January 3, 2012
Game against Russia 'not about revenge'
By WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Revenge?
Apparently, the answer is none of the above.
At least, that was the company line coming from members of Team Canada just hours before another instalment of their storied on-ice rivalry with Russia.
Tuesday's world junior semi-final at the Saddledome (7 p.m. MT) is a rematch of the gold-medal showdown last year in Buffalo, when Canada skated to a three-goal lead after two periods and then surrendered five unanswered goals in the final frame as the Russians rallied for an improbable comeback.
“It's not about redemption. This isn't about redemption,” Team Canada head coach, Don Hay, told reporters Tuesday morning. “It's all about our team this year. It's not about last year's team. It's not about redemption. It's about having a good solid game and finding ways to have success against the Russians in 2012.”
Team Canada's roster includes only four returnees from the 2011 squad — forwards Brett Connolly, Quinton Howden and Jaden Schwartz and netminder Mark Visentin.
Visentin was shelled for five goals in the third period of last year's stunner but won't be between the pipes for Tuesday's semi-final at the Saddledome, with Hay confirming that Scott Wedgewood would get the start for Team Canada.
“I'm sure if we win, (Visentin) will be happy we're going to the final,” said Team Canada forward, Freddie Hamilton, one of Visentin's teammates with the Ontario Hockey League's Niagara IceDogs. “We just have to have another good effort tonight and, I think, beat Russia for us all and for our country and not really worry about what happened last year.”
Sweden will face Finland in Tuesday's other semi-final at the Saddledome.
Russia advanced to face Canada with a 2-1 overtime triumph over the Czech Republic in Monday's quarterfinal.
As the Russian skaters celebrated Grigori Zheldakov's game-winning goal, the Saddledome crowd immediately started with chants of 'Go Canada Go!'
Russian captain, Yevgeni Kuznetsov, the only returning member of last year's team, didn't seem to mind, even encouraging the patriotic fans to keep it up.
“I like when the crowd is against us,” Kuznetsov said through a translator. “And I think (in Tuesday's semi-final), we will be even more motivated than we were today hearing this chanting.
“But I remember the moment from the last final. It was one minute before the final whistle and people start to leave arena.”
You can bet memories of last year's game are still fresh for the returning members of Team Canada, even if the word 'revenge' is never on their lips.
“It's motivation to win a gold medal, I think,” Connolly said. “Obviously, you never want to be runner-up, but it's a new group of guys.”
“We didn't get the gold medal. That's the bottom line,” agreed Schwartz. “Canada didn't play a full 60 minutes and they came back and won. So it's not about beating a team. It's about winning the gold medal. That's how it is every year.”
On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson