Capital City Challenge Day 1: Ritchie, Poulin Have Strong Starts

The Capital City Challenge U17 tournament began on Friday, seeing the first two games and all four teams see action. The first matchup saw Team White defeat the National Women’s Team by a score of 7-3 in the first blowout game of the day. The second matchup was more of the same, with Team Black defeating Team Red 7-2, with a dominant showing from Calum Ritchie and Zack Benson.

Although these games weren’t close, that doesn’t mean that plenty of storylines were not developed. Let’s take an extensive look at day one from the Capital City Challenge that took play at TD Place Arena.

National Woman’s Team Falters

It has been a rough few weeks for the Canadian National Women’s team, who did not prove any better in this outing. Marie-Phillip Poulin played hard and put it all on the line, scoring twice in the third period, but it would not be enough as the secondary scoring was absent. For a team that is preparing for the Beijing Olympics in 2022, they need to find their groove and figure it out fast.

Marie-Philip Poulin Team Canada
Marie-Philip Poulin Team Canada (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)

From Team White’s perspective, their group came together and proved that they are a legitimate contender to win this tournament. Mathieu Cataford and Ethan Gauthier each had three-point outings. All four lines generated high-quality scoring chances and finished most of the ones they created, as seven different players scored for them.

It was apparent in Team White’s head coach Rob Wilson’s answer in the postgame press conference that this was a special moment for the team.

“When you’re putting on the Maple Leaf for the first time, it is a really special moment. I thought both teams competed hard, but we got outworked badly in the third period. We did not play with the same work ethic that [the National Women’s Team] did, and I tip my hat off to them. Overall, both teams played well, and it was important for us to get a win and start the tournament off the right way.”

The woman will be back in action tonight against team red at 7 PM, where both teams are looking to rebound after severe losses. Let’s look at what happened during the other game and how the results were eerily similar to this one.

Team Canada Black Dominance On Display

The first line for Team Black was electric in every fashion, from Ritchie and Benson forming chemistry in the offensive zone and finishing the difficult passing lanes to each other to Ty Halaburda doing the dirty work and treating the puck and getting it onto those two players sticks. Benson scored a terrific goal on the powerplay in the second period by using his quick edges to finish the wraparound chance.

Calum Ritchie Oshawa Generals
Calum Ritchie, Oshawa Generals (Josh Kim / The Hockey Writers)

During the postgame press conference, Ritchie made sure to talk about how the first line has grown together, and it showed during this match.

“We have been able to build a lot of chemistry already, and that was probably a reason for tonight’s result. We have done a lot of team bonding over the past few days, and our team has really come together. Our line had a strong game tonight, and Ty [Halaburda] and [Zach] Benson are really great players, which makes my job easy.”

From Team Red’s perspective, it wasn’t all doom and gloom and certain players showed promise in the first preliminary game. Luca Pinelli, their fourth-line left winger scored a beautiful goal using a backhand shot and looks to break out and play in a higher position in the lineup. Brayden Yager also scored for them and believes that their scoring chances will start to be converted soon and that the team played a solid match as time went on.

“Towards the end of the game, we were getting a lot of chances. That pass [from Nadeau] was pretty crazy, and to be honest, I did not even see it coming. It was a nice through-the-legs and behind-the-back play, which was a really great play. Our chemistry is starting to build, and by the end of the tournament I know we are going to be a really good team.”

There are still five days left in this tournament, and Team Black will continue their journey against the National Woman’s Team on Sunday at 7 PM.

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