Keeping Flyers afloat

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- With the Canadian World Junior Hockey Championship tryout camp a few days away Sun hockey writer Ken Wiebe takes a look at how some of our world champs from 2005 are making the transition to the pro game in a series we call: Golden Boys. Today we focus on Mike Richards of Kenora and Jeff Carter who are key cogs with the Philadelphia Flyers.

It's a perfect example of time flying when you're having fun.

When reminded by a reporter yesterday morning that it's been nearly 12 months since they showed up in Winnipeg for Canada's World Junior Hockey Championship final selection camp, Philadelphia Flyers rookies Mike Richards and Jeff Carter shook their heads and could hardly believe it.

"It's gone by pretty fast," said Richards, a Kenora product who captained Canada to its first gold medal in seven years last January in Grand Forks, N.D. "Right from when we got there (to Winnipeg), it was pretty intense. We knew what was demanded of us from coach (Brent) Sutter."

Flies by

"Something like that just flies by and it's obviously something we're going to remember for the rest of our lives," added Carter. "Everything we did was as a team, there were no little groups. We were all together, right off the bat."

Some of that team togetherness and bonding occurred in Gimli, where the team spent several days working out and were treated to a feast at the home of Ted Irvine.

Richards said wearing the C on what is considered by many as the best Canadian junior team ever is an honour he won't soon forget.

"As a kid and as a Canadian, you grow up watching the world juniors," said Richards. "When you're a kid playing road hockey or on the outdoor rinks, you play for the world junior cup just as much as you play for the Stanley Cup. I don't think you really capture how good a team it was and how much fun we had until you look back at it. You look at how it all unfolded, it was such an unbelievable feeling."

Richards produced another highlight last night, scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 shootout victory over Dion Phaneuf and the Calgary Flames.

"I don't have an opinion on it, but it's entertaining," said Richards, when asked about the shootout. "I just went out there, kind of had a move in mind that I wanted to do and just wanted to execute and try to get the shot on net and make him (Miikka Kirprusoff) make the save."

There was no save made as Richards, who centred the top line with Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble last night, made a move to his backhand and slid the puck through the five-hole.

Head coach Ken Hitchcock says Richards, who has five goals and 16 points in 25 games, and Carter, with eight goals and 15 points in 26 games, have given his team a boost this season as the Flyers dealt with a series of injuries to prominent players like Keith Primeau and Peter Forsberg.

"Everybody has first-year players and then there are first-year players who play a lot," said Hitchcock. "Because of their talent, competitiveness and more their maturity, they're able to come in and play big minutes for us and it's really kept us afloat. We were in tough shape there when Keith and Peter went down.

"That experience in the Calder Cup playoffs really elevated their level of play. They know how hard it was there, they know they can do it and it's really helped us. They're not just good players, they're good competitive players. They're well-taught and when you put them on the ice, you can trust them. They're not a liability."

By the Numbers

Almost a year after winning gold at the World Junior Hockey Championship some of the team's alumni are enjoying success in the NHL:

GP G A Pts +/- PIM

Richards 25 5 11 16 10 19

Carter 26 7 8 15 4 10


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