Defence pair has poise

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Ryan Parent did not expect to find himself in his present position but he is quite happy with his status heading into tonight's semi-final.

Parent and Marc Staal have become Canada's steadiest defence pair on a club that has been stifling in its ability to smother the opposition.

"Being one of the younger guys, I would not have expected to be in a role like this at all," Parent said. "It might look a little easier, but (Staal and I) are playing really simple hockey."

That's one of many positives for Canada at the world junior. Of the seven defencemen, just two, Cam Barker and Sasha Pokulok, are 19, and Pokulok does not play. Though the world junior often is referred to as a 19-year-old's tournament, Canada has excelled with five 18-year-old defencemen. As such, all five -- Parent, Staal, Luc Bourdon, Kris Russell and Kristopher Letang -- are eligible to return for the 2007 world junior in Sweden. Overall, Canada has 12 players eligible to play next winter, including forwards Steve Downie, Andrew Cogliano, Guillaume Latendresse, Daniel Bertram, Ryan O'Marra, Tommy Pyatt and Jonathan Toews.

BONUS

It has been a bonus for Canada that Barker and Russell play together with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, and Letang and Bourdon did the same with the Val d'Or Foreurs of the QMJHL (Bourdon was traded to Moncton on New Year's Eve).

"I think they have been more resilient than we thought they would be," Hockey Canada director of player personnel Blair Mackasey said. "Five of them are 18, which is not necessarily a good thing with the defencemen because there is so much pressure on them. But they have held up remarkably well."

It's interesting that the two who don't play together have been Canada's best pair.

Parent, of the OHL's Guelph Storm, and Staal, of the Sudbury Wolves, see each other under normal circumstances only when they are playing against one another. A few nights ago, they had the task of shutting down Phil Kessel of the U.S., and did so admirably.

"Neither one is the flashiest guy in the world, but they are very efficient and just go about their business," Mackasey said of the defensive pair. "They probably don't get the credit they deserve, but they have been as effective as any pairing I can remember the past few years."


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