Despite out-shooting the Russians 53-20, the Canadians dropped their first exhibition game 2-1 at the Air Canada Centre Friday night.
Canada seemed to dominate the play in the rematch of last year’s bronze medal game that saw the Russians reign victorious over the red and white, but like last year, the Russians had the last laugh. Alexander Sharov scored with just over a minute left in the extra period after Canadian goaltender Zach Fucale fumbled a shot to the glove side and was left defenseless on a cross-ice pass that Sharov easily slid into the open net.
However, the story of the night was Russian goaltender Ilya Sorokin. The 19-year-old netminder made an overwhelming 52 saves on 53 shots, with a large portion of them falling in the ‘jaw-dropping’ category. He looked like a rock and looks to be a very good candidate to replicate the impressive goaltending performances put on by Andrei Vasilevskiy in the previous three tournaments. One would expect after that outing that the New York Islanders prospect could be the go-to-guy for the team when the tournament gets going.
Bright Light for Canada
on the night. Early indications suggest that this line will be the team’s second line once the tournament begins. The trio has been skating together ever since the team’s camp opened and thus far they seem to have a very good awareness of where each other is on the ice.
Not only did Domi, of the OHL’s London Knights, not find a spot on the Canadian roster one year ago, but to the dismay of many, he did not even receive an invite to the selection camp. However, early on he seems to be a standout with his vision on the ice looking to be his most valuable skill. The son of former Maple Leafs tough-guy Tie Domi will look to be relied upon to provide offense for a Canadian team hoping to put an end to its recent gold medal slump.
Expected number one overall pick in next year’s draft Connor McDavid did not take part in Friday’s game as he, Nic Petan, and Curtis Lazar (made available to Team Canada by the Ottawa Senators Thursday) all took in the contest from the press box. It is believed McDavid and Lazar will make up 2/3 of the team’s top line, with the other winger position going either to Petan or possibly to Guelph Storm forward Robbie Fabbri. Fabbri has a long history of playing with McDavid dating back to when the two played minor hockey together.
Between the Pipes and the Blueline
Fucale got the start for the Canadians in goal on the same day that he was traded from his junior team, the Halifax Mooseheads, to the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. Fucale made 18 saves on 20 shots in the loss. The 19-year-old was not tested nearly as much as his Russian counterpart and looked shaky on both goals against him. Fucale took over for Jake Patterson in last year’s tournament and will battle the only other goaltender invited to camp, Tri City Americans Mike Comrie, for the starting position on the Canucks squad. Comrie will get a chance to show his worth in the team’s next exhibition game Sunday.
The team’s most impressive blueliner on the night was returning player Josh Morrissey. Morrissey opened the scoring from the Canadians in the second period after taking a pass from Domi and placing a wrist-shot over the blocking glove of Sorokin.The 19 year-old is expected to quarterback Canada’s power play and already is looking to be an offense-first defender and is not afraid to jump up into the play.
Sergei Tolchinsky scored the tying goal for the Russians late in the second period on the power play,when after Fucale failed to control a knuckle-puck, the Carolina Hurricanes prospect centered the puck, which was accidentally knocked into his own net by Reinhart. The Moscow native was not drafted by the Canes, but rather was signed by the team as a free-agent and will be looked to move his team a couple spots up the podium from last year.
The Russian roster currently sits at 30 players meaning the team will still have to make eight cuts before the Christmas Day deadline. Of the players Russia invited to their camp, 11 have been drafted by NHL clubs, including Nickolai Goldobin who was selected 27th overall by the San Jose Sharks last year. At the moment it seems very unlikely that the Buffalo Sabres will make the 16th overall pick in 2013, Nikita Zadorov available after the team was hit with multiple injuries on their back end.
Following the game Team Canada made its final cuts to the roster, releasing Rourke Chartier, Haydn Fleury, Michael Dal Colle, and Jason Dickinson. Consequently, the final two tune-up games will include the team’s full roster:
Connor McDavid, Nic Petan, Curtis Lazar, Max Domi, Sam Reinhart, Anthony Duclair, Nick Ritchie, Nick Paul, Brayden Point, Lawson Crouse, Frederik Gauthier, Robbie Fabbri, and Jake Virtanen
Darnell Nurse, Shea Theodore, Samuel Morin, Madison Bowey, Josh Morrissey, Dillon Heatherington, and Joe Hicketts
Zach Fucale and Mike Comrie
Following their game against Sweden, Canada will play one more tune-up against Switzerland Tuesday before they open the tournament on Boxing Day when they face Slovakia. Meanwhile the Russians also see their first action on Boxing Day when they take on Denmark.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.