recent brothers in arms -- Calgary Hitmen players Andrew Ladd and Ryan Getzlaf dropped the mitts with a couple of their Team Canada teammates last week.

The Hitmen were playing the Red Deer Rebels, who are captained by Team Canada's Colin Fraser, led on defence by punishing blue-liner Dion Phaneuf, who was a force at the world junior, and coached by Brent Sutter, who led the country to gold in Grand Forks, N.D.

Anyone expecting a cordial reunion got a rude awakening, when Ladd and Phaneuf squared off at the opening faceoff. On the ensuing draw, Getzlaf and Fraser exchanged blows.

Four seconds, two fights, no more buddies.

"It's a pretty big rivalry and we just wanted to get the second half of the year off on the right foot," said Ladd, in Winnipeg for last night's game between the Hitmen and Brandon Wheat Kings at the MTS Centre.

"(The gold medal) is always going to be there and you can't take it away from us. It's something we'll be able to cherish for a long time.

"But we wanted to make sure everyone knows this is our team now and we're going to be going for it the rest of the year. There are no friends on the ice and I think that was sorta settled there."

Getzlaf would certainly concur. A world junior hero (12 points) and Calgary's leading scorer with 23 goals and 40 points, Getzlaf has been out of the lineup since that game with a concussion, which came courtesy of a "Dion" (to quote Pierre McGuire). Getzlaf made the trip to Winnipeg but didn't play last night because of the lingering effects of the Phaneuf hit.

WORLD JUNIOR IS OVER

The Hitmen certainly miss their top gun, but co-coach Dean Evason said it was important for the world junior players to renew hostilities, so to speak.

"I think it was a great message to both teams that the world junior is over," said Evason, who is from Brandon. "They are still friends off the ice but they were telling their teammates that they are ready to compete for their respective hockey clubs."

Ladd, who has 13 goals and 32 points this season, had a solid world junior, putting up three goals and three assists. He admits it was tough to get back into playing in the "Dub."

"It's obviously an adjustment," he said. "You go from such a high and then back down to the reality of every day life playing in the WHL."

Evason said the mere fact Getzlaf and Ladd played in the world junior has made his team better.

"Getzlaf and Ladd coming back from the world junior has really given our team a boost," he said. "They've been leading our hockey club.

"They had a little bit of a lull. Mentally as much as physically, they were just worn out. But they really re-focused and in the long run, what they experienced will help us."


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